King wants Lesotho  to feed itself

King wants Lesotho to feed itself

MASERU-KING Letsie III says Covid-19 pandemic has magnified the urgent need for Lesotho to stop relying on food imports from South Africa.
He urged Basotho devote more energy towards resuscitating the agriculture sector.

King Letsie III was speaking at an agricultural expo organised by The Silo magazine.
He admitted that Lesotho’s farmers have for years battled drought, climate change, access to finance and markets as well as a lack of agricultural machinery.

Despite the challenges, farming practices have generally improved in Lesotho, he said.
Success in agriculture could spur economic growth and help create thousands of jobs downstream, he said.
“We need to engage scientists and researchers to shed light on climate change resilient farming,” the King said.

He said through his tasks as the African Union Nutrition Champion he has to mobilise governments to see to it that every person has food on the table and does not go to bed hungry.
“I am therefore appealing to you, my people, to venture into farming with dedication to enable Lesotho to reach its goal to be food secure and to be independent in terms of food production,” he said.

King Letsie III said by supporting farmers and collaborating with various government entities and stakeholders Lesotho can escape extreme poverty.
He urged those with farming land to start using it for agricultural purposes.
Businessman, Sam Matekane, who owns the Matekane Group of Companies, said agriculture should be the backbone of the economy.
Matekane said it is high time Basotho strive to go back to the times when the country was able to feed itself and export to other countries.

“We got into framing after realising that it is the answer to eradicating poverty and creating food security,” Matekane said.
He said the MGC is engaged in various agricultural activities from crop farming, vegetable and fruit farming, to poultry, piggery and livestock farming.

“Farming is the future and has potential for high returns, we have already seen that,” he said.
“There is absolutely no reason as to why our banks are still reluctant to finance agricultural activities,” he said.
He said banks “ought to be in the front-line assisting farmers get climate change resistant technologies and irrigation facilities”.

Farming is the only route to create wealth and end the rampant poverty and unemployment in Lesotho, he said.
Matekane said it is time Basotho stop seeing land as a personal property but view it as an asset that can create wealth.
“We need to do away with “I” and start saying “we”, the minute we adopt that we will be able to plough fields and produce food.”

He said in his Mantšonyane home village “we have ploughed 25 hectares owned by different people”.
“They all understand that their land is equity and upon harvesting they will each get all crops and vegetables produced there according to the size of their land,” Matekane said.

He added that for sustainability purposes it is critical to acquire a set of skills related to farming hence, they provided training for those working in the fields.
Matekane said they have started poultry projects for the youths in Mantšonyane. The first project began with 30 000 broilers and 12 000 layers.

He said this will minimise unemployment and get youths involved in projects that can provide them with jobs.
“Ultimately what we want is for the whole value chain to happen in Mantšonyane. We want the chickens to leave the farms well packaged and ready to be consumed by clients.”

Matekane said the market for agricultural products locally is too big and local farmers are yet to meet the demand.
“If we can get everyone to understand the importance of farming then we will be able to save Lesotho from its poverty-stricken state.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Water, Nkaku Kabi, said water plays a critical part in successful farming and should therefore be used wisely.

Kabi said Basotho were currently destroying wetlands by letting livestock graze there. They were also cultivating land that is too close to the wetlands.
“Climate change has taught us the importance of preserving water and we are lucky as Lesotho to have many wetlands that if they are protected well, we can have enough water even for the next 10 to 15 years without significant rains,” Kabi said.

Protecting wetlands and preserving water will ease the process of erecting irrigation facilities for farmers, he said.
Currently, Kabi said government through relevant ministries is working on laws that will discourage Basotho from tampering with wetlands.
He added that in the past those destroying wetlands were getting off easily without much done to them but they now want them to face the wrath of the law.

“We are also looking at compensating owners of fields that are close to wetlands or big dams like the Metolong to stop farming there as that results in a lot of money being spent to remove silt out of the dams,” Kabi said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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