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Agriculture in state of paralysis

by Lesotho Times

THE agriculture sector in Lesotho is in a state of paralysis which is quite a shame.

The ministry needs a huge shake-up if Lesotho is to free itself from dependence on international food donors.

With the recent cabinet changes the new Minister of Agriculture Ralechate Mokose must convince Basotho that he is ready to lead the process of agricultural renewal.

Agriculture can be the engine for growth for Lesotho as most Basotho have access to land.

With proper planning and management agriculture can be the backbone of the country’s economy.

The sector could easily create thousands of jobs for unemployed Basotho.

But for this to happen, the government must fully respect the Maputo Declaration.

Heads of state and government from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in 2004 pledged to strengthen the development of agriculture, rural development and food security at national levels.

The leaders acknowledged the fundamental role of agricultural development to economic growth.

They also recognised that poverty eradication and the elimination of hunger hinged upon the key agriculture sector.

The government, which signed the declaration, has however failed to support farmers.

This failure has resulted in greedy multinationals targeting our soil for bio-fuel production.

Oodles of people believe bio-fuels are the only way in which small countries like Lesotho could benefit from agriculture as it attracts foreign direct investments.

The rush to commercialise agriculture is likely to result in locals being left deeply rooted in poverty.

There simply won’t be enough supplies of the staple food.

The only way Basotho can benefit from developments in agriculture is when they form partnerships between the haves and the have-nots.

One could have a piece of land but with no resources to till the land profitably.

The notion that the government does not have a role to play in agriculture is only intended to ensure that the poor remain rooted in poverty.

The time has come for Basotho to make food security and food sovereignty a top priority.

The block farming saga clearly demonstrated that the agriculture ministry did not have a clue as to how to combat the food shortages.

The programme was badly managed resulting in the few getting richer while the rest of us wallowed in poverty.

It is really a shame that Lesotho still imports vegetables and grains.

We have failed to feed ourselves.

The state needs to play its role within the agriculture sector which includes increasing investment, research and extension services.

The ministry must lead the process of agricultural transformation by turning communal and subsistence farming into large-scale commercial production.

Failure to support investments in irrigation, inputs and training will result in dwindling agricultural production.

The government and farmers should work closely together to provide food to the 1.8 million Basotho in the country.

Lesotho will never realise food security if we continue to bank on services by humanitarian organisations that never bother to ask why people do not have food.

Aid agencies are driven by various interests and expatriates who work for these agencies also have their own interests.

These groups do not really want to ask the question why people do not have food.

Once we answer the question Lesotho will reduce its dependence on other countries.

The government should support the interventions of farmers’ associations and facilitate the formation of an agricultural fund.

This should later be transformed into an agricultural bank.

The fund should be managed by competent people who will be able to make decisions that are in the interests of farmers.

The lessons drawn from the block farming scandal should clearly inform our next move as agriculture cannot succeed without government subsidies or special funding.

Our universities and colleges should increase funding for their agricultural research departments.

We need our agriculture departments to research on the seeds that will endure our changing climate.

We should bank on research to give us agro-products that could get our agro-businesses into motion.

Lesotho has a comparative advantage in organic farming and this should ensure that we produce enough organic products for domestic consumption and export.

We need to learn from examples from other least developed countries that subsidies are the only way to combat hunger and food insecurity.

The agriculture ministry needs to do things differently if we are to save our agriculture.

We hope Mokose will bring an end to the declarations of state of emergencies by the prime minister after every harvest.

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