FAO Lesotho and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) started the Emergency and Resilience Programme (ERP) in 2012, reaching by 2013 up to 18 500 vulnerable farming households from all ten districts of the country. The ERP supports vulnerable farming households to improve and diversify their production, adapting to climate change through capacity development on conservation agriculture (CA), improved home gardening techniques, as well as nutrition awareness.
All ERP beneficiaries receive a package comprising of a 5 kg-bag of maize seed, 5 kg-bag of bean seed, two 50 kg-bags of basal and top-dressing fertilizer, and a 600 g-kit of six different varieties of vegetables seeds. With these inputs, the beneficiaries receive training on CA, home gardening and nutrition through the MAFS extension network.
The ERP places capacity development at the core of its activities. Therefore, special emphasis is being put on increasing extension officers’ knowledge and capacity to train farmers with newly designed visual training materials. Besides, beneficiaries form groups of 15 families with support from a lead farmer. It is expected that making information available and demonstrating the success of these new technologies through the beneficiaries, the ERP will also contribute to encourage non-beneficiary farmers to test and adopt CA and improved home gardening techniques. This ERP spillover effect has been reported among farmers in several areas of Lesotho.
In the village of Qoaling, Leribe district, Ntate Tsemane Tsemane, ‘Me Matsokolo Pitso and Ntate Malaoa Malaoa explain why they dropped conventional farming to start CA instead.
The three of them are senior: Ntate Tsemane started farming in 1997 when he retired from working in the mines; ‘Me Pitso has been farming for her entire life; and Ntate Malaoa recently finished his construction contract in South Africa and started farming four years ago when he moved back to his home.
They all grew up in farming families and, therefore, learned conventional farming practices from parents and relatives.
However, Ntate Tsemane and Ntate Malaoa explain why they were not interested in farming activities: “When we were young, agriculture was not seen as prestigious by youth and, especially for young men, one would rather go to surrounding towns or to South Africa to seek a better job than working the land.”
They are still convinced that even today, youth do not see agriculture as a lucrative business but more as an activity for old people. As senior, they see a lot of business potential even though in reality they hardly produce enough to feed their family year round. They all insist that “the major problem is the investment that needs to be done to buy seeds and fertilizer and hire a tractor in order to start a business.”
‘Me Pitso and Ntate Malaoa started practicing CA in 2012, and Ntate Tsemane started in 2013. They all heard about CA and saw the better yields and the better look of CA crops. This encouraged them to seek for more information.
‘Me Pitso heard of the method from a relative who is part of the FAO Emergency and Resilience Programme; Ntate Tsemane and Malaoa saw neighbours practicing it. These neighbours are also beneficiaries of the FAO Emergency and Resilience Programme.
CA can be practiced both manually and mechanically with animal or tractor drawn planters. For manual CA, a hand hoe is all you need. The main motivation of these three farmers to practice manual CA is the possibility to afford farming without investing their limited resources in cattle or tractors.
Ntate Malaoa explains: “By doing manual CA last year, I harvested almost double than what I used to get in conventional farming using a tractor”.
For them, CA gives a chance to produce food with less investment than what is needed in conventional farming. CA also provides the opportunity to save money with a more efficient use of seeds and fertilizers, apart from improving the soil quality and reducing erosion. “I have just started CA and I can already see that the soil looks more stable”, confirms Ntate Tsemane. The motivation they show in practicing CA is encouraging as they will also become CA advocates among their relatives and neighbours.
“We have just started the method, but we can already share our experience with other farmers and show them our crops and fields. The results are good and convincing!” They say altogether. They wish youth could see the potential given by agriculture as they cannot themselves start a farming business due to their advanced age.
Apart from manual CA, FAO Lesotho is also supporting the adoption of mechanical CA for those farmers who can afford the use of animals or tractors. For this purpose, four tractor-drawn and 15 ox-drawn CA planters were donated to MAFS. Thirty extension officers were trained on the use of this equipment.
FAO Lesotho will continue to support the adoption of CA both manual and mechanical in 2014. The FAO ERP Programme has been supported financially by the European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Department for International Development and the United States Agency for International Development.
Source : Fao