THABA-TSEKA – The farming community in the rural village of Ha Ramatšeliso in Thaba-Tseka is slowly giving up on farming owing to lack of access to seeds that can withstand all weather conditions. The community that solely depends on farming says for the past five consecutive years they have not been having any good harvest because of severe rainfalls that swept away their crops and degraded their land.
Those that still have land to plant say they are unable to produce food because their crops either get swept away by heavy rains or rot due to excessive water. Makhotla Mpopo, who is the village’s agricultural supervisor, told Public Eye that the community mostly grows beans, sorghum and maize but this year and the past years there had not been any harvest.
Mpopo said he is aware and they have been capacitated together with the community on climate smart agriculture, further noting that the challenge is accessing relevant seeds that are able to withstand all weather conditions. He said for the past five years, he has been approaching the Ministry of Agriculture asking that the seeds be brought closer to them to no avail.
He said every time he contacted the Ministry of Agriculture in Thaba-Tseka, he was told that he could only get the seeds they need from Maseru. They now are forced to plant any seed that comes their way even though they are already certain that they will not make any good harvest from such.
Mpopo further noted that the community has opted to plant vegetables, including potatoes and green leaves plants, which he said only sustain them for a month or so, adding that they still need to plant grains that can sustain them for the whole year at least. “Farming is the only thing that we know and we have no other means for survival. Our hope in farming is diminishing day by day, but we can’t give up. If only we could be assisted with relevant seeds, we would be able to apply this climate smart agriculture,” he noted.
He said the government has abandoned rural communities and does not even ensure that it helps them with seeds that they are ready to buy with their own money. “We are not even asking for hand-outs or free seeds; we want the seeds to be brought closer to us so that we can buy with our own money. Because we are struggling to access seeds, the community that has so much love for farming is slowly losing interest in farming which is their only way of survival,” he said.
One of the community members, ’Makelebone Letsika, told this publication that because of extreme weather conditions that the country is experiencing, she applies climate smart agriculture and improvises with the seeds she has.
She said she plants potatoes, spinach and beans which she said she is able to consume with her family and sell the remainder to the community. “Climate smart agriculture, even though it’s time consuming, results in better produce. If only I had relevant seeds I would be able to plant for commercial purposes.
“Farming is something I cannot give up on, how else will I survive. When grains fail to give me any produce, I opt to planting vegetables,” Letsika stated. Letsika noted that she and other community members were capacitated on climate smart agriculture by ministry of agriculture and food security but lack the relevant resources like seeds, shade nets and other resources that can ensure better production.
These impediments have been a road block in their way of producing food for consumption and commercial purposes. To restore their hope in farming and advise the community on crops to grow, when to plant and how, so that their products survive all weather conditions, the ministry of forestry, range and land conservation, the ministry of energy and meteorology in partnership with World Food Programme (WFP) under AICOV project visited the community and encouraged them to plant earlier so that by the time rainfall starts, their crops would have risen above the soil.
The community was also encouraged to change the crops they plant and opt for those that can stand all weather conditions, like wheat and potatoes. However, the community said it could not plant wheat as their soil and geographical location are not conducive for growing such crops. The community further stated that because of drought they are unable to go to fields as yet, which means the possibility of history repeating itself is very high.
Meteorological services official, Mponeng Lethobane, warned the community that the country is expecting the same rainfall amount as last year. She said normal to above-normal rainfall is expected from October to December and therefore advised the community to start going to fields as soon as they can.
To also ensure that the climate change initiative makes an impact on people’s lives and communities are effectively capacitated to a point where they adapt and become resilient to climate change impacts, IACOV is going around the country encouraging key stakeholders in climate change initiatives to work collaboratively for better impact.
This, IACOV is doing by disseminating the National Climate Change Policy and National Climate Change Communication Strategy that will be used as guiding tools in climate change advocacy to heads of departments around the country.
IACOV will reach the 10 districts of Lesotho and has so far been to Quthing, Mokhotlong and Thaba-Tseka with other districts to follow. Communications Officer at IACOV, Rorisang Kurubully, said collaboration by different stakeholders will avoid duplication of efforts towards climate change initiatives that has been going on for years.
She said there has been a lot of climate change stakeholders that have been doing climate change initiatives with different tones. As a result, communities got exhausted from hearing the same thing every day from different entities which results in limited impact being made.
By working collaboratively, she said, the country will be able to not only save resources but the impact of interventions will be seen and people’s lives will be improved.
She noted that the two national documents will guide stakeholders so that they do the same thing in terms of implementing climate change initiatives. Principal Secretary at Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Advocate ’Mole Khumalo, in an interview with Public Eye, noted that the ministry this year was given a reduced budget to buy seeds as compared to other years.
He said, as a result of a limited budget and increased prices, the ministry only managed to buy fewer seed which it distributed to all the districts. Khumalo said he is not aware that some communities in Thaba-Tseka are struggling to get seeds and encouraged them to visit his office to discuss the issue and a way forward.
“This year we couldn’t buy enough seeds due to financial constraints. We were given a budget much lower than last year and prices have increased. “However, the seeds that we managed to buy have been distributed to all districts that have storage. I’m yet to consult further on the matter to find out if it is true that the community has been struggling to get seeds,” he said.