7 000 new families enrolled for 2013/14 Emergency and Recovery programme in Lesotho
Alarming statistics show that 725 000 Basotho are considered to be food insecure after the poor harvest recorded in 2012. This represents a staggering 39% of the total population of the country. The Government of Lesotho declared a national food security crisis in August 2012 seeking international support.
As a result the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) designed a three year cycle programme to assist urgently 11 000 households with agricultural inputs and know-how on agricultural technologies building communities’ resilience to better withstand future shocks. With support from the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), Belgium and the UN Central Emergency Trust Fund (CERF), the programme has promoted Conservation Agriculture and Home Gardening in all ten districts of the country. The programme continues in 2013 thanks to ECHO and the British Department For International Development (DFID) support allowing FAO and MAFS to enroll 7,000 new families from 2013.
FAO’s three-year cycle programme provides help to 18 000 vulnerable farming families for the 2013/14 agricultural season, giving those in their first year a package of maize and bean seeds, fertilizers, and a vegetable seeds kit as well as training on Conservation Agriculture (CA) and improved Home Gardening and Nutrition. Apart from receiving ongoing technical support from MAFS, these families in their second consecutive year will also receive wheat and grazing vetch seeds so beneficiaries will be able to progressively practice the key principles of Conservation Agriculture (CA).
CA entails sustainable agricultural methods based on three principles: minimum disturbance of the soil, permanent soil cover and crop rotations/intercropping. Soil erosion is a major problem in Lesotho, affecting both quality and quantity of harvests. By adopting CA, farmers not only ensure better harvests, but also contribute to the improvement of soil quality and its preservation.
Wheat seeds are currently being distributed in the Senqu Valley and lowland districts, followed in July/August by the Mountain districts. Grazing vetch seeds will be distributed before the end of 2013. Wheat and grazing vetch will allow adopting the second pillar of CA: permanent soil cover.
Home gardening activities include a kit of six vegetable varieties and training on improved production techniques (keyhole and double digging), diversifying the diet of beneficiary families and increasing the intake of micro-nutrients. Home gardening is complemented with nutrition awareness and food use improved practices. The first year package for 7,000 families will be distributed from July until September on time for the summer crop planting.
FAO collaborates closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) through extension officers operating in each district to provide training and technical support to beneficiaries. In order to facilitate this task, FAO and the National Task Force of Conservation Agriculture in Lesotho (NTFCA) have developed visual training materials which will be used by extension staff of the MAFS to train farmers on CA and will be distributed to all Resource Centres in Lesotho. These partnerships share the ambition to scale the promotion of Conservation Agriculture nationwide.
FAO Lesotho remains committed in supporting Basotho communities and continuing the promotion of diversified agricultural production protecting our environment and our children’s capacity to produce nutritious food.