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Bean Shortage Crisis Persists

Business

…As APPSA Research Initiatives Strive to Improve Production Amidst Challenges

Kabelo Masoabi

Lesotho farmers are grappling with the aftermath of adverse weather conditions, leading to a significant decline in bean production. 

The recent excessive rainfall and subsequent drought have dealt a heavy blow to bean farmers, sparking fears of a looming price hike and exacerbating concerns over food security in the country.

Mankoko Letsoela, a farmer from Hleoheng Village in Leribe, recounts the challenges she faced during this year’s harvest season. 

“The heavy rainfall followed by drought really took a toll on my bean crops. We are worried about the impact this will have on our livelihoods and the prices of beans in the market.” she laments, adding that her harvest was only half of what it typically is.

Makoae Kibiti, another farmer from Leribe Kolonyama, shares similar sentiments. 

“I’ve been farming beans for years, but I’ve never seen such a poor harvest. I managed to harvest just one-third of my usual yield. It is going to be tough to make ends meet,” he says, shaking his head in dismay. 

The concerns of farmers like Letsoela and Kibiti are not unfounded as Lereko Masupha, the Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, acknowledges the challenges posed by climate change on agricultural production. 

“Climate change is a real threat to our farmers and our food production ability as a nation. The erratic weather patterns we’ve been experiencing have made it increasingly difficult to predict crop yields and ensure food security,” Masupha states.

The impact of the low bean yield extends beyond the farms to consumers and businesses alike. 

Tasty Food Packagers, a leading pulse supplier, previously revealed to Seahlolo that they are forced to contend with a significant shortage in local bean supply. 

Matseleng Keele, a representative from Tasty, explained the ripple effect of the shortage citing, “We rely heavily on local farmers for our bean supply, but this year, we’ve received only a fraction of what we need as a result, we’ve had to increase our imports from neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa to meet demand, which could lead to higher prices for consumers.”

Tasty told Seahlolo that last year they received a mere 22 tonnes from local farmers, starkly inadequate against their 1700-tonne annual demand. 

The company started working with local farmers under the 2023 Contract Farming initiative, spearheaded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), aiming to bridge the gap between farmers and markets.

In response to the crisis, the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) in Lesotho has spearheaded efforts to improve bean production through research and innovation. 

Joseph Ramokoatsi, a researcher involved in the project, sheds light on their initiatives noting, “We have been conducting research to identify strategies to increase bean yield and resilience to climate change. Our findings indicate that implementing appropriate agronomic practices and utilising resilient bean varieties can help mitigate the impact of adverse weather conditions on crop production.”

The research conducted by DAR, supported by the Agricultural Productivity Programme for Southern Africa (APPSA), aims to equip farmers with the knowledge and tools needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and improve agricultural productivity. 

By focusing on sustainable farming practices and promoting the adoption of climate-smart technologies, Ramokoatsie notes the hope is to build a more resilient agricultural sector capable of withstanding the challenges posed by climate change.

As farmers and researchers continue to collaborate in the face of adversity, there remains optimism that innovative solutions and concerted efforts will pave the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future for bean farming in Lesotho, however, shelves remain empty of bean supply.

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