THE World Food Programme (WFP) country director, Mary Njoroge, has urged the public to buy directly from local farmers to create a market for small holder farmers and boost the economy.
Ms Njoroge made the remarks in Mpharane, in the Leribe district this week while receiving a consignment of 51 tonnes of beans from Temo ’Moho Mpharane Agric Association.
WFP bought the M494 000 worth of beans for the national early childhood and primary schools feeding programme. It further paid M975 000 to Leribe Tractor Owners Association which assisted the farmers in primary tillage.
The national school feeding programme is an initiative of the government in partnership with WFP to provide 390 000 basic education students with at least one nutritious and safe meal per day.
The minister of Education and Training, Ntoi Rapapa and the councillor for Maputsoe, Molete Mokobori, as well as officials from Leribe District Administration also attended the event.
Ms Njoroge said that the WFP had adopted a policy to procure beans and maize used in the feeding programme locally. She said the local purchase initiative (LPI) is in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) which targets to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
“The LPI speaks directly to the core of the National Strategic Development Plan (NDSP II) of making the private sector the driver of economic prosperity and development in Lesotho and that sector is inclusive of farmers,” Ms Njoroge said.
“The five-year blueprint for development of Lesotho has anchored the country’s inclusive growth and employment creation on four most important sectors of which agriculture is seen as the most imperative sector to relieve the people of Lesotho from hunger, poverty, stunting, malnutrition and other social problems.
“LPI should thus lead to the development of the value chains in agricultural commodities in the country and create the much-needed market for small holder farmers. It should stimulate more production from the rural economy as farmers are guaranteed the market for their produce. LPI should therefore help Lesotho decrease reduce its import bill which has largely eroded Lesotho’s dwindling reserves. Let us all embrace the LPI as an answer to some of the pertinent problems facing this country,” she said.
She further said that the journey never started on a smooth patch but they are steadfast to ensure that the relations go a long way as the Leribe farmers have proven their capability.
“This is the first ever direct purchase of food commodities from farmers. It has been a long journey with a lot of lessons and we are proud to have been at the centre of this process. As WFP, there are major challenges we faced when we started working with Basotho farmers in their quest to participate in the home-grown school feeding market which forced WFP to start by initially procuring through local traders but now in the pilot phase of buying directly from farmers.
“The annual demand for food in the national school feeding programme is 10 530 metric tonnes of maize meal and 2106 metric tonnes of beans, with WFP supplying 60 percent of both maize and beans. This potentially provides a new livelihood opportunity for local farmers to stimulate local food production on a commercially viable basis and increase rural households’ food and income security through local food procurement.
“We must recall that at present we import more than 80 percent of our food which represents direct market opportunities for local producers. The government is commended for coming up with a strategy that prioritises buying local commodities.
“This year, six farmers’ organisations were registered as WFP vendors and two of them were awarded contracts to supply a total of 76 metric tonnes which includes these that we are receiving today. WFP is further in negotiations to buy an extra 80 metric tonnes of beans. It is our hope that the current purchase will be a success so that it can lay the foundation for scaling up the LPI in future,” Ms Njoroge said.
The LPI was piloted last year in the districts of Berea, Leribe and Butha Buthe by the ministry of Agriculture and Food Security based on the fact that the three districts have marketable surplus of maize and beans.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) country director, Mokitinyane Nthimo echoed similar sentiments saying that while his organisation helps in production, all should follow WFP example to buy locally to end poverty by the predicted time of 2030. He further urged the farmers to ensure sustainable quality in order that they do not lose the market.
“If we only support the production, farmers will be forced to store their produce in their houses due to lack of market. WFP has set an example and it is up to us all to support the entire supply chain,” Mr Nthimo said.
On the other hand, the agricultural ministry Principal Secretary, Malefetsane Nthimo commended the WFP for providing the much-needed market for the farmers which will encourage them to plough more.
“I learnt through my encounters with farmers that lack of market remained their greatest challenge but today, for the first time, we see farmers’ products being bought directly. To us this is a breakthrough which will also motivate farmers to plough more and this has come timely as we have just started the summer cropping season.
“The government will continue to aid through the 50 percent subsidy on the primary cartilage and essentials such as seeds and fertilizers. Dear farmers, we need to close in the existing food supply shortage by increasing production,” Mr Nthimo said.
For his part, Temo ‘Moho Mpharane Farmers Association chairperson, Hlopho Motsetse, said that the WFP has given them hope and will further motivate those who had given up and the younger generation to start ploughing their fields.
“We formed Temo ‘Moho in 2005 but then we have been struggling to find a market even though we produce high quality grain. At times we would be cheated by traders who would demand to buy our products at lower prices and go and sell them at M200 mark-up on each 50kg bag and we would have sold such a person over 400 bags.
“We thank the WFP for providing us with this market and further entrusting us to deliver the high quality they needed. They have already placed an order of 4000 bags for next year’s harvest and this is a great motivation to us and we believe it will arouse those who had given up to plough and further attract the youth to see farming as a business,” Mr Motsetse said.