What are the main challenges currently facing Lesotho's agriculture?
One I would put in the forefront is lack of capacity in terms of financial resources of the farming community, as a majority of farmers are at subsistence level. They don't have the means to go into meaningful production.
Second is the paradigm shift in terms of diversion of cereal grains into production of bio-fuels and processing into animal feeds rather than utilization as food. This results in less quantities of cereals available as food, coupled with an increase in numbers of mouths to feed due to increasing population growth rate.
Another challenge is climate change - in fact it is a global challenge. This calls for a development response, including introduction of crop varieties that can adapt to it.
Lastly, I could point on the severe degradation of land - poor soil fertility and erosion, exacerbated by the country's topography. In the long run this is one of the biggest challenges to Lesotho's agriculture.
How important is the EU Food Facility project to agricultural performance in Lesotho?
Lesotho is still facing high food and input prices. Subsistence farmers are being severely hit. With the project, farmers are given a life line and another opportunity to go back into agricultural production through access to improved, affordable and appropriate inputs.
Therefore, there is the possibility of increased production at the household level. The organisation of Input Trade Fairs in particular was timely – inputs were available early enough that farmers were able to plant on time. As a result, I see great potential for increased crop production.
Can the activities be scaled-up or expanded?
The ministry has already embarked on a programme of expanding and scaling-up Conservation Agriculture and Open-Pollinated Variety seed production. The latter is especially promoted through Input Trade Fairs among vulnerable and subsistence farming households, because they can't afford the more expensive hybrid seeds.