THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, on Monday handed over 22 animal-drawn conservation agriculture planters to Rothe Resource Centre in rural Maseru district to strengthen climate-smart agriculture in the area.
This partnership will see a total 136 planters handed over to all resource centres in the country for increased support to farmers and to promote the use of conservation agricultural technologies throughout the country.
The conservation agriculture planters are among other initiatives that FAO has implemented to help farmers to adapt to climate change and to build their resilience to better withstand future climatic shocks.
Through the planters, farmers are expected to increase production area and achieve better yields that would help to enhance their food security.
Unlike the traditional planters, the donated implements are lighter and easy to use as they allow farmers to, among other benefits, decide the spacing of seeds while also putting fertilizer during ploughing.
The support by FAO follows a severe El Niño weather conditions experienced in Lesotho and the bulk of countries in the Southern Africa region in 2015/16. The conditions caused one of the worst droughts in 35 years. Close to 40 million people were affected while over 23 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in areas including food, health, nutrition and water.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, FAO Representative in Lesotho, Yves Klompenhouwer, said the support was motivated by poor rainfall trends experienced in the country over the years, which affected agricultural production, rangelands and fodder availability for animals and the economy.
He said efforts to promote conservation agriculture were continuing alongside promoting other soil management practices that can help to minimise the disruption of soil structure composition and natural biodiversity.
“The uptake of this conservation farming technology among smallholder farmers in Lesotho has been low. Manual conservation practice is predominantly preferred by resource-poor farmers who have highlighted that the techniques are labour intensive. On the other hand, access to mechanized farming implements is challenged by most farmers’ inability to afford the equipment. It is against this background that FAO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, decided to provide this support,” Mr Klompenhouwer said.
Speaking at the same handover ceremony, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mahala Molapo said food insecurity remained the biggest challenge in the country due to low productivity as a result of a number of factors including, climate change, declining soil fertility and land degradation.
Mr Molapo further explained that in some areas, conservation agriculture has managed to reverse food insecurity at household level while some African countries that have embraced climate-smart agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture were reaping its good benefits.
He further explained that FAO was one of the ministry’s major partners as seen by its continued support in areas including animal management and skills development programmes targeting farmers, teachers and agriculture extension service officers throughout the country.
“Farmers who are practicing conservation agriculture have provided us with evidence that it works. Many have been able to increase their yield over the years while others achieved significant harvests even in drought conditions. The government will continue to support conservation agriculture and other initiatives that can help farming communities who depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, to adapt better to climatic change,” Mr Molapo said.
He advised the beneficiaries to take good care of the planters, and to utilize them to meet the increased food production expected by the government and FAO.