A boost to half of Lesotho’s rural farmers

European Union Food Facility brings substantial increase in food production

19 May 2010, Maseru/Rome - The European Union and FAO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), are assisting over 36 000 farmers in Lesotho, more than half of its vulnerable farmers.

Soaring food prices and the recent global economic downturn struck Lesotho hard, especially the majority of its 1.9 million people that rely on agriculture. In just one year, the cost of planting crops rose more than four times. Assessments found that over half of the country's arable farm land was lying idle.

According to Farayi Zimudzi, FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator in Lesotho, "Unacceptable risks of hunger and household-level food shortages among Lesotho's poor soon became apparent."

Quick but lasting impact

The European Union responded by allocating EUR 6 million toward agriculture, as part of the EUR 1 billion European Union Food Facility (EUFF), the European Union's massive response to increased food insecurity around the world.

Four million Euros are channelled through FAO to swiftly stave off the food crisis and at the same time make a long-term impact on Lesotho's food situation. FAO is working closely with MAFS, while keeping its efforts in line with ongoing government programmes.

Covering all of Lesotho's ten districts, over 36 000 farmers get a much-needed boost of agricultural inputs - seed, fertilizer and tools - over two seasons through Input Trade Fairs. "This means that FAO assists more than half of the country's vulnerable rural farming households," Zimudzi explains. Another 500 farmers are trained to improve or adopt Conservation Agriculture practices, and 100 others engage in certified seed production.

A substantial boost

During the first trade fairs 22 000 beneficiaries received 715 tonnes of seed - maize, beans, wheat, sorghum, potatoes and vegetables. The farmers took home 550 tonnes of fertilizer and nearly 6 000 pieces of agricultural hardware, such as: yokes, chains, hand hoes and ox-drawn plough/planter/cultivator parts.

It is estimated that FAO's assistance will lead to an additional 7 300 hectares of land under production, which can translate into 10-18 000 extra tonnes of crops harvested. A substantial boost in a country where the total cereal production was 86 000 tonnes in 2009.

"It's very impressive," said Andrew Headey, Acting Head of the European Union Mission in Lesotho. "Activities were well chosen. If successful, they will lay the foundation for an improved situation in the future, enhancing sustainability and building on existing initiatives."

Photo: ©FAO/Gianluigi Guercia
Make a long-term impact on Lesotho’s food situation.