Family Farming Knowledge Platform


Lesotho is a small mountainous land locked country that is fully surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. The total area is 30,355 sq. km and it is divided into four ecological zones, namely the highlands, lowlands, foothills and Senqu river valley. Lesotho has a temperate climate which is largely influenced by its latitudinal location (between 28 and 31) and topography. Annual precipitation is highly variable, both temporally and spatially, ranging from 500mm/year to 1200mm/year most of which is received during summer months, from October to March. Temperatures are highly variable, ranging from -10 to 30 largely depending on the ecological zone. Lesotho`s arable land is estimated at 279,773 hectares which comprises 9 percent of the total land area. Lesotho`s population is predominantly rural, with 72 percent of the population living in rural areas (BOS, 2011). Agriculture is therefore, an important livelihood activity for a significant proportion of Lesotho`s population and is referred to as “the backbone of the economy” despite the fact that overall productivity of the sector and its contribution to the country`s GDP remain very low.



The bulk of the country `s agricultural production is undertaken on family owned smallholder farms where the average farm size is 1.3 hectares with only 11 percent of farming households owning more than three hectares of land (Mphale, 2002). The five principal crops grown in the country comprised maize. Sorghum, wheat, peas and beans, with maize being the most dominant crop.  Lack of access to financial, technological and infrastructural resources are the major limiting factors in agricultural development. The national poverty line is estimated at M242.62 per Month (Allwine et al. 2013). Agriculture in Lesotho is principally traditional, characterised by rain-fed cereal production and extensive animal grazing, with the contribution of the livestock sub-sector roughly double that of arable sub-sector. Over-grazing of pastures has significantly reduced soil fertility and cultivation of marginal lands has also become common practice. Increasing deforestation has contributed to soil degradation, with trees no longer protecting the soil from erosive rainfall and strong winds.

Smallholder farmers provide up to 80 percent of food produced in Lesotho and many of these households are extremely poor. Overall, the highest incidence of workers living with their families below the poverty line is associated with employment in agriculture. They are characterised by limited access to information, finance, infrastructure, technology, markets etc.

After many years of being overlooked agriculture sector still remains undeveloped in terms of considering it to be a business. As a matter of fact, it is not a generally favoured sector by the youth in terms of career ambitions. As a result there is not reliable succession in production since youth continues to seek better opportunities in other sectors. Agriculture in Lesotho is intrinsically interconnected with weather and climate. Crop Production in Lesotho is largely rain fed with less than 1 percent of the country`s arable land under irrigation. Disruptions in the predictability of rainfall pattern and significant increases in temperatures are therefore widely expected to result in major disruptions in the levels of agricultural production hence food insecurity and limited employment possibilities in that sector.

Just like other countries, Lesotho is immensely confronted by the climate change impact. Food insecurity and youth employment are two key development challenges facing Lesotho`s economy and both challenges are being exacerbated by the climate change impact. Climate change does not only impact on natural resources but economies and societies. Again there is a higher prevalence of HIV and AIDs pandemic which impacts greatly on the farming community. That is, the number of household members working full time on the farm is negatively correlated with difficulty to pay for health care, difficulty to pay for agricultural inputs and difficulty to save money.

A reasonable number of emerging small commercial farmers are erecting greenhouses in Lesotho with the assistance of Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) and Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF). The aim is to produce fresh vegetables for both local and foreign market. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the European Union and FAO are also working to assist Lesotho`s farmers by providing seed, fertiliser and tools. Some are also being trained in conservation agriculture and certified seed production. With the theme “Sustainable Investment in Agriculture- Gateway to Food Security and Prosperity and a Vehicle to Growth” Lesotho became the thirty fourth Country to sign the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) compact, on the 4th September 2013. By signing, Lesotho has committed to achieving the goal of raising agricultural productivity by six percent and ensuring that ten percent of their budget is allocated to agriculture.

In the face of several constraints facing the country, there is a hope that in one of the good days Lesotho will not be amongst chronically food insecure countries taking advantage of having very industrious Smallholder farmers, efficient use of the resources, technical and financial assistance from various actors in the agriculture sector. 



This text is kindly provided by the authorities of this country.

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