By T’soloane Mohlomi
MASERU – The Millennium Challenge Corporation Lesotho (MCC) has opened a door for investment and launched the Market Driven Irrigation Horticulture Project (MDIH), which is one of its proposed projects under the MCC compact II, signed last year.
With a cash injection of a staggering $300 million and an additional $22 million from the Government of Lesotho, Compact II with the Government of Lesotho, seeks to ensure greater access to quality healthcare, create equitable business development opportunities, invest in high-value crop production and boost profits and formal employment for women- and youth-owned enterprises.
With the call for investment launch (CFI), and the subsequent introduction of the MDIH project which seeks to address and prioritise high value crop production, while incorporating small scale farmers in commercial farming cohesively with the private sector, MDIH’s focus is also to irrigate 2000 hectares of identified land around Lesotho, this with the intent of driving growth in the irrigated horticulture sector.
The chosen sites earmarked for this current phase include the areas of Tsoili-Tsoili in Kolonyama, Marike in Peka, the Likhakeng area and Phamong area respectively. The total space for these allocated sites amounts to 1580 hectares.
Speaking at the official launch held in Maseru this week, United States (US) Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho, H.E. Maria E. Brewer, said the idea of all these programmes was not for her country to manage all these lucratively funded projects, but rather to inspire a cohesive and inclusive ecosystem where the two would work together for the benefit and growth of Lesotho.
Ambassador Brewer lauded the private sector for their involvement and commitment in the projects and highlighted and emphasized the sector’s importance in the growth of the economy.
“I would like to humbly thank the Government of Lesotho for making this project a success, and would also like to thank the MCC, MCA and all our colleagues for putting this together. But a great thank you especially to those in the private sector, who are interested in moving forward with this project, because without you it truly wouldn’t happen.
“This intervention like many other interventions that the US is doing here in Lesotho, the idea is not that the US government will come in to quickly take over and manage all these projects and programmes, whether it’s African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), US President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR), PEACECORPS and more especially MCC. But the idea rather is that the government and the people of Lesotho with the private industry, will all work together to uplift the country.
“Our interventions are really a catalyst, we are going to set a spark but it’s up to you to make the blaze to really take over and transform this country,” she said.
In conclusion, the US Ambassador humorously used the famous Sesotho adage of “moketa ho tsosoa o itekang” translating to the one who tries and makes an impressive effort is the one who shall be assisted.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Hon. Thabo Mofosi, thanked the US government for their efforts in curbing the scourge of poverty in Lesotho, while also creating alternative measures to stimulate Lesotho’s economy. He said through the MDIH project and with the funding allocated to compact II entered between the US and Lesotho the main aim was to increase rural income related to commercial horticulture.
“Ladies and gentlemen it is important to thank the government of the day, which is the government of the United States of America, especially their Excellencies heads of diplomatic missions, and the Ambassador of the US to Lesotho.
“It is an honour and privilege to be part of this conference that aims to attract private sector investment in the horticulture sector through the MDIH project, as part of the $322 million project sponsored by the Government of Lesotho and the United States of America. The primary objective of this project is to expand rural income related to commercial horticulture, promote inclusive agricultural rules and promote sustainable models for irrigation, water and land management,” he said.
The minister said the project was meant to benefit marginalized groups among others.