MASERU – Without improved food systems from production to consumption, nations around the globe, including Lesotho, will be unable to attain the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), King Letsie III said while officiating during this week’s National Food Systems Dialogue.
The National Food Systems Dialogue, which was held virtually and hosted by the Food and Nutrition Coordinating Office (FNCO) through the prime minister’s office, sought to come up with a national position that will bring change towards production of a variety of food as well as sustainable food systems to be presented at the Food System Summit in September.
The summit comes after a 2019 call by the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Gutierrez, and is underpinned by an inclusive engagement process to unleash the power of food delivery progress on the UN SDGs. The King presided over the meeting in his capacity as the African Union Nutrition Champion and United Nations (UN) Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Special Ambassador.
He said during the 10 years to Agenda 2030, all should be aware of the need to ensure creation of sustainable food systems. He said opinions of the society already gathered in different districts should be incorporated so that in September, the country is able to present a clear, robust and food resilience strategy for economic recovery, especially in the era of Covid-19 that has brought devastation in all areas.
“It is our hope and expectation that economic devastation due to Covid-19 has encouraged the nation to work together to address global challenges and to also build robust food systems that will answer the country’s food needs,” he said. King Letsie III noted that the pandemic has taught Lesotho a lesson on the importance of producing its own food and not depend on imported commodities.
He encouraged Basotho farmers who have fields to work together and produce food on a large scale and not to depend solely on handouts. Addressing the same meeting, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kemiso Mosenene, observed that the closure of borders as a prevention measure to the spread of Covid-19 has affected the country’s food delivery as Lesotho imports most of its food from South Africa.
He said in addressing food insecurity borne by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to communities, the government bought food from local farmers to support those who were severely affected by the pandemic. He said it was during this closure that the need for Lesotho to secure its own food sources was exposed, highlighting that this inadequacy left a lot of people prone to diseases, including Covid-19.
Mosenene gave assurance that government remains committed to establishing local solutions in relation to food systems. “As a nation, we plan to go into large scale production of vegetables, fruits, livestock and their products. We also plan to enter into food preservation business, production of seeds, manure, and pesticides,” he said.
He encouraged Basotho to produce food at household and national levels despite extreme weather conditions the country experiences. Presenting findings from the country’s district dialogues Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Mosia Johane, outlined that climate change, rapid urbanisation and Covid-19 have caused disruptions in value chains.
He said communities in the rural areas are the most affected and are experiencing a decline in food production. “Production of food has declined drastically from 1961 to 2017 which compels us to introspect and ask ourselves relevant questions regarding food systems. We need to identify where we went wrong because the decline proves that there has been lack of consistency in areas where we were doing well,” he said.
Johane further addressed the effect of soil erosion and extreme land degradation at grassroots level and also touched on policies that communities allege are only good on paper but do not address their needs.
He said farmers at grassroots level have already complained that policies are made only for technocrats and are neither communicated nor translated to people at grassroots which, as a result, causes confusion among communities.
Presenting on sustainable agricultural practices Professor Phllip Makama emphasised the need to change farming from small scale farming to large scale farming. He said farms should be organised either by the government or farmers to ensure that production of food is at a scale large enough to grow the country’s economy. In this way, he said, production of food will be sustainable and will generate more profit for farmers and the country.
Makama also recommended farming practices that withstand all weather conditions, introduction of artificial insemination to all livestock, cross breeding of animals for production of quality wool and mohair and other livestock products – including mass cropping and pasture development.
Acting UN Resident Coordinator, Betty Wabunoha, who was among the attendees, noted that when food systems fail, education, environment and peace become threatened and fragile. She said with the dialogue, there is hope that Lesotho will have clear policies in an endeavour to secure food.