By Leseli Mahloane

MASERU – Farmers Pitso is an initiative that was established in 2012 by Lesotho farmers, where farmers from different sectors of agriculture come together to network, learn, and showcase their products. It has four main categories: workshops, tour trips, exhibitions, and awards.

The workshops are aimed at providing farmers with relevant information and skills on various aspects of farming, such as crop production, livestock management, marketing, and agribusiness. The tour trips are opportunities for farmers to visit other countries and learn from their best practices and innovations in agriculture. For example, they have an upcoming trip this year where they will be visiting Mozambique to learn more about farming in that country.

The exhibitions are platforms for farmers to sell their products to other farmers and to the general public, as well as to interact with potential customers and partners. The awards are the highlight of the Farmers Pitso, where the best performers in different categories of farming are recognized and rewarded for their hard work and achievements. The awards also include special recognition for shepherds who look after livestock, as well as for people who support the farmers in various ways, such as the police, the army, the government officials, and the sponsors.
This year, the Farmers Pitso Awards 2023 were held on Saturday, September 9 at Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village. The event was attended by hundreds of farmers from all over Lesotho, as well as some guests from South Africa. Mr. Jacques Pienaar from Mega Merino South Africa (Top sheep farmers) was one of the guests of honor. He received a trophy and a Sotho blanket for his long-standing commitment and support to Lesotho farmers. Mega Merino specializes in genetics wool and meat production.

Women are seen in large numbers in farming, from vegetable production to livestock rearing. In the past, men were more active in farming, but now all that has changed as women and young girls have taken up agriculture as a viable source of income and empowerment. Agriculture in schools is also becoming more fun and popular, as young students from different schools participate in farming activities and competitions. Amongst the schools that showed up at the Farmers Pitso were: Thetsane High School, which won first prize in farming, followed by Sefate sa Bophelo and Mazenod High School.

There were lots of sponsors giving away prizes, mostly money for the farmers to invest more in their businesses. The minister of agriculture was also present at the event. He said that he understands and appreciates the work that is being done by Farmers Pitso to promote agriculture in Lesotho. He also said that we all need to unite and support this initiative in order for us to prosper and fight hunger. He then promised that in the coming year he will make sure that Lesotho has firms producing farm motor vehicles and implements. He also said that there will be a business platform for farmers to access markets and finance.

The awards were not just for the farmers who have been working tirelessly to feed us, but also for the people who are always there for the farmers like stock theft LMPS (Lesotho Mounted Police Service). Two LDF (Lesotho Defence Force) officials were also awarded for their role in protecting the farmers and their livestock. Nkaku Kabi (Member of Parliament and farmer) was also awarded for his contribution to agriculture development in Lesotho. Rethabile Monoana was awarded as the best female in mixed farming, which involves both crop production and livestock rearing.

The Farmers Pitso Awards 2023 were a success and a celebration of Basotho farmers and their supporters. The event was also a testimony of how women are making strides in farming and how young people are embracing agriculture as a career choice. The Farmers Pitso is looking forward to hosting more events in the future to continue empowering and uplifting Lesotho farmers.