FAO rural markets offer hope to farmers in drought-stricken Lesotho

FAO rural markets offer hope to farmers in drought-stricken Lesotho

19/10/2007

Julius Ncheche has seen many things in his 68 years, but he can’t remember such a terrible drought as the one which blighted Lesotho’s most recent harvest. The drought was so severe that his government declared a state of emergency in July following a United Nations survey that estimated that 30% of the country’s people would need humanitarian assistance.

With no time to waste, and in effort to stave off another disastrous harvest, FAO jumped into action, appealing to donors for funds and immediately planning a series of agricultural input trade fairs – also known as seed fairs - to be held in all ten districts of Lesotho.

US$ 3.5 million was quickly received –from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO) and the Government of Norway.

Vouchers provided to farmers at the fairs allow them acquire much-needed replacement seed for replanting their lands, allowing them to recuperate food and income lost to the drought. “FAO has a mandate to respond to agricultural emergencies. In this case drought was the trigger,” explains Farayi Zimudzi, FAO’s Emergency Coordinator for Lesotho.

FAO has been working closely with Lesotho's Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in implementing fairs in all 10 districts of the country. To start with 200 government officials have been trained to stage the fairs. FAO and the government officials organized fairs in seven districts, while CRS - pioneers of the input trade fair concept in Africa - organized fairs in the remaining three districts.

Through the trade fairs, which end in mid-October, ten percent of all households in Lesotho will have accessed enough agricultural inputs – including 385 tonnes of seed - to prepare and plant 17,500 hectares of land. An estimated 5 600 tonnes of maize, sorghum, beans and other crops are expected to be produced from this assistance.