By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- the Embassy of the United States in Maseru has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Lesotho $31.4 million about M589 million for the Food for Progress (FFP) Program to enhance and fortify Lesotho’s poultry sector. 

This the Embassy has said in a statement issued on Monday this week.

These developments transpired just within a few weeks following the ban on poultry products from South Africa over the outbreak caused by a highly pathogenic (HPAI) strain of H7N6 avian influenza that broke out in the poultry farms in South Africa (SA).

The SA’s Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development reported that the current influenza A (H5N1) outbreaks have been ongoing since April this year. The Department further reported to the SA media that the affected farms have been placed under quarantine while investigations are being carried.

This ban extends to both chickens and eggs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say “Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species”.

The FFP program is reported to have been helping support efforts to improve agricultural systems and stimulate rural economies around the globe.

This will be the first time Lesotho receives the FFP funding.

The Land O’Lakes Venture37 has been selected to implement the program in Lesotho. It is among others expected to promote climate smart agricultural practices, improve food security, and foster economic growth.

“By providing crucial resources and technical assistance, the program will facilitate the establishment of sustainable market linkages, and enhance trade opportunities for Lesotho.

“The United States is deeply committed to ending hunger and malnutrition and building more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems at home and abroad. The United States is the largest provider of international agriculture, economic development, and humanitarian assistance, and advances global food security and nutrition through efforts like USDA’s FFP and McGovern-Dole Programs,” reads the Embassy’s statement.

It further points out that the USDA works continuously to monitor and ensure the success of the programs, all while balancing funding allocations with current global nutrition needs.

It continues: “As the world emerges from a global pandemic and faces the challenges of rising hunger and poverty, climate change, and the raging war on Ukraine, more than 190 million people worldwide experience acute food insecurity. The issue of food security has grown even more urgent, and the effects of food insecurity are widespread and devastating. When there is food insecurity, farmers lose their livelihoods.

“Parents spend hours every day trying to secure their family’s next meal. Hungry children struggle to learn, and they suffer irreversible health consequences. Already vulnerable populations are always hit hardest, and food insecurity also holds back broader economic growth and increases the risk of violent conflict and civil unrest.”

Attempts to solicit a reaction from the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition Hon Thabo Mofosi drew blank and had not replied to a WhatsApp message sent to his phone at the time of going to press last night.