THE International Trade Centre (ITC) has hailed the contribution of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) project in building Lesotho’s trade capacitation efforts.
The EIF is a trade-related assistance project for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) aimed at supporting them to integrate into the global trading system. It is also aimed at making trade a driver for development.
The project has been operational in Lesotho since 2002, when a foundation was first established for trade coordination and trade mainstreaming. This was followed by measures to address the supply-side constraints to trade and help develop a base for sustainable export growth through among other things, the Agriculture Productivity and Trade Development project where Lesotho performed especially well.
In the project, more than 500 farmers acquired greenhouse tents to produce high value fresh fruit and vegetables. This led to creation of over 100 jobs that paid an average wage of M721 per month.
ITC representative, Shitaye Lemma recently visited the country to conduct a workshop towards establishing a national trade information network to enhance the visibility of beneficiary farmers and their produce through an ICT-based programme called the Trade Information and Agricultural Information and Financial Management System.
During her visit, Ms Lemma told our sister publication, the Lesotho Times that EIF had made a positive impact especially through funding the greenhouse project.
“We believe the farmers and SMSEs involved in the project are now able to produce quality products for export,” Ms Lemma said.
“The Ministry of Trade is doing very well in collaboration with other ministries.
“There is a great collaboration and great spirit, because once you have that commitment and willingness to continue doing something, the best way to do that is when different institutions come together and create synergy and reap the impact,” she said.
She however, pointed out that it was important for government to take ownership of the project to sustain it when the donations eventually cease.
“Yes it is just that one exercise so far, but we are looking to replicate the same project.
“This is a pilot project and we hope the Ministry of Trade will take this up with the relevant institutions, such as the Ministry of Agriculture to replicate the project. We encourage sustainability even after we leave,” she said.
Ms Lemma said the objective of the trade information network was to increase the visibility of farmers and their products to the market throughout the country.
She said the ICT-based programme was geared towards beneficiary farmers of the EIF agriculture initiative, profiling their farms, contact details and their products including their prices.
“We also want to address the information needs of the implementing ministries also to enhance the competitiveness of their staff members.
“We will establish a national trade information network in Lesotho where different institutions work together to share trade information and adopt a holistic approach to trade information that is necessary for decision makers in the country,” she said.
Twenty five trainees at policy making level from different implementing agencies from Onestop Business facilitation (OBFC) ministry of trade, ministry of small business development and ministry of agriculture attended the workshop.
However, the beneficiaries of the EIF agriculture project and members of the private sector were conspicuous by their absence, prompting Ms Lemma to urge the Trade Ministry to include them in future.
“We would encourage the Ministry of Trade to include the private sector because this is also about serving the private sector,” she said, adding, “The ultimate goal is to build institutional capacity in order to provide real time market intelligence which is very essential for the business community”.
“So we are focusing the training on policy makers at policy making level to trade support institutions that support enterprises as well as the enterprises so that they increase their competitiveness in the market.
“I hope that by the end of the training the trainees will be able to produce market intelligence reports for the benefit of decision making in their respective institutions,” she said, adding this would enable Lesotho to be more competitive in the regional and international markets.