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Statement by the Honourable Lesole Mokoma, Minister Of Agriculture And Food Security, on the occasion of the thirty-third session of IFAD's Governing Council

Chairperson,
Honourable Governors,
His Excellency the President of IFAD,
Distinguished Delegates and Participants,

I congratulate IFAD's President on his Organization's achievement in his first year in office and wish him more success. I applaud cooperation shown by the three Rome-based UN Organizations on agriculture, food security, nutrition and rural development. I am profoundly encouraged by their affirmation of the importance of empowering the smallholder farmers in order to sustainably succeed in producing food to feed the world.

Chairperson,

The agriculture and food security sector continues to face many serious challenges; these include adoption of more efficient and sustainable production methods, and adaptation to climate change. The recent Summit on Food Security recognised the importance of supporting initiatives to help cope with these challenges. During COP 15 of the UNFCCC, my Prime Minister alluded to progress on the implementation of some adaptation activities. He made mention of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs).

NAPAs are initiatives under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change aimed to address "urgent and immediate priority adaptation needs to help minimize the impacts of climate change while at the same time enhancing adaptive capacity of communities most prone to the adverse effects of climate change". In the agriculture sector, Lesotho NAPA identified and prioritised interventions to improve resilience of livestock and crop production systems, and the improvement of our early warning systems against climate-induced disasters and hazards.

Excellencies,

You will note that we put more emphasis on climate change. This is because, in addition to other challenges such as high food and input prices and the global economic and financial crisis, climate change is also wrecking another havoc to the already fragile food-producing sector, especially the vulnerable and smallholder farmers. Therefore, we recognise climate change as an agricultural development challenge which is putting a considerable number of people at the risk of hunger and poverty, thus making it difficult to achieve the 1996 World Food Summit Commitments and the Millennium Development Goal 1.

During the 2009 Summit on Food Security, we were alarmed to note the extent of the World Hungry - One billion people poor, hungry and malnutritioned. In Lesotho, the recent Vulnerability Assessment Report estimates suggest that approximately 450 000 people will require humanitarian assistance of varying levels during 2009/10. This translates into approximately 25 700 MT of maize or US$ 21.3 million. This situation calls for more resources to boost agriculture production and investment in non-farm ventures for purposes of food security in the country. Unfortunately, Lesotho is currently facing a financial crisis of its own; it is estimated that our annual revenue for 2010/11 budget year will decline by almost 17%. This is a considerable drop which has resulted in having to reduce budget allocations at the cost of some crucial national programmes. However, we are committed to increasing investment in the agriculture sector and will ultimately achieve the Maputo Declaration.

Chairperson,
Distinguished Delegates and Guests,

Despite all these problems, we are still vigilant in exploring the means to improve performance of the agriculture and rural development sector and are reviewing our investment climate in order to attract competitive investors in the sector. These include review of the land tenure system and our trade regime. Our policies recognise the importance and the role of the smallholder farmer in achieving both economic growth and food security. We see the importance of a value-chain approach for investing in agriculture. The approach, if done well, may attract both local and external private investments in the sector. Since this is a new concept in our sphere, we welcome all the help extended to augment agriculture and rural development. We are grateful to the World Bank and IFAD for their initiative to assist us to commercialise this sector, while also aiming to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and shortage of food at both household and national level.

Excellencies,

I, on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, wish to extend our sincere condolences and prayers to the Government and Peoples of Haiti through this tumultuous time. The saying goes that what affects one affects us all. We commend all the UN agencies, donors, all nations of goodwill, the international Non-Governmental Organizations and various Regional Economic Communities for their prompt assistance to the Haitian Government in time of their need. We wish all the member nations that experienced natural disasters of any form during the recent past a successful and sustainable reconstruction process.

In conclusion, on behalf of the Government of Lesotho and my delegation, I express our heartfelt appreciation for a continued support by IFAD, and its sister UN agencies, in our efforts to improve the country's agricultural development and reduce levels of poverty and food insecurity, particularly in the rural areas of Lesotho.

I thank you.

18 February 2010