Spotlight on dairy sector’s role on food security


. . . partnership with Botswana brightens prospects


MASERU – The Chief Executive Officer of the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB), Abiel Mashale has emphasised the critical role of the dairy industry in enhancing the nation’s food security, job creation, and economic growth, despite its slow progress. He made these remarks during a recent briefing in Maseru, where the forum addressed the challenges and potential solutions facing the dairy industry in Lesotho.

“The government established the LNDB in 1991 in an effort to stabilise and improve the dairy industry. Initially, LNDB was mandated to regulate the industry, but later that same year, the government revised its policy, tasking LNDB with promoting and enhancing the development of the dairy sector,” explained Mashale. He said, according to the 2022 report from the Bureau of Statistics, milk production in Lesotho reached 12,417,000 litres in 2021, with 19 percent of that milk traded in formal markets.

“LNDB has discovered that 80% of this milk is processed into sour milk, while 19% is used to produce fresh milk, and a significant portion is turned into yoghurt,” Mashale said. He also noted that the domestic production and processing of dairy products in Lesotho do not meet local consumption needs. Over 80% of the dairy products consumed in the country are imported from South Africa.

Upon assuming his role at LNDB in September 2017, Mashale conducted investigations to understand why Lesotho is too reliant on South African dairy products. “I found that as a country we depend on importing improved breeds from SA for milk production, and most of the time we are supplied with poor quality dairy heifers, which do not meet the criteria in some instances to be called dairy cows,” he said.

He also showed that there is a lack of farmers’ capacity building, such that even though some of the farmers are engaged in dairy farming, they do not know much about farming. “Our farmers do not keep records of their production, such that they do not know the performance of their dairy cows, and it is very difficult from a business’s perspective to know whether your business is making profits or not.”.

A recent study by LNDB found that over 60% of farmers spent about three months without animal feed during the dry period, which directly impacts the production of milk in the country. Almost all Basotho depend on importing fodder and animal feed, which are very expensive from SA. “We found that even if there could be high production of milk in this country, there is a challenge of lack of milk processing, which means that even if the farmers can increase their milk production, their milk will go to waste because there is a scarcity of processors in this country,” Mashale said.

Above all, LNDB had a serious organisational structure challenge, where there was only a CEO and the marketing officer to promote and enhance the development of the dairy industry in Lesotho as well as regulate the industry; therefore it was nearly impossible for this institution to carry out its mandate. To address the challenges facing the dairy industry, LNDB implemented several strategic solutions. “We redesigned the LNDB organogram, creating departments for dairy development, breeding and veterinary services, dairy processing, and quality control,” Mashale explained.

He added that LNDB has initiated collaborations with other relevant institutions, including the Department of Livestock, Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC), Lesotho National Farmers Union (LNFU), and the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa, among other relevant stakeholders. Additionally, LNDB facilitated the establishment of two organisations: the Lesotho Dairy Farmers Association and the Lesotho Milk Processor Association. Mashale also highlighted the expansion of the milk processing industry in Lesotho.

“Previously, there were only Lesotho Dairy Products, but through our initiatives, we have increased the number of small-scale milk processors to more than 15, predominantly producing yoghurt and sour milk.” Furthermore, LNDB and the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on April 30, in Maseru.

Mashale shared that BUAN was chosen for its extensive expertise and respected reputation in dairy breeding, a field in which Botswana has a rich history, particularly in beef production. “This expertise in beef also extends significantly to dairy breeding,” he noted. “We have agreed to work together to develop businesses along the dairy value chain in both Lesotho and Botswana, as well as to collaborate in research and development,” Mashale stated, emphasising the bilateral benefits of this partnership.

Vice Chancellor of BUAN, Professor Ketlhatlogile Mosepele, announced that since 2011, the university has graduated at least nine Basotho undergraduate students, primarily in agricultural engineering, and has subsequently awarded degrees to 11 additional graduates. “This MOU represents our commitment to building partnerships and collaborations with our Basotho counterparts. We aim to build the critical mass necessary for securing food and nutrition security in the region. Let this MOU serve as a bridge to facilitate staff and student mobility between our nations for mutual benefit,” said Mosepele.

He also showed that BUAN specialises in agriculture and natural resources, possessing expertise in various aspects of dairy production. Through its business enterprise, BUAN operates the third-largest dairy farm in Botswana and is collaborating with key stakeholders to develop what will become the country’s largest dairy farm, housing 2,000 dairy cows. Moshe Mosase, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition in Lesotho, celebrated this significant occasion, acknowledging the vital role of the dairy industry in Lesotho.

“This collaboration will include joint research and development projects, the provision of technical expertise by BUAN to LNDB on dairy cattle breeding and management, quality assurance initiatives, and other mutually beneficial programmes,” he said. Mosase concluded by noting that Lesotho currently does not meet its milk production requirements, but through partnerships like these, there is a plan to increase production to satisfy local demand and explore international export opportunities.

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