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Commercializing farming  through Climate Smart Agriculture

By Liapeng Raliengoane

BEREA – The negative impacts of climate change are already being felt through the increasing temperatures, weather variability, invasive crops and pests, and more frequent extreme weather events. On farms, climate change is reducing crop yields and lowering livestock productivity.

World Bank explains Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA) as an integrated approach to managing landscapes, cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries. It addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change and aims to simultaneously achieve three outcomes: increased productivity, enhanced resilience and reduced emissions.

In an effort to upscale farmers produces to not only be for personal consumption but for commercialization, the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project II (SADP II) trained Extension Officers from all districts of Lesotho on Climate Smart Agriculture last week at Sehlabeng sa Thuathe Berea.

SADP II is a project aimed at supporting the increased adoption of climate smart agricultural technologies in Lesotho’s agriculture, enhanced commercialization and improved dietary diversity among targeted beneficiaries and it targets all farmers engaged in market-oriented agriculture.

SADP II Climate Smart Agriculture Component Lead Tsotelo Lebete indicated that following the SADP I implementation, a document on climate smart agriculture was launched, it was too thick with content and they decided to prioritize Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) initiatives.

Lebete said the prioritized 5 Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives are:  Improved crop varieties and livestock management, Protected Agriculture shade nets and Plastic tunnels, Water harvesting and micro systems irrigation, Conservation agriculture and last but not least, Agroforestry.

He highlighted that the aim was for the extension Officers to go back to their working areas in the districts to impart the knowledge they had gained.

One of the Extension Officers from Marakabei Resource Center Khotlele Lesupi expressed that the training afforded them an opportunity to upscale productivity in their areas.

“We learned to increase productivity in both agriculture and livestock while also being resilient to the impacts of climate change. Above all, we gained knowledge on producing for commercialization of farming products and not only to produce for personal consumption,” He added.

On the challenges that the farmers come across, another Extension Officer form Marakabei Resource Centre Thabo Mokolokolo held that the farmers complain about frequent heavy rains that do not allow them time to remove weed in their fields. They also complain that sometimes it snows during seasons that snow was never anticipated back then thus hindering their progress.

“Farmers also complain that these frequent rains cause their livestock to experience some diseases thus causing production loss in livestock, frequently causing significant economic loss and impacting on animal welfare. An example would be in 2012 when farmers battled livestock parasites. Also, they complain that the rangelands are also no more producing enough for their livestock. The lessons we got from the training will help us to overcome these challenges brought about by climate change,” Mokolokolo.

The Government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security is implementing the SADP II with financial support from the World Bank, Government of Japan and the international Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This is in effort to protect smallholder farmers from falling into poverty in the event of climatic shocks and giving them the tools to thrive. SADP II aims at strengthening the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers to adjust and modify their production systems to minimize the potential future impacts from climate variability.

SADP II supports transformative interventions for agricultural productivity and resilience at farm and landscape levels; provides solutions at institutional level to ensure the sustainability of agricultural outcomes; encourages commercialization that would contribute to improved livelihoods and promotes better nutritional outcomes towards improved human capital development.

This component provides much-needed financial support to farmers and agro-processors benefiting from the technology training and irrigation support provided under Component 1. 

Moreover, the component supports horizontal and vertical alliances that would result in the integration of a greater number of smallholder producers in these potentially remunerative Value Chains, incentivize contract farming, build trusted commercial partnerships between farmers and private agri-businesses and drive enterprise operations towards more lucrative domestic and export markets.

SADP grants are announced when available and investment Areas are: Protected Agriculture – Shade nets, Low tunnels and Greenhouses. Improved Commercial Breeds – Poultry, Ram breeding, Goats breeding and Rabbits breeding stock. Water Conservation – Irrigation systems and Water collection tanks. Processing and Value adding initiates – Milling, Butcheries, Simba Production, Tannery, Fruit drying, dairy processed products, Woolshed Equipment , Juice and Jam Production and Beekeeping initiatives.

Eligible Applicants must be: Lesotho Nationals, Registered Individual Farmers, Registered Farmer Groups (Cooperatives and Association), and Registered Agri-Businesses. They range from: Small Grants $US 2,000 to $US 10,000 Medium Grants $US 10,000 to $US 30,000, Large Grants $US 30,000 to $US 100,000.

According to the Global Climate-Smart Agriculture Market Research Report 2023 published on February 2023: the global Climate-Smart Agriculture market was valued at US$ million in 2022 and is anticipated to reach US$ million by 2029 during the forecast period 2023-2029. The influence of COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine War were considered while estimating market sizes.

The Government of Lesotho’s National Strategic Development Plan II 2018/19 to 2022/23 states that environment and climate change are integral components of NSDP II, as the population relies heavily on climate vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, water resources, and biodiversity to maintain livelihoods. Actions to manage the environment and climate change must be appropriately implemented for sustainable development and inclusive growth in Lesotho.

Environmental degradation has badly eroded the bearing capacity of land and demands special attention in policy making. Integrating climate change and environmental challenges as cross-cutting issues in development plans will help protect advances made to date and future advances in reducing poverty. An integrated approach will make development more resilient by reducing climate impacts and identifying development opportunities that may otherwise be overlooked.

Lesotho has developed policies and frameworks to address climate change and environmental degradation, and interventions include tree planting, land reclamation, protection of wetlands and other biodiversity, and conservation programmes (i.e., likhakeletsi); however, evidence indicates more efforts are essential to reverse environmental degradation and desertification.

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