THE Ministry of Trade and Industry has embarked on an assessment tour of farmers who benefitted from the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) as the trade-related assistance project is being wrapped up.
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.
The second tier of the project, called the Agriculture Productivity and Trade Development, entailed equipping farmers with greenhouse tents, hail nets and other farming inputs to produce fresh fruit and vegetables.
The project is housed at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and according to its Information Officer, Lihaelo Nkaota, 115 packages were distributed to farmers in four districts of Maseru, Berea, Leribe, and Mafeteng.
The farmers planted a range of vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, cabbages, and cucumbers among others.
“Since the pilot phase is coming to an end, we are assessing its impact of the project among beneficiary farmers by visiting them in their farms,” she said.
“I think the beneficiaries are doing pretty well, and I saw a lot of potential for growth among our farmers through this project. I think it is important for the project to continue to increase its economic impact beyond where it is at the moment.”
Ms Nkaota said some of the challenges the farmers encountered included finding markets for their produce. She said they were sometimes forced to sell what they could to individual local buyers and not the market.
As a result, many farmers would be left with spoilt produce after failing to find customers in time.
“While we noted with concern the issue of securing the market for their fresh produce, the ministry has secured a site where a market centre is to be build,” Ms Nkaota said.
She added that depending on the findings of the donors of the project, a roll-out of the project was likely.
Mafeteng holder farmer, Lephophe Mokobocho, said more support from the project would enable many farmers like him to supply the local fresh vegetable market and in the process reduce the reliance on imports.
“The project has been of great help to me as I am now able to provide for my family better than before,” he said.
“If possible, I would like to see the project being extended around the country. We can then be able to sufficiently supply the local market with our produce.”