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Let’s ensure food security

OUR lead story this week talks about looming food price increases.

Lesotho Flour Mills has warned that the prices of maize, wheat, sunflower and soyabean might soon go up because of global grain shortages.

The company says the rising costs of transport, labour and electricity have also contributed to the looming food price increases.

Most of the basic foodstuffs are made from maize, wheat, sunflower and soyabean.

Talk about bread, flour, mealie-meal, cooking oil and margarine.

The list is endless.

Such news should worry the authorities in our kingdom.

An increase in food prices means more households will be food insecure.

In a country where about 60 percent of the households are already struggling to put food on the table this spells disaster.

An increase in food prices means that Lesotho will struggle to feed the 200 000 children that have been orphaned by HIV and Aids.

The wellbeing of thousands of Basotho suffering from HIV and Aids is already under serious threat.

There are already thousands of people living from hand to mouth.

What makes it worse is that most of the vulnerable households have barely recovered from the shock food and fuel price increases that peaked in 2008.

Add that to the fact that the country suffered a drought in 2007 and you get a toxic mix.

Lesotho — a net importer of food — will suffer greatly from the looming increases.

Yet as a country we should not be faced with such a grim situation had we learnt anything from the past.

Our agricultural sector has been in the doldrums for more than two decades now.

In 1980 Lesotho could produce nearly 80 percent of its national grain requirements.

Now it can only produce about a third of the cereals it consumes.

This country has not done enough to ensure food security at household level.

Efforts to improve food security at national level like the block farming scheme are in shambles.

There is no commercial farming to talk about.

The little land that we have is underutilised because villagers are too poor to afford seed, fertiliser and draught power.

Even if they are lucky to plough something nearly 40 percent of their produce is lost before the next harvest season because they don’t have proper storage facilities and chemicals to preserve the little they would have produced.

Our lethargic approach to agriculture, the sector on which 86 percent of the people in this country depend, has made us susceptible to the vagaries of the global food shortages.

We perfectly understand the rains have not been good to our country over the past three years. But that is not an excuse.

For a country with such water reservoirs as ours to cry about drought is a shame.

We brought this misery on ourselves.

Yet it’s not too late to remedy the problem.

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