By: Mpho Shelile  

Maseru – In a significant move to bolster the agricultural sector, the Green Value Chains Project and the Local Supplier Development Programme (GVC-LSDP) award funding to two dedicated farmers in Maseru.

This collaborative initiative, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), Standard Lesotho Bank (SLB), and FinMark Trust, promotes sustainable farming practices and enhance local supply chains.

Secondly, the project has awarded two farmers who have shown great commitment in this journey and are at an advanced stage. “One of them is already exporting to the South African market while the other is already supplying KFC locally. The project has granted awards in a form of cheques in support of the assistance towards farm accreditation and certification.”

Malerato Khoeli from Riverside farm was awarded M 39,780.00 while Hoaba Nkunyane from Litsoa Mobung Fresh Products was awarded M 161,000.00. She concluded by advising all farmers to use this opportunity to collaborate, innovate, and pave the way for a more efficient and sustainable future in farming.

The two farmers, who were selected based on their potential for growth and commitment to sustainable practices, will use the funding to expand their operations, invest in modern farming equipment, and adopt eco-friendly techniques. This support is expected to not only boost their productivity but also create job opportunities and contribute to the local economy.

LNDC Trade Promotion Officer, Makananelo Chefa expressed her enthusiasm for the project, stating, “The Green Value Chains Project and the Local Supplier Development Programme are critical in driving sustainable agricultural development in Lesotho. By supporting these farmers, we are taking significant steps towards achieving food security and promoting economic growth.”

The GVC-LSDP was piloted in 2021, and in that phase the project provided capacity building to 50 farm assurers on adoption and implementation of Global G.A.P and food safety standards in an effort to advance national capacity and to enhance the competitiveness of priority agricultural value chains.

“The role of the trained farm assurers was to assess farms, guide and handhold farmers into implementing good farming practices and adhere to food safety standards and also recommend certification of eligible farms,” says Chefa.

Another program component that was implemented in 2023 is the mentorship program. In it, 27 farmers were identified to participate in the mentorship program following a credit readiness assessment and a capacity building or training program that focused on various areas. These are; business planning, business and financial management – main focus was on record keeping, marketing, and Business entrepreneurship.

FinMark Trust Country Coordinator Lesotho, Palesa Sematlane specified their challenges and achievements during the second phase, she said they have helped 8 farmers develop business plans, out of which 1 farmer has secured a commercial funding while four farmers completed their financial proposals and are waiting for their 3-year period before being awarded.

“During this program we learned a few key lessons, that include the need to identify the kind of farmers we need for a certain program before recruiting, and we need to know the kind of agricultural sectors we want to target,” says Sematlane.

Further stating that they need to form a wing that will deal mainly with assisting those who are still in transition, since that was the biggest challenge they faced while recruiting farmers for this project.

Sematlane concluded by stating that with this program their mission is to build a resilient and sustainable agricultural sector in Lesotho that will help grow the economy of the country.

In his closing remarks, Keketso Makara Head, Business and Commercial Clients at Standard Lesotho Bank, acknowledged the farmers for the hard work they presented through the entire program adding that as they embark on their journey with the support of these fundings, it is hoped that their success will inspire other local farmers to adopt sustainable practices and contribute to the green transformation of Lesotho’s agricultural sector.

Makara advised the awarded farmers to ensure that they use the money wisely, concluding by affirming their mission for embarking on such a program, which is to see other Lesotho prosper through farming.

The collaboration between UNDP, LNDC, Standard Lesotho Bank, and FinMark Trust highlights the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships in addressing development challenges. The initiative also aligns with the broader goals of sustainable development, emphasizing the need for inclusive and environmentally responsible economic growth.

The GVC-LSDP is designed to support local farmers by providing them with the necessary financial resources and technical assistance to improve their productivity and market reach. By focusing on green value chains, the initiative encourages environmentally sustainable practices that contribute to the overall development of the agricultural sector in Lesotho.