World Bank funds agriculture sector

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Bereng Mpaki

THE World Bank has approved an additional US$10 million to a similar initial funding meant for Lesotho’s smallholder agriculture sector to foster the development of innovative projects to ensure food security.

Approved on 29 September 2017, the additional funding emanated from the International Development Association for Lesotho’s ongoing Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP).

Under SADP, which became effective in March 2012, over 55 000 beneficiaries from the districts of Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea and Mafeteng have been provided with grants and technical assistance to boost their productivity and market access.

The additional funds will support smallholder agriculture development in the four districts and also extend to Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing – with an added focus on climate-smart production.

“Smallholder farming has great potential to feed people and help boost economic growth. The World Bank is committed to partnering with Lesotho in its endeavor to fight poverty and sustainably grow its economy,” said Paul Noumba Um, World Bank Country Director for Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The grants will be awarded to farmers to test and demonstrate new business initiatives and technological innovations, especially those that focus on climate-smart agriculture.

This refers to agricultural practices that increase productivity, build resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under the additional financing, farmers groups and government agencies will also be supported to improve food quality and safety standards.

According to World Bank Communications Specialist in Maseru, Elita Banda, beneficiaries will have to apply for funding under the different project components.

“Under the parent project, we have reached over 50 000 beneficiaries and we expect to reach about 20 000 additional beneficiaries under the additional financing,” Ms Banda said.

“The demand for financing to invest in quality beneficiaries and innovative initiatives that can access markets is still strong. There is also a compelling need to demonstrate climate-smart agriculture technologies.

“Examples of technologies/practices likely to be supported through the project include: conservation agriculture, stress tolerant horticulture, water harvesting, small-scale irrigation systems and water harvesting, livestock feeding and improvement, and small-scale processing technologies.”

She said the additional financing would support targeted farmer groups and government agencies with the goal of improving food standards and safety. It is also meant to develop and strengthen links between agricultural producers and markets, reduce market transaction costs and aligning production decisions with business and market opportunities.

Ms Banda said the funds were expected to be disbursed to beneficiaries early next year.

“SADP supports smallholder farmers in targeted areas of Lesotho, with the goal of helping them exploit opportunities to diversify into market-oriented agriculture. There are different types of initiatives under SADP that provide assistance to smallholders and the investments are demand driven. But, as an example, under the flagship Competitive Grants Program, the next round of disbursements is expected in early 2018.”

Previous SADP beneficiaries, she said, had been able to access new markets and implement new agricultural technologies under.

“In many cases, beneficiaries have been able to enter new agricultural sectors (livestock and cropping) aided by the training/investments SADP provides. Beneficiary producer groups such as piggery and poultry associations, as well as wool and mohair grower’s associations have been instrumental in setting standards, and spreading knowledge towards increasing marketed output; however, much still needs to be done in this area, as planned under the additional financing.”

The project has however, encountered its fair share of challenges. According to Ms Banda, the main challenge has been around training to improve the business management skills of grant recipients.

“The additional financing will also continue to support the generation and dissemination of improved market information and facilitation, as well as providing training and technical assistance for business planning, management and marketing to support Lesotho’s small businesses and associations.”

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Mahala Molapo has commended the impact the funding was having on Lesotho.

“A lot of traction has been made in promoting the commercialisation of smallholder agriculture in the various project districts,” said Mr Molapo.

“These added funds will focus on continuing to increase the capacity of farmers in Lesotho and to build more productive climate resilient commercial agriculture systems.”

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