Statement by Lesotho to IFAD's 27th Session of the Governing Council

Kingdom of Lesotho: Dr. D. R. Phororo - Minister of Agriculture and Food Security

27th Session of the Governing Council
Rome 18-19,February, 2004

President of IFAD,
Director General of FAO,
Executive Director of WFP,
Excellencies – Heads of Mission,
Honourable Governors,
Distinguished Delegates,

On behalf of the people of the Mountain Kingdom and on my own behalf, I feel greatly honoured to address the 27th session of IFAD Governing Council. For those of us coming from the southern African sub-region of Africa, this session has come at a critical period of devastating food insecurity situation. Nevertheless, we are still able to put up a smile because IFAD carries a glimpse of hope for us to improve the situation.

Mr Chairman,

Please allow me to first thank the President of IFAD and his team of experts and supportive staff for the excellent arrangements made to run the council smoothly. Emphatically, we are cognizant and appreciative of the vision of the President for the future role of IFAD evidenced by the planned interactive panel of discussion on the theme: trade and rural development. Such a forum will open doors to finding solutions and means to entry of poor countries' agricultural commodities into the global market.

Furthermore, my delegation appreciates the consultative regional roundtable discussions. We hope that the outcomes from both forums will be used as valuable contributions that could prove to improve the strategic framework of the bank and finally benefit the rural poor whom we represent here.

Mr Chairman,

During the recent structural and problem analysis in preparation for the poverty reduction strategy paper of Lesotho, communities placed agriculture and rural development as the most important of all sectors for their livelihoods. Even taking into account the drift of population to the urban areas and the increase in the urban poor. 70% of the population still live in the rural areas. About 83% of those in the rural areas are classified as poor. Nearly all the rural population depend on agriculture to some extend. A review of off-farm activities suggests that agriculture offers the most direct route to improving livelihoods in the short term.

In this regard, agriculture remains and will remain a backbone to the socio-economic development of Lesotho. The hungry, the poor and the suffering, whose deprivation is caused by under-nutrition and malnutrition expect that our interactions at such international levels will provide lasting solutions to their hopeless situation. Fighting poverty at its roots in developing countries begins at improving agricultural productivity.

Let me provide this august body with a synopsis of the current agricultural situation in Lesotho. My country is faced with a serious crisis of food shortage caused by unusual rainfall patterns that have emerged in the southern African sub-region. To this end, the head of state has categorically declared the country to be in a serious food insecurity situation. This is an emergency situation.

The last two consecutive cropping seasons, the country went through two extremely varying climatic conditions. The former was characterised by abnormally high precipitation that prevented field operations due to flooding. Whereas the latter, was predominantly dry from winter through summer. This hampered cultivation of both winter and summer cropping due to dryness. These conditions resulted with limited cropping activities in two successive seasons. This is a disastrous situation and has caused food emergency.

Furthermore, the impact of HIV and aids, which is estimated at 30% of our population combined with the low purchasing power of a majority of the population, aggravates the food insecurity situation. HIV and aids impacts on the labour availability, investment in the sector, retention of knowledge about farming practices, the use of home gardens and the efficiency of extension services. Agricultural programmes should be formulated to suit both the affected and those living with aids if a meaningful progress has to be made in fighting this pandemic.

Mr Chairman,

Let me also allude to the positive and recent benchmarks that IFAD has left in the Mountain Kingdom. The sustainable agricultural development programme for mountain areas (SADPMA) is an IFAD funded programme. It is designed to enhance, in a sustainable manner, the productivity capacity of the rural poor by identifying and promoting the development opportunities, which can be turned into viable income generating activities to be taken by rural households.

The development objective of the programme is to improve household food security and family nutrition, increase household farm incomes, improve delivery of core agricultural support services responsive to felt needs and to promote and encourage meaningful beneficiary participation in programme planning and implementation.

Following the inception of SADPMA, under the small livestock sub-component, as a result of improved shearing skills, double cutting has been reduced, wool and mohair quality has been increased leading to increased income. Rehabilitation of dip tanks is ongoing and provides a good opportunity to the eradication of sheep scab in the mountain districts. Sheep scab is a diseases of economic importance to Lesotho's wool industry.

The adaptive testing and small scale seed multiplication activities have great potential for local seed production as an income generating activity for small holder producers. The micro-irrigation systems installed at various sites of the three mountain districts illustrates the opportunities available for simple diversion systems as well as gravity-fed sprinkler and drip irrigation technologies.

IFAD through SADPMA, has supported the ministry of agriculture and food security with material, equipment, machinery and necessary infrastructure like staff houses in order to improve service delivery. our appreciation to the intervention of IFAD can not be over emphasised. The lessons learned from this SADPMA form a good basis for a national programme in the future.

Mr Chairman,

Lesotho has gone through serious hardships of food insecurity in the last consecutive harvest season. Nevertheless my government is pledging an amount of fifty thousand US dollars. We are please to report that this amount has been transmitted by the Central Bank of Lesotho to the federal reserve bank of New York today 19 February, 2004.

My delegation comments the staff of IFAD for their tremendous accomplishments of the people soft adopted for strengthening the administrative process and, of course, reducing manual work. Although there are some hickups in the human resources area, we hope that the remedial steps taken will provide a basis for progress. A step-back to recalibrate the programme, the organisation should forge forward and complete the exercise to attain the already set milestone to produce required deliverables.

My government remains fully committed to tackling the underlying causes of food insecurity in the long run. The recently completed agricultural sector strategy for Lesotho embodies a clear policy for improving the performance of the sector. The ministry is embarking on a transformation policy that provides an overall framework within which the ministerial transformation programmes and processes should be executed.

  • The resolve of government to revitalise agriculture is explicit in identifying food security as a key priority in the poverty reduction strategy. As an attempt to respond to this demand, Government has put in place the following strategies as a road map to food security:

    an irrigation master plan is being developed to enable networking of irrigation infrastructure throughout the country, in the meantime 59 irrigation sites at the foothills are being surveyed for possible installation of simple gravity irrigation systems;
  • promotion of conservation farming and water control using the catchments approach;
  • development of agricultural bankable projects for future possible investment as means of enhancement of production;
  • commercialisation of agriculture as a means of diversifying crop production by moving towards high value crops and creating opportunities for farmers to enter the global markets;
  • production and multiplication of seed varieties that is well adaptable to Lesotho's conditions. This endeavour would reduce the dependency from outside sources and seed would be distributed timely to producers;
  • livestock has considerable potential in Lesotho, both for its ability to provide livelihoods to the poor, and in terms of contribution to GDP. The establishment of range management areas will improve the carrying capacity of grazing lands;
  • promotion of block farming for intensive agriculture under both irrigated and rainfed conditions. This follows a consolidated effort by the ministry to target areas or sites with predictable high potential and suitability for specific crops.

Mr Chairman,

In order to translate into action these strategies meant to address food insecurity, our government requires increased assistance from development partners. We are therefore appealing to the IFAD board of governors to positively consider additional resources to Lesotho for new development programmes.

Finally, my delegation wishes to commend the productive partnership that exists between FAO, IFAD and WFP and other regional and international institutions. This partnership signifies solidarity in the fight against hunger and poverty.

Thank you for your attention.