PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane says the construction of 22 shearing sheds and rehabilitation of 43 more around the country will improve harvesting of wool and mohair for better earnings to farmers.
Dr Thabane said this at a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the said shearing sheds in Hloahloeng in Mohale’s Hoek. He also said shearing sheds are a critical component of the livestock farming value chain; which is an economic driver.
The event was held this week in the presence of cabinet ministers, community leaders, wool and mohair farmers’ representatives and development partners among others.
The sheds are being constructed under the Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
The project aims to assist wool and mohair producers to lessen the negative effects of climate change on their production of fibre. Broken down into three complementary components, the project addresses challenges in the wool and mohair value chain specifically in rangeland management, Merino sheep and Angora goat production and management and wool and mohair processing and marketing.
On the project, the Ministry of Agriculture is working with the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation in the implementation of the rangeland management component. It is also supported by the Ministry of Small Business Development on the wool and mohair processing and marketing component.
WAMPP is funded by the government, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Adaptation for Smallholder Agricultural Programme (ASAP) the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA). When complete, the project is estimated to cost around M100 million.
Dr Thabane told guests at the launch that the sheds would have improved electricity and water supply connection as well as computers for accurate record keeping.
“I hope that the sheds will shorten the distance travelled by farmers to get to the nearing shed and also reduce the crowding in existing sheds,” Dr Thabane said.
He also applauded the progress made under seven-year that is expected to take seven years. The implementation of WAMPP began in 2016.
The project has already overseen the transfer of breeding centres from the custody of the Ministry of Agriculture to (LNWMGA) in Quthing and Mokhotlong.
The transfer is one of the activities under the second component of the improved Merino Sheep and Angora goat production and management where focus is on improved nutrition, breeding and animal health.
He said he was grateful for the work that the WAMPP has done in the country.
“WAMPP brings together government ministries and departments with academic institutions, community based organisations and farmers’ groups.
“The project symbolises a private public partnership that bodes well for increased participation of men, women and youth in the national economy.
“I have been informed that when the project ends in 2022, 22 shearing sheds will have been constructed in various parts of the country.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank IFAD, OFID and LNWMGA for funding this project. We are glad that the implementation is taking place. The government shall continue to support the wool and mohair farmers,” Dr Thabane said.
Chairperson of LNWMGA, Mokuenihi Thinyane said the sheds would be handy to farmers as they used to travel long distances to access shearing sheds.
“Many farmers used to come from afar to get to shearing sheds, and had to confront harsh weather elements which could kill their livestock which they have taken many years to raise,” Mr Thinyane said.
Mr Thinyane said following the handover of the breeding centres, they have bought 1000 ewes from which they will produce rams meant to improve farmers breed quality.
He said they would start selling the offspring of the 1000 ewes starting in January next year.
“With that initiative, Lesotho farmers will not need to spend over M30 million annually to buy livestock from outside the country and we hope this will be realised in three years’ time,” he said.
Councilor Semakaleng Konyana, said for over 20 years, farmers in the area used to hire a building to use as a makeshift shearing shed. He said this came at a great cost to farmers.
For his part, IFAD regional director of, Robson Mutandi, indicated that the construction of the shearing sheds would transform the rural community’s economy.
“Beginning with this M1 million investment into this shearing shed, this means the value of Mohale’s Hoek has increased by M1 million. It is a massive transformation to change the lives of Basotho with electricity and water supply and industry generated within the area,” Mr Mutandi said.
Agriculture minister Mahala Molapo said the infrastructure development project also includes the rehabilitation of access over 50 kilometres of roads, slaughter slabs and water and electricity connection to the sheds.
The Wool and Mohair sub-sector is estimated to provide and support livelihoods of more than 100 000 households directly; WAMPP aims at reaching 50 000 households. The country’s communal rangelands serve as the primary source of feeding for most farmers. WAMPP will inculcate a culture of supplementary feeding by conducting fodder demonstrations in all the agro-ecological zones of Lesotho. Working in conjunction with the National University of Lesotho (NUL), research studies will be conducted to test the best types of fodder to grow in each zone (Highlands, Senqu Valley, Foothills, Lowlands).