NEWLY-established Zero Hunger Agric Business Development Forum (ZEHADEF) has announced plans to establish a formal network of smallholder farmers aimed at improving commercial agriculture and boosting its contribution to national economic development.
ZEHADEF was officially registered in October this year by a group of youths after they had realised that their efforts as smallholder farmers were hampered by the haphazard and fragmented nature of their operations.
They said while commercial agriculture had potential to drastically reduce hunger while creating jobs and improving the lives of Basotho, this could not be achieved due to the fragmentation in the sector.
They said with the exception of wool and mohair farmers, the rest of smallholder farmers were just scattered around the country resulting in the failure to access formal markets due to inadequate production capacity; difficulty in raising concerns and difficulty in finding relevant assistance to develop their enterprises.
However, this could soon be a thing of the past, as one of the ZEHADEF founders, Lerato Tanka said they had started the process of establishing a formal network for all farmers.
Mr Tanka said as the first step, ZEHADEF was seized with collecting information and registering all farmers in a database.
“Due to fragmentation, it becomes difficult to raise concerns, find relevant assistance, meet market demands and have greater buying power in order to minimise costs,” said Mr Tanka in an interview with the Business Journal.
“Ultimately, we want to build a network of smallholder farmers who are able to produce top quality products which will appeal to the local and international market.
“We humbly call upon all Basotho in various sectors of agriculture, trained and untrained to join as we take steps which will pave a way for sustainable agriculture.”
He said once the database has been established, it would be easier to coordinate and provide training to equip members with skills to improve their farming enterprises.
He said they would work with relevant public, private and civic society institutions to organise training as well as gathering statistical data.
ZEHADEF also intends to create value-added linkages where some of the agricultural products would be processed to manufacture other products.
The forum currently has 150 members and has agents in all 10 districts to attend to queries about its operations.