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What ‘Mokose needs to do for agriculture

RALECHETE ‘Mokose’s movement from the forestry ministry to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in the recent cabinet reshuffle was least expected.

Yet one cannot say it was as shocking as his election as deputy speaker of parliament in 2002.

Having been able to turn Leribe High School into a recognisable production centre under the Education with Production Programme, his placement in the agric ministry rekindles memories of his enthusiasm of the 1980s in agriculture and education.

What should ‘Mokose do for our agriculture sector?

I believe he has two options: he can either pretend that what has been happening in the agriculture sector is fine or he can change the policy.

I suspect that our agriculture is ripe for a drastic policy change and ‘Mokose should drive that process.

In implementing that policy change ‘Mokose should remember that he is dealing with an aggressive world.

Lesotho, like any other country in the south, is subjected to the tough conditions of the Bretton Woods institutions that condemn subsidies to small farmers while the countries in the G8 subsidise their commercial farmers with up to 60 percent of production cost.

The net effect of this policy imposition is that food production is reduced in the developing countries and thus creating a market for excess production from the so called developed countries.

Because food is in capitalist terms a commodity for market, people still die of hunger not so much because of unavailability but because they cannot afford it.  

The challenge ahead is therefore to help people produce and doing so needs an agricultural policy that does not isolate itself from the social reality. 

In other words it should be a policy that empowers the poor to cope with increasing costs of agricultural inputs and implements.

‘Mokose should go beyond the current poverty of ideological creativity facing agricultural sector.

To do this he should be ready to hear what people say irrespective of how they vote in the general or local elections.

A policy change should deliver Basotho from of bondage of hunger that is currently gripping.       

The ministry has just hosted a consultative conference which the new leadership can build on. 

Because the conference was a general farmers’ platform, it should be followed up by the specialised farmers’ seminars. 

These seminars should go deeper into the sectoral issues where challenges facing dairy farmers, for example, would be thoroughly dealt with. 

The wool and mohair farmers should have their own specialised forum with the ministry to analyse and interpret their challenges in the language that they speak.

This should be a foundation, a starting point.

In conceptualising the policy the new minister should acknowledge that arable land in Lesotho is categorised into the various soils good for various crops.

It should be a policy not a matter of choice that each soil shall be effectively used to produce what it is good for. 

For example if Matela is good in beans and potatoes,  a policy should ensure that these crops are easily accessible and affordable in this area while any other should be extremely difficult to get. 

In this way government policy would be promoting those particular crops in the area.

The new policy should take a decisive and bold step to denounce the use of chemicals right from the fertilisers to herbicides to protect fertility of our land, disengage from world trends and practices contributing to climate change and indeed producing organic food instead of Genetically Modified Organisms. 

The use of manure which is not only good for crops but for the soil texture and quality as well, should be a policy direction not a mere statement of convenience. 

The alternative policy should ensure that every arable piece of land is used productively in a manner that the poor are immediate beneficiaries. 

A policy should facilitate regulation of sharecropping where the government shall partner with those who are not able to buy farm inputs and implement. 

People shall therefore provide land, labour, security and take responsibility for Ho Hlaola etc.

In simple terms, the policy shall not seek to erode responsibility from field owners as the Block Farming does.  

In each community council, there must be fully fledged Field Services Division with all Extension Subject Matter Specialisation. 

The current Resource Centre Model is a good and should be improved to this level. 

This should be fully integrated within local government where councilors should ensure that proper statistics are well kept.

It should be matter of policy for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to summon the community council to account for the production of food lower than needed.

A council should account for the bohome that devalues our wool and mohair.

These institutional arrangements should ensure that when the minister makes a statement in parliament about government subsidy it is actualized right in the village.

Last year, the Minister announced reduction by 30 percent of the cost of ploughing by tractor but the tractor owners refused.

Who was there to follow implementation?

Who was there to ensure that tractor owners that this is the government policy and it was real?

Was it enough for them to take it from the radio? 

Shale is a civic activist in Lesotho. You can contact him through e-mail on: shalesofonea@yahoo.com

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