Lesotho: Improving productive capacities, sustainable consumption and production patterns
“From our greenhouse operations, we have contributed meaningfully towards the livelihoods of others around the village in which we’re working, and we are supplying supermarkets and restaurants in Maseru as well as in markets in neighbouring South Africa.” – 'Matiti Kabi Sekamaneng, an owner and primary supervisor of tomato and mushroom cultivation and one of the beneficiaries of the EIF high-value fresh fruits and vegetables project.
As a country entirely surrounded by its South African neighbour, Lesotho has a pressing need for trade to give it the opportunity it deserves to compete in the domestic, regional and international economy and pave its way out of poverty.
With this drive, coupled with a strong commitment to the trade agenda, Lesotho has benefitted from EIF support to strengthen its integration into the world trading environment. Furthermore, EIF support has complemented the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy as well as supported the operationalization of the National Strategic Development Plan, the Diagnostic Trade Integration Study Update (DTISU) and the Medium-term Programme. For Lesotho, these have been ongoing priorities to help accelerate the country's efforts in raising productive capacity, product and market diversification and product competitiveness, both locally and abroad.
With a robust analysis provided in the DTISU, recommendations have also been made for further reform aimed at strengthening the enabling environment for trade and investment promotion and related capacity building for both Government institutions and the private sector for export expansion. Moreover, Lesotho has managed to respond to significant challenges in building up national capacity to trade productively and sustainably. Through an EIF project, implemented by ITC, Lesotho is working to develop national capacity in production and marketing of high-value fresh fruits and vegetables. Lesotho has made headway to enable smallholder farmers to supply products that meet buyers' requirements, such as in standards and quality for hotels, supermarkets and other retail outlets within and outside of Lesotho.
The EIF‑supported fresh produce project contributes to the enhancement of Lesotho's sustainable economic growth, employment, food security, nutrition and poverty alleviation through building and strengthening the capacity of smallholder producers to commercialize, diversify and promote production of fresh fruits and vegetables for domestic and export markets. The project is meant to directly benefit 1,050 farmers, of which 30% are women and 10% are youth.
To ensure the sustainable utilization of land and resources, 85 greenhouse kits have been distributed with 58 installed in four districts (Berea, Leribe, Mafeteng and Maseru) to local producers. The project has stimulated the rolling-out of additional greenhouses through the investment of other projects and private capital. Linkages to companies have been made to avoid any product wastes, e.g., the tomatoes are sold to Basotho Canneries to be processed into tomato puree for export, or sold to hotels and restaurants as well as retail chain stores (Shop rite, Pick n Pay, etc.).
In the Berea, Leribe, and Mafeteng areas, cucumber, sweet peppers and tomatoes were planted and were harvested much earlier than the harvest time period in the neighbouring countries, which therefore gives Lesotho an early fresh vegetable produce market opportunity and an advantage in the region. The selling prices of this produce in the local market ranges from US$0.35-0.90 per cucumber, US$1.50-2.00 per a kilo of tomatoes, US$2.00-2.50 per kilo of green peppers and US$5.60-6.40 for yellow and red peppers. Cabbage, lettuce and spinach were planted and harvested early as well in Maseru in very good quality. These were bought in large quantities by local hotels, restaurants and food franchises for their salad dishes. Local selling prices ranged from US$0.55-1.50 per head of cabbage, US$1.20-2.00 per head of lettuce and US$0.80-1.20 per bunch of spinach.
Moreover, with the improved production capacities, statistics have showed that each greenhouse populated with 274 tomato plants, 200 sweet pepper plants and 110 cucumber plants had the potential of giving a return of between US$3,500-4,500 (about 35,000-45,000 maloti) per one growing season if well managed and if agro support and training on Good Agricultural Practice were followed. This has provided an opportunity to farmers to make a good living as well as expanding their project at least beyond four planting seasons.
Lesotho has a good basis on which to build for the future. Here, helping to put poor rural communities at the centre of trade and development efforts, has shown how change can have an impact on carving out strong prospects, especially for the most vulnerable. With the right backing, smallholder farmers have been brought on board and community-based organizations built up (many of them for women), helping them start to access new markets with agricultural products.
Sector-wide strategies for agro-products have also been improved, producers have been connected to markets and the agro-product range has been expanded, while improving quality and volumes and developing skills and support for mushroom producers, cooperatives and retailing outlets. Future plans include improved branding and packaging to obtain better prices and move up the value chain to dried and powder products, transportation, cold storage facilities and agro-processing as well as compliance with food standards and certification.
With a nationally led approach putting trade at the heart of poverty reduction efforts, Lesotho's trade development future seems bright with continued support from development partners.