THE Ministry of Agriculture says Lesotho is poised for a better maize harvest this year because of good rains compared to last year.
After experiencing consecutive droughts over the years which was not helped by poor planning, the country has been surviving on food imports and handouts from donors.
Persistent, and at times, heavy rains have been received across the country since the start of the second half of the 2016/17 rainfall season in January.
This has resulted in normal to above normal rainfall for the entire country, a striking contrast to the drought conditions experienced in the 2015/16 season.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security’s spokesperson, Lereko Masupha, told the Sunday Express they expected a significant improvement from last year’s yields in light of good rains in nearly all parts of the country.
Mr Masupha said, unlike the 2015/16 agricultural season, farmers were able to cultivate crops such as maize this time around and were currently in the process of harvesting.
In the 2015/16 agricultural season, the country produced about 30 000 tonnes of cereals, two-thirds lower than the previous five-year average due to drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon.
The maize harvest was at an estimated 25 000 tonnes, which was 68 percent lower than the 2015 figures, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation.
On average, Lesotho is needs about 420 tonnes of grains per year in order to be food secure, but its average production output is about 74 tonnes, which means the shortage has to be imported to ensure food security.
“Although the figures of yields for this year’s summer cropping season are not yet available since harvesting is currently ongoing on, there are indications we will reap a better harvest than last year because we had remarkably improved rainfall,” Mr Masupha said.
He added that an area covering about 11,649 hectares of land had been cultivated in for summer cropping through the government’s block farming scheme in collaboration with farmers.
The scheme, in which the partly government-owned Standard Lesotho Bank provides credit guarantees for farmers to access credit, sees the government and farmers sharing the output at the time of harvesting.
Mr Masupha indicated, however, that there were some farmers who were unable to plant this summer due to the delay in harvesting wheat and lack of harvesting machinery.
He said others did not plant due to changing weather patterns that meant rains came much latter than they used to.