Farmers struggle to secure seeds, fertilisers

Farmers struggle to secure seeds, fertilisers

MASERU-THOUSANDS of farmers are struggling to access fertilizers despite the government spending close to M200 million to secure supplies.
Agriculture Minister Tefo Mapesela told thepost yesterday that his ministry bought fertilisers from the government’s supplier in Bothaville, South Africa, which arrived in Lesotho in batches.

However, after the supplies arrived in Lesotho, those that are connected to the government like ministers and MPs quickly bought the subsidised fertiliser in large quantities leaving poor farmers scrambling to secure supplies.
Farmers are now furious over the shortages.

On Tuesday, there was drama at the government’s main depot in Ha-Foso when scores of small-scale farmers wrestled with some individuals who came with trucks to buy in large quantities.
An official who spoke to thepost on condition he was not named said prominent individuals came with trucks and jumped the queue, leaving small-scale farmers bitterly frustrated.

The source said the individuals bought the fertilisers in bulk leaving small-scale farmers with nothing.
Mapesela said he had to stop the issuing of fertilisers following some complaints from farmers.
He said he also sent his ministry’s principal secretary to Bothaville to investigate the purchase and supply process.

Mapesela said he was told that some of those who were given the fertilisers had paid prior to delivery while those who were buying from the counter had to wait.
“Only the seeds are being issued,” Mapesela said.
Mapesela said he did this after he realised that there were many farmers who were demanding the fertilisers in large quantities while other small-scale farmers suffered.

“I am not giving out the fertilisers to any one, including the ministers,” Mapesela said.
He said some farmers had paid for the fertilizers a long time ago and when they come to pick their supplies, there was now an assumption that they were now receiving preferential treatment.

Many small-scale farmers also expressed anger and frustration over the shortage of seeds and fertilisers, three months after Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro promised that his government would dish out the supplies.
In August, Dr Mojoro gave five farmers fertilizers and seeds, launching the beginning of the farming season with a promise that farmers countrywide would be helped.

Dr Majoro said there was an arrangement to assist farmers access tractors, fertilisers and seeds through the Ministry of Agriculture.
The tractors would be sold to farmers in the districts at a lower price.
But three months later, with the rains pouring, the farmers have not yet received the supplies while in other districts the supplies have arrived in small quantities, stocking anger.

Polao Tšoana-Matsie, Deputy Chairman of the Mohale’s Hoek District Farmers Association, said farmers had started ploughing their fields.
“Most farmers are delighted that there are rains and have ploughed their fields using oxen like they always do. The challenge is the availability of seeds and fertilisers,” Tšoana-Matsie said.

“We are yet to receive the supplies. The little that farmers have is shared amongst themselves,” he said.
“At this rate we will take even (last year’s grains) reserved for food because we cannot wait until the government provides seeds and fertilisers.”
He added that unfortunately not everyone will be able to afford seeds and fertilisers as people are still trying to recover financially following a drastic erosion of funds due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Leribe Daniel Chakela, chairman of the Leribe District Farmers Association, said that the issue of availing tractors to farmers “is nothing but a dream”.
“When we get to the banks asking that they assist us access those tractors nobody knows anything about them, it is like we are narrating a folklore,” Chakela said.

Seeds and fertilisers, he said, came in small quantities resulting in only a few farmers accessing them.
“We have even been to Ha-Foso trying to secure the seeds directly from them but our efforts have been in vain. The majority of seeds especially vegetable seeds are unavailable,” he said.

“We have even decided to use animal dung (moiteli) as manure so that we can get our fields ploughed.”
He added that farmers are frustrated that it is raining and they are unable to take advantage of the rains as they would love to due to a shortage of agricultural inputs.
“Plans were good to assist farmers with necessities but like always implementation is poor, it is not reflective of the urgency that the Prime Minister talked about regarding food security.”

’Marenang Nalete from the Butha-Buthe District Farmers Association said they are yet to get a clear response from the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the availability of seeds and fertilisers.
“We are meeting again tomorrow to try and force the ministry to give us answers,” Nalete said.

“They should have just told us upfront that they do not have seeds and fertilisers instead of throwing us from pillar to post,” she said.
She explained that despite numerous efforts to do as initially requested by providing lists of farmers in need, nothing has been availed.
“We are angry that we are not being taken seriously, our hearts bleed every time it rains because we do not have the necessary resources to do the work,” Nalete said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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