By Liapeng Raliengoane
BEREA – As food insecurity threatens many livelihoods, environmental educators and experts recommend regenerative agriculture to overcome it and to intensify farm production, thus more income to commercial farmers, while also serving as a climate action move.
An interview with Re-Kaofela Capacity Building Association Adult Environmental Educator Kante Molelle explained regenerative agriculture as agricultural practice that is rooted in indigenous wisdom, which protects and maintains soil health, while increasing crop production with natural processes.
“Regenerative Agriculture is very important in Lesotho’s Agricultural Sector in that, since Lesotho is mountainous and high in altitude with a growing population and little arable land and abundance of water, it is more vulnerable to soil erosion and other risks associated with Climate Change,” he held.
“To feed the entire nation and possibly the world, practicing Regenerative Agriculture can help strengthen Lesotho’s Agricultural sector cope with climate change risks, improve rural business, reduce dependency on chemical agricultural inputs, supply Nutritious food with no carbon footprint and set policies relevant to sustainable crop production intensification with less land, help maintain soil health that will enable usage by generations to come and raise awareness of the contribution of ecosystems to sustainable livelihoods,” he further highlighted.
Looking at the agricultural practices Basotho engage, Molelle expressed that to some extent, Basotho still use some regenerative agricultural methods, an example being the application of manure even though they mix it with Mineral fertilizers, while some still make use of Three Sister planting (combination of beans, maize and squash). “There is also a growing use of companion planting even if it is at its infancy in the Horticultural sector.”
Molelle is of a view that indigenous Knowledge, particularly that Basotho possess, can help tackle climate change in various ways ranging from pollinator population management, moisture retention and crop production intensification as well as rodents and predators management.
“Being at the centre of climate change, indigenous people are the custodians of the biodiversity in that they understand the relationships of various ecosystems in sustaining livelihoods,” he added.
This Adult Environmental Educator held that with their exceptional Ethno-botanical Knowledge, Basotho have prevented birds from crowding fields, they have mixed some shrubs with manure to retain moisture in the soil, while other shrubs, herbs and animal fat have been mixed and covered with sheep cloth to expel rodents and predators that threaten crop yield.
In addition, he said a combination of specific legumes have also been used, like beans and Lucerne for biological nitrogen fixation to supply other crops like maize and pumpkin with naturally obtained nitrogen and composting farm waste with manure been used to supply phosphorus for plant health.
“While other Basotho’s rituals and customs have been known when the planting season starts (Selemo se thoasa), it is wise to derive a good meaning and impart this knowledge for generations to come including but not limited to avoiding sex during planting season, communicating with seeds to produce high yield,” he further stated.
In a nutshell, Molelle maintains that for Lesotho to survive in this sustainably developing world, it is only wise to advice Basotho to embrace their culture of farming and use their Ethno-botanical knowledge to intensify their farm production and supply nutritious and organic food with no carbon footprint, this can be achieved by the use of groups of people working in the fields “Matsema” instead of tractors that depend on fossil fuels for food production.
“Companion planting should also be part and parcel of farming in Lesotho…”
“While smallholding or homesteading has proven useful, it is for us as Basotho to refrain from intensive soil tillage because it perpetrates climate change, so it is not reasonable to produce food while destroying the biological processes that maintain both plant and animal health. A return to cattle drawn planters, hoes, pick exe, crow bars and many more can be of help in executing regenerative agriculture. Companion planting should also be part and parcel of farming in Lesotho,” he concluded.
According to the Regenerative Agriculture Market Statistics and Facts published on September 14, 2022, Regenerative agriculture is an effective method of farming with practices such as livestock rotation, no-till farming, aquaculture, agro-ecology, crop rotation, and agroforestry when compared to the conventional method.
It states that a recent study shows that the farms with regenerative agriculture practices generated 78% more profit than those with the conventional method of farming. The regenerative agriculture market has witnessed rapid growth as it makes soil much healthier and favourable for organic cultivation, owing to the high water-holding capacity.
Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations consisting of climate experts, states that around 23% of the global greenhouse gas emissions are correlated with agriculture, and the implementation of regenerative agriculture makes the soil capable to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The growth can also be attributed to other potential benefits such as gaining healthier yields, reduced soil erosion and runoff, and decreased cost when compared with the conventional farming method.
Additionally, no-till farming ensures saving 30-40% more farmers’ time, and further drives rapid growth. The conventional method has negative effects on the environment, whereas through regenerative agriculture, chemical inputs are minimized and the negative impact on biodiversity is reduced, which thereby drives the market growth.
Regeneration International reports that: the loss of the world’s fertile soil and biodiversity, along with the loss of indigenous seeds and knowledge, pose a mortal threat to our future survival.
According to soil scientists, at current rates of soil destruction (decarbonisation, erosion, desertification, chemical pollution), within 50 years we will not only suffer serious damage to public health due to a qualitatively degraded food supply characterized by diminished nutrition and loss of important trace minerals, but we will literally no longer have enough arable topsoil to feed ourselves. Without protecting and regenerating the soil on our 4 billion acres of cultivated farmland, 8 billion acres of pastureland, and 10 billion acres of forest land, it will be impossible to feed the world, keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, or halt the loss of biodiversity.