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Lesotho plans to take horticulture to the next level

Business

…budgets $118 million dollars

Ntsoaki Motaung

With support from the United States (US) through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Lesotho launched the Call for Investors (CFI) program on Monday targeting anchor investors and farmers interested in investing in the Market Driven Irrigated Horticulture (MDIH) project opportunity by the Millennium Challenge Account – Lesotho Il (MCA Lesotho Il).

According to the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Dr. Rets’elisitsoe Matlanyane, this project is being funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) under the Second Compact for Lesotho.

She said the project is aimed at increasing rural incomes by investing in Climate-smart irrigation infrastructure and attracting commercial farmers to collaborate with local, smallholder farmers to produce high-value crops and build strong value chains.

Matlanyene indicated that the private sector was invited to the launch because there is no country that has developed only on the back of the government.

“The private sector should be the key player in the development because that is the best and most sustainable economic model.”

The minister explained that the compact aims to reduce poverty.

“…and it is inclusive in nature and calls upon all Basotho entrepreneurs to think about how they can take part in it, but more importantly there are components that actually call upon the marginalised groups; women and youth. To say youth and women should be included in economic activities,” she said.

The minister encouraged the youth to get involved so as to address the growing problem of youth unemployment.

She said there are recognisable inequalities and poverty is deepening.

“Lesotho’s challenges have been reiterated in many studies and more importantly studies that inform the development of the compact.”

According to Matlanyane, there were many studies that were undertaken to develop the compact and the symptoms that came about seemed to be displayed in everyday lives as the country was crippled with poor service delivery arising from corruption, inefficient use of resources, and lack of institutional capacity for the formulation, implementation, and monitoring of projects.

“This component of irrigation and horticulture is taking up $118 million dollars and we would like to see Basotho taking up opportunities so that a big chunk of this money goes to them in the form of investments and for poverty reduction and job creation for our nation,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Millennium Challenge Account – Lesotho II, Mannana Phalatse, said the project will give an opportunity to the local commercial farmers to partner with the communities where the project is going to be implemented.

“The overall investment by MCC is $300 million dollars and the government of Lesotho will contribute $22 million dollars as counterpart’s contribution,” she revealed.

She indicated that the project is also aimed at providing capacity support for inclusive horticulture services in the country where key ministries will get support to enable participation of women and youth.

“The other area will be the irrigation and water reforms to support relevant ministries in managing irrigation and water resources. Similarly, the land reforms will also be undertaken and relevant ministries will be supported to do reforms on land also to enhance access to land,” she said.

She said through the project, smallholder farmers will be supported with training and capacity building, to register their land, and the establishment of water user associations that will be managing the operations and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure in the four irrigation sides where the MDIH project will be implemented.

“There will be transactional advisory services to support the smallholder farmers and commercial farmers as they enter into partnership,” she said.

The Minister of Agriculture Food Security and Nutrition Thabo Mofosi stressed that the primary objective of the project is to increase rural income through commercial horticulture.

He stated that, to achieve its objectives the project targets structurally disadvantaged populations such as women and children as well as economically disadvantaged rural people.

“The role of the government in the agriculture sector is to act as a catalyst to speed up the private sector investment. It is my responsibility as the minister to ensure that commercial farmers get the support they need,” he said.

He said in trying to create a conducive environment, comprehensive consultations have been held with smallholder farmers from the irrigation schemes and the surrounding communities.

“The necessary policy and legal framework for irrigation is being developed to ensure a mutually beneficial collaboration between land owners and potential investors,” he said. 

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