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Urban households increasingly turning to agriculture

ACCORDING to the census, keeping poultry for meat and egg-production has become a way of life for many.

Tsitsi Matope

Lesotho’s urban communities are now understanding the need and importance of growing their own vegetables and having poultry projects, the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics Director, Liengoane Lefosa, has said.
According to Ms Lefosa, the country’s town-dwellers are increasingly aware such projects are one way of improving nutrition at household level, although more efforts are still needed to support the strengthening of urban agricultural enterprises.

Ms Lefosa, who was giving her views following the release of the latest Lesotho Urban Agricultural Census, said it was pleasing that Basotho are increasingly appreciating the need to produce their own food. Although the census was done between 2009 and 2010, the data was only released last month and Ms Lefosa told the Sunday Express that the information and trends remained relevant to the current urban agriculture situation.
“The released data shows although the majority of urban farmers grow vegetables for their own consumption, a few of them (0.7 percent) in the capital Maseru grow them mainly for sale.
“Interestingly, 33.3 percent of the farmers in Quthing said they grew vegetables for both consumption and retail,” Ms Lefosa said.

Farmers in urban Butha-Buthe, Mafeteng, Qacha’s Nek and Mokhotlong said they grew cabbages, tomatoes, spinach, spaile, rape, green peas, beetroot, green beans, pumpkins and potatoes mainly for consumption.
“What this tells us is that in districts such as Butha-Buthe, Mafeteng, Qacha’s Nek and Mokhotlong, which have a 100 percent majority of people saying they grew vegetables for consumption, they have other means of generating income other than vegetable production.

“It also tells us of the importance they place on growing their own vegetables for the sole purpose of consumption and maintaining good household nutritional value.
“On the other hand, it also tells us that there is need to encourage and support urban farmers to go beyond subsistence food-production,” she said.

Maseru, according to the statistics, also had a high number of families who grew vegetables for consumption at 89.9 percent, while 9.2 percent grew them for both commercial and consumption purposes.
Countrywide, an overall 7.5 percent of urban households were found to grow a variety of vegetables for both consumption and commercial purposes, while 0.4 percent sold their produce and 91.9 percent consumed the crop.
“The overall picture and data tells tell us that most people in the urban areas are not really looking at having vegetable-production enterprises.
“The information can also tell us that the bulk of the vegetables we see being sold on the market are not necessarily being produced locally and we are losing out on a lot of revenue.
“The question is, are we happy about this situation or we need to plan as to how we can improve on this subsistence kind of production?”

Ms Lefosa further explained that the census also revealed that keeping chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese for meat and egg-production has become a way of life for many urban households, although there is still need to strengthen the commercial side of production.

The census determined the level of production of chicken varieties such as Grower Pullets, Broilers, Koekoes, Improved Layers and Unimproved Layers, and also looked into the level of egg-production among the households.

The statistics showed a total of 476 509 egg-production countrywide per annum, with the bulk (303 636) sold to individual households and 30 033 eggs to institutions.
“We would like to think there is not much change in terms of Maseru being the highest egg-producer as seen in the last census at 448 552 followed by Leribe at 18 845 eggs.”
However, the census showed a decrease of 32.7 percent from 1 098 898 to 740 068 in the production of broilers, which are chickens grown for their meat only.
A heavy loss due to diseases (28 147) and 2 863 to other reasons, also affected production, the census revealed.
“At district level, Maseru had the least increase of broilers at 63 017, while Leribe had the highest increase of 230 216 broilers,” Ms Lefosa said.

Countrywide, 373 730 broilers were sold while in districts such as Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, Mokhotlong and Thaba-Tseka, there was no production recorded. There was also no production of layers in all districts except Maseru and Thaba-Tseka with a new stock of 174 959 plus a previous stock of 1 367 343.
The opening stock was 1 367 343 and the closing stock 1 441 462, which showed an increase of 5.4 percent.
Ms Lefosa said the countrywide production of Koekoeks, a type of improved chickens mainly reared for egg-production, decreased by 10.2 percent from 98, 949 to 88,898.
However, Ms Lefosa said there was an improvement in the urban production of other unimproved chickens.
“We saw an overall population increase as there were 894 531 chickens as opening stock and 918 059 closing stock — showing an increase of 2.6 percent,” she said.

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