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Removing obstacles facing beekeeping, wool and mohair farming 

By Liapeng Raliengoane

MASERU – Honey, propolis, wine made from honey, hand-woven mats, wall art, toys and books on beekeeping and weaving were some of the products on display at the National Exhibition of beekeeping, wool and mohair products where farmers gathered to showcase their products and also hold a dialogue.

Held under the themes “Removing barriers from up-scaling beekeeping, wool and mohair products production in Lesotho” “Let there be honey in Lesotho” and “Boost Lesotho Tapestry industry for local and international markets,” the exhibition and dialogue took place last week in Maseru.

It was implemented by the government of Lesotho and Technologies for Economic Development (TED), supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programme (SGP) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).   

While officially opening the dialogue and exhibition, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s office Hon. Limpho Tau stressed the importance of the event as it afforded farmers an opportunity to discuss successes and challenges in their entities.

He also highlighted the importance of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation, pointing out that Lesotho signed a Sustainable Development Goals agreement in 2015 which among other goals consists of no poverty (SDG2), zero hunger (SDG2) and climate action (SDG13).

In addition, Hon. Tau applauded TED for the work it is doing and for working together with the government ministries to remove barriers in up-scaling beekeeping, wool and mohair production in Lesotho. He also expressed gratitude to GEF for its support and underlined the commitment of the government of Lesotho in supporting the farmers and production.

UNDP, GEF Small Grants Programme National Coordinator Nthabiseng Majara indicated that GEF-SGP in Lesotho is participating in the SGP Innovation Programme on Nature-based Women-led Enterprises with a focus on nature-based or green initiatives.

That this programme supports the expansion of existing nature-based women-led enterprises for exponential impact with the following priorities: business management, technical training, product design and decision making. She said when these small grants are available, UNDP announces them for the attention of the public.  

….a third of the world’s food production depends on bees

For her part, Technologies for Economic Development (TED) Director ‘Mantopi Lebofa highlighted that conserving biodiversity is vital in the fight against climate change.

She reflected on the seven pillars of Vision 2020, the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II), Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We probably want to reflect on Vision 2020. We have unfortunately regressed in many pillars if not all. What do we need to do to implement our policies? Outreach, information, awareness raising, education, participation and engagement of citizens, dialogues and more dialogues at all levels,” she held.  

“We must avoid piecemeal approach, ensure there is alignment of the Word of God, Policies, strategies, syllabus or curriculum and Conventions with the SDGs in order to leave no one behind.”

According to the Bee Experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), a third of the world’s food production depends on bees. 

Lebofa explained the importance of pollinators (bees). “Beyond the elaboration of honey, the most remarkable work of bees is pollination. Bees pollinate a large proportion of the crops that supply the world, it is necessary to value the importance of bees for the environment. Without a doubt, the importance of bees in the ecosystem must be recognized.”

On behalf of the exhibitors, a Weaver from Seithati Weavers, ‘Masetumo Lebitsa said they produce products from wool and mohair. That they make blankets, mats, wall art and many other products which are being sold both within Lesotho and outside the country.

From Leribe Craft Centre, ‘Malisebo Mojao expressed gratitude for this exhibition as it exposed them to a broader market and also helped them to build contact with other producers and customers.

Maputsoe-based ‘Mamolapo Setho said she uses mohair to make art: toys, animals and many other products.

Outcomes of the dialogue

During the dialogue, the challenges facing beekeeping were listed as follows: lack of policies protecting bees, killing of bees due to some beliefs, climate change is also contributing in the loss of bees, some plants manure kill the bees, beekeepers have no association and they also work in silos.

The recommendations tablet were that: a beekeepers association be formed, environmental protection and bee education should be taken to the communities, herd boys and beekeepers themselves and beekeeping should be industrialized.

On the side of challenges facing wool and mohair processing as presented by NUL Textile Scientist Papali Maqalika were as follows: farmers work in silos, lack of coordination as there is textile marketing but stakeholders do not know each other, covid-19 impacted them, there is a need for capacity building on product development, marketing and selling, lack of technological aspect to produce quality and have global presence.

The recommendations were that; there should be quality assurance, database of weavers be available, utilize sport as a tool to promote products, form partnerships to avoid duplication of efforts and there should be a policy protecting and guiding wool and mohair products and intellectual property.

…wool is Lesotho’s leading agriculture commodity export, while it’s mohair exports rank 5th

In a nutshell, the National Climate Change Committee Deputy-Chairperson Mofihli Phaqane urged for policies that mitigate the effects of climate change to be put into place and for climate change to be made a priority just as fortunately the current administration has vowed to prioritize it.  He said according to reports, Lesotho is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Lesotho’s Nationally-Determined Contribution (NDC) outlines that the country is particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts from climate variability and change on water and food security, as well as adverse conditions to health, human settlements, and the energy sector.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, published 15 September 2022 on Climate Change and Chronic Food Insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa warns that food insecurity will get worse unless policies to mitigate the effects of climate change are put in place.

According to Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP), wool and mohair together account for 58.3% of agricultural exports. Lesotho produces 3,320 tons of Merino-type greasy wool and 750 tons of Angora-type greasy mohair annually, respectively 0.2% and 14% of 2011 world production.

As such, Lesotho is not a major wool producing country but it is the second leading mohair producer in the world, after South Africa. Wool is Lesotho’s leading agriculture commodity export, while its mohair exports rank 5th. Production remains largely in the hands of smallholder and subsistence farmer producers.

Technologies for Economic Development (TED) is a Non-Governmental Organization based in Maseru, dedicated to environmental protection and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

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