MASERU – The wool and mohair market has dropped by 35%, leaving Lesotho wool and mohair farmers at the mercy of handouts. This was revealed by the National Wool and Mohair Growers Association Chairperson Mokuinihi Thinyane during the launch of a shearing shed in Qhalaqoe in Butha Buthe lasr week. This drop, he said, will affect farmers who are already struggling to make end meets since some have still not yet been paid monies for their 2018 fabric that they send to Thaba Bosiu.
Another consignment remains stuck in Port Elizabeth. Wool and Mohair farmers who send their fibre to South Africa in 2019 after Agricultural Wool and Mohair Regulations (2018) were repealed have also not received their dues. The explanation is that buyers are reluctant to buy their fabric due to the mouth and foot disease outbreak in South Africa last year and the absence of veterinary clearance from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
He noted 40 000 farmers around the country are currently struggling to make end meets and can hardly afford to pay their employees estimated at about 80 000. He said these are the people that solely survive on wool and mohair and have never depended on handouts however that has changed because of, among others, the government’s decision to enact Agricultural Wool and Mohair Regulations 2018 restricting farmers from taking their fabric outside the country, though these were later repealed. Thinyane said the struggle to survive has seen farmers leaving their homes for possible opportunities in Maseru city to fend for their families that are facing starvation.
“For the first time, farmers left their homes and went to Maseru to seek jobs so that they can be able to look after their families. This is not helping them either because of job shortages in the country. “There is Lesotho fibre that is stuck in Port Elizabeth due to foot and mouth disease that broke in South Africa that was supposed to have been sold by May but to date has not been sold. “What worries more is that the wool and mohair market has dropped by 35%, this means that even if the fibre finally gets sold, farmers will still get next to nothing for their fibre,” he said.
He therefore appealed to the Government to assist farmers with food parcels to help them during this trying time. In trying to improve the livelihoods of wool and mohair farmers across the country and increase production and quality of wool and mohair the government implemented the Wool and Mohair Promotion (WAMPP) project worth M500 million that was launched in 2016 and will come to an end by 2022. The project has so far spent M2 million to boost resilience to the adverse effects of climate change and economic shocks among poor, smallholder wool and mohair producers countrywide.
Among others, the project seeks to enable smallholder livestock producers to generate higher income and more sustainable livelihoods. Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro during the opening of the new shearing shed at Qholaqhoe in Butha Butha noted that through WAMPP, they aim not only to improve the quality and quantity of wool and mohair produced but to also make shearing sheds more accessible. He said the project has also ensured water connection at shearing sheds and surrounding communities, electrification of shearing sheds, and construction of slaughter slabs, to mention a few.
“The project was signed in 2015 and launched officially in 2016. It has so far managed to build 22 sheds across the country, rehabilitated 43 existing sheds, revamped 54km roads, installed electricity in shearing sheds, build two slaughter slabs and has introduced electronic record keeping through procurement of information technology equipment, trained shearers and classers and introduced procurement of electric shears, scales and baling presses,” he said. He further noted that agriculture is the new Lesotho “mine” which makes the project even more important and relevant for the country to invest in. Through agriculture, he said, Basotho will be able to fight food insecurity that is currently a challenge in the country while at the same time creating job opportunities for Basotho.
He said the wool and mohair sector currently employs almost 40 000 people and generates M600 million worth of revenue per year, therefore the development of the sector needs to be prioritised to improve the country’s economy. Majoro, however, expressed concern over livestock theft in the country, specifically in Butha Buthe which he said worsens poverty levels among animal farmers around the area. He said he will engage security forces around the country to work hard to eradicate the challenge. He expressed disappointment and concern about wool and mohair farmers that have not been paid for their fabric since 2018 without clear reasons.
Majoro said it was unacceptable that the farmers are still not paid and he promised to address the issue and ensure that they get paid. “Thaba Bosiu Wool Centre rejected our offer to pay farmers on their behalf so that they would reimburse us at a later stage when they have finally got the money. They claimed they have money to pay farmers, as a result we took back the money to the public purse. “I will get to the bottom of this and ensure that farmers get their money,” he said.