Farmers urged to target school feeding programme



MASERU – Prime Minister Sam Matekane has urged local farmers to collaborate and produce more in order to stand a chance to contribute more to the school feeding programme.  The state provides school meals to two-thirds of the schools in the country, while the World Food Programme (WFP) covers the remaining one-third exclusively located in remote mountainous regions.  While farmers have been complaining over the years about a lack of engagement between them and the government, Matekane has made a huge promise that farmers’ produce will be highly considered.

He said the Ministry of Education and that of Agriculture will collaboratively form an alliance that will ensure success of the programme in schools across the country.  “The journey begins today and we are going to work hand in hand with institutes of higher learning that are primarily focused on agriculture. So I encourage farmers to engage in block farming as a better way to improve production. Those that shall engage in block farming will be assisted with machinery during harvest,” Matekane said on Wednesday when addressing the community in Kolonyana, Ha Lebamang in the Leribe district.

His visit marked the launch of the country’s winter cropping season. The premier said Basotho should be encouraged to engage fully in winter cropping as the government remains committed to providing a 70 percent subsidy on seeds as well as another 80 percent subsidy on fertilisers in the quest to meet them halfway.

For many years, the government has been investing huge sums of money into crop farming without any form of success; hence, the current government is willing to put in more efforts to ensure huge production. Matekane’s government will begin by ploughing fields as big as 1564 ha in Kolonyama, Ha Manama in joint partnerships with owners of such fields.  Further partnerships shall be seen between the state and other farmers, particularly those with the right machinery, security forces as well as the banking industry.

“We want to demonstrate the type of farming that we are talking about, for the purposes of high production. This year only, we want to improve wheat production by 3tons/ha. That means we are not looking at anything below 4 694 tonnes of wheat production in this area,” Matekane added. Roughly 80 percent of Lesotho’s population depends on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods. However, agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has declined in recent years.

In recent years, the government embarked on a block farming programme to increase production through subsidies and central planning.  Despite declining agricultural production, the government is continuing with these subsidy programmes to combat hunger and poverty.

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