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Standard Bank unveils M400 000 smallholder agriculture initiative

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Bereng Mpaki

STANDARD Lesotho Bank (SLB) on Tuesday unveiled a M400 000 local supply development programme aimed at enhancing local agricultural productivity.

The two-year programme has already enrolled 126 farmers who will be equipped with the relevant skills to improve their productivity.

SLB is partnering with the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the programme.

Speaking at the virtual launch, SLB chief executive officer (CEO) Anton Nicolaisen said the programme was aimed at promoting local productivity and capacity to supply local markets and potential future exports. He said this was in line with the National Strategic Development Plan (NDSP II) objectives of job creation and economic growth.

“SLB has contributed M400 000 into this initiative for the 2020/21 financial year,” Mr Nicolaisen said.

“And with the contribution of the LNDC and the UNDP, we are hopeful that we will achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. This programme is close to our hearts because it is at the centre of our corporate social responsibilities under the broad umbrella of initiatives that make our Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP).

“The EDP is a comprehensive programme that has combined a number of initiatives in the area of sponsorship and products that have been specifically tailored to meet the needs of the economy.”

Mr Nicolaisen said the programme seeks to address challenges such as unemployment, lack of finance for micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs), lack of financial inclusion for the unbanked and capacity challenges for entrepreneurs.

He said the supplier programme is an intervention towards economic development, especially in agribusiness.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we are intent on growing the local economy. It is our business imperative and moral obligation to do the best we can to guarantee food security for our people, to promote self-reliance and to create opportunities that we see in the agricultural value chain.

“At SLB, we firmly believe that we can grow a crop of agricultural product entrepreneurs that can make Lesotho self-sufficient in the long term and also be able to create and produce for local, regional and international markets if they have the right skills and if they understand the channels of distribution in the agricultural sector.”

On her part, UNDP resident representative to Lesotho Betty Wabunoha, said the advent of Covid-19 had put even more pressure on developing countries to be self-reliant for food production.

“Lesotho’s economic growth is projected to drop by almost six percent in the near future. The drop in economic productivity will be felt more by local communities, cities and the vibrancy on streets and among our MSMEs has already dimmed.

“In this regard, the local supplier development programme initiative for promoting local productivity and capacity to supply local market and the potential for future exports, has resonated well with the UNDP,” Ms Wabunoha said.

Acting LNDC CEO, Theko Bereng, said partnering in the programme would advance the corporation’s strategic goals.

“We wish to declare our commitment to strengthening the Lesotho business community and commercialisation of agriculture as directed by the NSDP II.

“Beyond financial contribution, we will leverage other LNDC programmes like our financing instruments, investment and trade initiatives, technical assistance partnerships and more to ensure a sustainable impact from this initiative,” Mr Bereng said.

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