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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Advising farmers in Lesotho


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Mampone Makhetha practises what she preaches. As an extensionist or farm advisor on an FAO project in Lesotho, southern Africa, Ms. Makhetha goes from farm to farm spreading the message of conservation farming. She explains that this method of winter and summer intercropping will provide continuous protective cover for the soil. And she can point to her own beautiful model garden of potatoes, pumpkins, beans, fruit trees and flowers as proof that continuous cover will stop soil running off into the deep gullies that scar the landscape of this small mountainous country.

Ms. Makhetha has worked hard to gain and apply the knowledge she is now teaching to her neighbours. She studied to obtain a two-year degree in extension from an agricultural college. She also took extra measures to stop erosion in her garden, constructing rock restraining walls and planting trees to hold the precious topsoil. In between her farming and extension work, Ms. Maketha finds time to raise two children and sell her vegetables to her neighbours for a tidy profit.

"My neighbours say my garden looks nice, but they don't know how they could do the work. They would have to employ someone", Ms. Makhetha notes. It may seem surprising but in this part of Africa, where livestock are allowed to graze randomly over the open landscape, peasants often do not grow vegetables because they cannot afford wire fences to protect the plots from wandering cows and goats. Ms. Makhetha is demonstrating that vegetables can provide both a healthier diet and an extra source of income.

This dynamic extensionist scoffs at another fear expressed by her neighbours: that if they plant rows of trees to check wind erosion they will provide hiding places for thieves. "I think if thieves want to steal they will, whether there are trees or not," she says thoughtfully.

The daughter of a farmer who "did things in the old way", Mampone Makhetha understands that new ideas take time to grow. For her own part, she would like to try other new techniques suggested by an FAO project, including construction of a tank to collect rain water from her roof and measures to reclaim a gully that marks the end of her garden. She would also like to retire for at least a few years and devote more of her time to her children. In the meantime, her familiarity with both traditional and innovative methods make her an effective and eloquent advocate for change.

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