Dairy board accused of dereliction of duty



MASERU – Some dairy farmers in Lesotho are accusing the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) of incompetence and failure to do their duties as expected of them. The dairy farmers some of whom are members of the association market the milk in the local dairy industry called Lesotho Dairy Products (LDP), along with some non-members.

Ts’eliso Ts’enolia, a marketing consultant who is one of the dairy farmers, told Public Eye in an exclusive interview that there are many challenges that they are facing as diary farmers but some of the challenges are brought about by LNDB, which is supposed to help them overcome their challenges.

“LNDB was established to be able to drive the marketing chain infrastructure development activities through a legal framework, in other words we have Agricultural Marketing Act 246 of 1991 and it was by this Act that the LNDB was established. LNDB was established to assist Lesotho’s dairy industry through Marketing Chain Infrastructure Development (MCID),” Ts’enoli said.

He said that since milk is perishable, that means that the production of milk is intense because it needs equipment but Basotho do not have such equipment and that is the biggest challenge. “LNDB had some specified functions that indicate that they should help farmers with storages. and when the collection centres were donated to Lesotho, they were only placed in the lowlands but even now only a few of them are still working,” said Ts’enoli.

Ts’enoli said that according to an audit report CIDA donated eight milk collections centres in the year 1987 even though it has not explained why some of the collection centres are not operating. They are located at Botha-Bothe, Leribe, Teyateyaneng, Mokema, Mazenod, Matsieng, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek.

“The processing plant that was donated by CIDA was to be under the guardianship of Lesotho Dairy Products (LDP) to prepare takeover of associations’ representation from all 10 districts. That was never effected by LNDB because of a convert agenda which has landed us where we are today, the virtual owner of Lesotho dairy industry operating freely since 1991 under regrettable cover as Denmar under LDP. This is why the report recommended de-registration of LDP as per the 2009 report; this has not been done by government to date for reasons unknown to farmers” Ts’enoli said.

Ts’enoli said at the collection centres farmers are charged M6 per litre, whereas when they sell in their villages they charge M12 per litre and even that M12 is not enough because the cost of feeding the cow surpasses revenue generated. Therefore, he said, it is costly to transport the milk to the collection centre only for the farmers to get very little money.

“LNDB was supposed to build associations for dairy farmers but it frustrated them because they lack commitment to the regulations that are specified in the Act. Even the structure of the Board was infringed because it consists of Principles Secretaries (PS) from three ministries, Health, Trade and Agriculture.

“So this means the farmer’s representation on this board is diminishing because people who are directly involved, people who should be masters of their destiny have their destiny determined by the board through what I call policy formulation,” said Ts’enoli.

Ts’enoli added that “policy is supposed to be formulated by farmers while an executive arm for fulfilling the policy has to be LNDB. The Board has to fulfil the dreams and wishes of farmers but this is not the case with the Board. As it stands the board can go out and find cows for the farmers without even looking at the qualities that one farmers needs in a cow,” Ts’enoli said.

He added that LNDB was supposed to help with the marketing chain infrastructure to make import substitution of cow feeds; the board was supposed to import less feeds and help the farmers to make or grow their own feeds. “Some farmers are facing feed security problems, which means what you feed your livestock must be food that you are able to produce. As a farmer if you depend on imports to feed your livestock it means you are feed insecure. LNDB failed to teach the farmers to keep production records and to teach them how to keep them.

“The board was commissioned to encourage dairy farmers to form associations and it never worked to make farmers, who are part of associations and those that are not part of it, to see the importance of coming together. Coming together as farmers helps because one can be able to endorse the necessary services of extension. When you are not in an association it becomes costly to outreach such a farmer,” Ts’enoli said.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) donated to processing plant to Lesotho and they also donated different milk collection centres in different villages in the lowlands. (WHEN)

“These collections centres were mismanaged because the government was not attuned to the importance of this collection centres in marketing chain infrastructure. People who live on the highlands do not have a processing plant or collection centres. There has to be enough produce so that it can optimize the cost of transporting milk to the centres,” Ts’enoli said.

Ts’enoli said the government has to step in with collection and compilation of data around crop produce or around livestock produce.  The value of keeping up-to-date data has to be instilled in farmers no matter their level of education because this data becomes an index of processes of the agricultural enterprise.

“LNDB collects 2.25 percent levy on all the imports of dairy products. What have no idea what they done with the money that they have received from the levy because that money is supposed to support small holder dairy farmers. LNDB is over 30 years old but they still have no idea what they are supposed to do with the levy money in order to help famers,” said Ts’enoli.

Tsenoli said Matsibolo Farmers Association was formed because they saw the deficiency that exists within the dairy industry.

“Among those deficiencies were gaps within the marketing chain infrastructure, the first one being that the farmers are not taught the importance of data collection. Secondly, if there are no data collections, we are not able to do researches. LNDB was supposed to research not only for market but also the laboratory research and that means they instil a gap in product development,” Ts’enoli said.

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