. . . former ruling party outlines manifesto towards 2022 polls
MAPUTSOE – The Basotho National Party (BNP) promises support for those venturing into commercial farming should the party become government as part of the party’s vision to meet the country’s nutritional needs and grow the economy. Agricultural products that the BNP promises to invest in include cannabis production, grain production, fruits and vegetables planting, livestock farming, wool and mohair production, fisheries and meat production.
BNP leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, outlined this during the launch of the party’s manifesto that was held in Maputsoe on Sunday. He said to ensure the success of agricultural production in the country, BNP will start by reviewing land related policies and address the diminishing of arable land in the country that has been attributed to, among others, soil erosion and turning arable land to residential and industrial uses.
He said notwithstanding that the contribution of agriculture is very low to the GDP of the country (6 percent), the fact remains that agriculture is an important pillar of livelihoods for the Basotho people, hence it is referred to as the back-bone of the country.
Mofomobe said BNP will, therefore, aggressively implement the existing laws and policies that restrict allocation of arable land for residential and industrial purposes and enact some laws if needed. On cannabis production, Mofomobe said BNP will mainstream cannabis plantation and encourage wider local participation and advocate for revision of the current legal framework in order to enable cultivation of cannabis for other uses, other than medicinal or research purposes as prescribed by the international law.
He said strains like hemp are used for production of textile materials like clothes and socks, stating further that at the moment licensed companies under the Drugs of Abuse Act and its Regulations, are predominantly owned by foreign companies and only a few of them are partnering with the locals with minimum shareholding.
To address this, the BNP will ensure the current licensing activities that do not necessarily require a certain level of expertise such as packaging, transporting, and distribution of the product will be opened to indigenous Basotho.
“The Basotho National Party shall advocate for the legalisation of the cultivation of indigenous cash crops such as cannabis for export to countries where recreational cannabis has been legalised.
“We will advocate for the introduction of an export levy in instances where value in processing has not been attained. This is meant to develop the local cannabis industry and ensure that most value is derived while the product remains in Lesotho,” he said.
He added that BNP will put in place agro-business programmes that will enhance the state of agriculture from subsistence to commercial production and encourage farmers to invest more into cash crops for both local consumption and export purposes.
He said they also aim to create national food security, articulating that the BNP government will build a national granary for storage of grain produced by Basotho farmers while supporting farmers with fertilizers, seeds, insecticides and herbicides.
He said they will achieve this by reviving co-operative stores to improve the supply of the fertilizers, seeds, insecticides and herbicides as it was the case during the Basotho National Party’s regime. Also the BNP promises to upgrade all the cooperative societies in the country and employ and empower staff through trainings undertaken both locally and internationally.
Mofomobe said they will also facilitate the process of establishing the central co-operative fund for cooperatives in Lesotho as stipulated in the Cooperative Societies Act of 2000, articulating that the fund will assist the cooperatives, or individual members where extra cash is needed.
“The BNP will ensure the establishment of co-operatives market centres in all districts in order to create market for members/farmers to sell their products successfully and to source an international market for them. “Cash crops contribute to food security at a national level through the exports of cash crops that generate foreign currency and income to import food, or invest in domestic production. “In many African countries fruits and vegetables are among the many items for export, therefore Lesotho can follow suit.
“Since the country has undertaken to allocate 10 percent of the national budget to agriculture, BNP will ensure investment in the production of cash crops for local and export consumption,” he stated. Mofomobe promised that BNP will revive and expand Basotho Canners with the production and packaging of fruits and vegetables. He said they will also ensure that the country takes advantage of international markets and produce other items that are acceptable as a way of creating employment and generating foreign currency.
If it becomes government, he also said, BNP would ensure that more of all types of fruits, including grapes, apples, pears and peaches that can stand the country’s climate are planted all over the country. At the secondary level, this will enable Lesotho to produce wines, fruit juices and jams thus creating jobs and improving our economy.
Mofomobe said they will also ensure that there is high production of vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, asparagus, potatoes and others and to achieve this it will put in place measures that will make it easy for producers to have greenhouses to enable them to produce all year round and ensure establishment of markets where farmers will sell their products both locally and internationally.
He said they will aim for breeding high quality merino sheep and angora goats with the intention of producing more quality wool and mohair. Also on the promise list is rehabilitation of rangelands that no longer accommodate existing livestock and support local farmers to grow animal feeds as a means of enhancing livestock farming. Mofomobe also announced that the BNP will, in collaboration with wool and mohair farmers, undertake a study to find ways and means of protecting their stock during winter and emergency situations.
On the cards are also plans to invest in farmers to ensure that they produce chickens, eggs, milk and pork in large quantities. He said BNP has identified fisheries opportunities as one of the new economic areas that can help in terms of job creation and food security, therefore it will introduce the fishing industry to Basotho enterprise for export of salmon, yellow fish and trout.
“The Basotho National Party has noticed, with concern, the deteriorating levels of agricultural extension services and research activities which are supposed to address the challenges posed by climate change. “The BNP government will improve the Agricultural College to produce more experts and to undertake research-based agricultural activities. It will also establish schools of agriculture in the 10 districts of the country.
“BNP shall work towards resuscitation of irrigation schemes for vegetables and animal feed production. BNP government will continue to protect local food production by curbing imports of some agricultural products and will develop fresh produce markets where retailers and consumers can buy fresh produce in bulk or otherwise from farmers,” he said.
He said Lesotho is in dire need of meat and relies solely on South Africa for Grade A meat so the BNP government will ensure the purchase of breeding cows for the establishment of the breeding centre in the country, and farmers will be trained on breeding production and management of such breed and will resuscitate the National Feedlot and District Feedlots to ensure that the said mandate of the production of Grade A meat is realized.
He said in order to consolidate the country’s conventional commercial meat offering, they will introduce the rearing of goats for meat production articulating that this will necessitate introduction of two popular goat meat breeds, namely, Boer Goats and Kalahari Goats.
He said BNP will revive the Agricultural Development Bank to give local producers access to credit facilities and support systems for facilitation of private investment in agriculture, agro-business and agro-industries, thus, disbursing investment finance for priority agriculture-related investment projects.