Lesotho should increase its investment in food production through the promotion of agriculture technologies and techniques that will ensure food and nutrition security, the Minister of Development Planning Tlohelang Aumane said this week.
Mr Aumane was speaking at the Household Food Production Symposium held at Soophia English Medium School in Butha-Buthe.
He said effective agricultural practices should be introduced to people at an early stage in life, particularly at school level, to allow the development of a sustained culture of families producing their own food.
“This will help to ensure that students understand where food comes from and the linkages between economic growth and the agriculture sector,” Mr Aumane said.
He commended a food production project, “Feed the Community” which Soofia English Medium School embarked on to develop the capacity of students to grow food through various techniques and technologies such as hydroponics.
Hydroponics is a technology of growing plants in a water-based medium with added nutrients.
“I believe that this unique food production project will continue to grow and will inspire local communities around this school to also learn how the students are producing different types of vegetables here.”
He said ensuring that communities were food secure can help reduce malnutrition and poverty. Lesotho loses 7.13 percent of its GDP to chronic malnutrition with around 33 percent of children under the age of five years suffering a low height for their age (stunting).
“I know that when people are well-fed, they are happy and productive. A nation of productive people grows its economy and it’s a proud and self-sufficient nation,” Mr Aumane said.
He said strategic thinking was critical on the allocation of resources to ensure significant funding was given to sectors that would bring benefits, which would in turn also contribute to addressing challenges in other sectors.
“Agriculture is one such sector, which when you get it right, it will contribute to reducing unemployment, provides income to rural communities and improve their purchasing power, contributes to the development of the rural economy, complements industrial production, contributes to the reduction of diseases through provision of nutritious food and increases foreign currency earnings,” Mr Aumane said.
The “Feed the Community Project”, educates students to become change agents and supports them to each create a garden in their back yard, using techniques such as conservation agriculture and water-conserving models such as key-hole gardens.
A science teacher at the school, Mr Aaron Madungwe, said the school teaches students on practices they can adopt for increased food production.
“We encourage our students to explore other techniques that can ensure production of healthy food, such as organic food. Most of the food we buy is genetically modified organism and this is not entirely healthy,” Mr Madungwe said.
He said the school project has helped the students to understand the importance of deciding how they will grow their food based on what they would want in the food to improve their health.
“The students also appreciate that it is cheaper to produce your own food than to buy. Among other activities, they are learning how to preserve vegetables to ensure availability even in dry seasons when water is scarce and production is minimal.”
A student at the school, Mahao Mokhae said the project encouraged him to love agriculture and to experiment through new innovations and research, particularly on bio-fortification.
“Understanding agriculture is critical for all Basotho because you can do your own research and try new ways of growing food. I think these are exciting times at this school because we get to produce our own food, eat healthy and learn better,” Mahao said.