LESOTHO needs to overhaul its land tenure system in order to realise its immense potential in commercial agricultural production, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mahala Molapo, has said.
Mr Molapo made the remarks during yesterday’s multi-sectoral dialogue on the development of the second National Development Strategic Plan (NSDP II).
The consultative process, which is scheduled to continue for two more days with different stakeholders, is aimed at contributing to the development of the NSDP II and it is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Development Planning.
Lesotho’s first five year NSDP programme ended in 2017 and the second one is expected to be implemented in the coming financial year.
NSDP II is premised on the strategic priority sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, technology and Innovation and tourism and creative industries which have been identified as key for job creation in Lesotho.
In his presentation on his ministry’s five year plan, Mr Molapo, said although agriculture was the backbone of economic development, Lesotho could not effectively fulfil its potential because of an ineffective land tenure system.
He noted that land was owner or controlled by the community and there were no laws allowing the government to control the land which made it difficult to engage in efficient commercial agriculture production.
According to the Land Act of 2010, land in Lesotho is vested in the Basotho nation and is held in trust by the King.
Mr Molapo said the government often signed contract with farm owners for the development of large scale agricultural projects but the problem came when land holders claimed their land before the expiry of the agreements.
He said the current land tenure system discouraged investors from engaging in large agricultural projects, adding it was therefore imperative for government to acquire land for long-term agricultural production.
“We can do this by reaching an agreement with the holders of the land, and have everything in writing to secure the land for the agreed period of time,” Mr Molapo said.
Other ministries that presented at the dialogue were trade and industry; small business development; cooperatives and marketing; and forestry and land reclamation.
Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane concurred with Mr Molapo, saying, “Issues of acquiring land have prevented some projects from getting off the ground and we need to address that as soon as possible”.
For his part, the Principal Secretary of Development Planning Khomoatsana Tau said it was difficult to assess the achievements NSDP I as its goals had not been “well qualified”.
“But with NSDP II we will have a clear work plan on each activity for the next five years including the budgetary allocation needed,” he said.