The Embassy of the United States in Maseru this week announced a substantial $31.4 million (over M588 million) award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for Lesotho’s Food for Progress (FFP) Program.
According to the U.S. Embassy statement, this initiative, managed by Land O’Lakes Venture37, signifies a pivotal milestone in fortifying Lesotho’s poultry sector, while championing climate-smart agricultural practices, bolstering food security, and propelling economic growth in the region.
This funding comes in the wake of the recent government ban on the importation of poultry and poultry products from neighbouring South Africa, prompted by outbreaks of highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) strains, H5N1 and H7N6, in various South African provinces from September to October 2023.
Dr. Keneuoe Lehloenya, Director of Livestock Services in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, confirmed the suspension of imports, stressing that the Lesotho Veterinary authority would coordinate with their South African counterparts to ensure safety before any resumption.
Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition, Thabo Mofosi, issued a stern warning against poultry smuggling, highlighting the grave threat it poses to public health and its violation of regulations.
The ban’s impact reverberated through the closure of all Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants in the country.
KFC last week stated that it sourced its poultry products from certified Avian Influenza (AI)-free farms in South Africa and expressed intent to engage stakeholders for a swift resolution.
In its statement this week, the U.S. Embassy said that for decades the FFP program had been helping support efforts to improve agricultural systems and stimulate rural economies around the globe.
“Land O’Lakes Venture37 has been selected to implement the program in Lesotho, which will promote climate smart agricultural practices, improve food security, and foster economic growth,” read the statement.
By providing crucial resources and technical assistance, the Embassy stated that the program will facilitate the establishment of sustainable market linkages, and enhance trade opportunities for Lesotho.
It further indicated that this will be the first time Lesotho is a recipient of FFP funding.
“The United States is deeply committed to ending hunger and malnutrition and building more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems at home and abroad,” the Embassy said.
“The United States is the largest provider of international agriculture, economic development, and humanitarian assistance, and advances global food security and nutrition through efforts like USDA’s FFP and McGovern-Dole Programs,” it added.
It also mentioned that the USDA works continuously to monitor and ensure the success of the programs, all while balancing funding allocations with current global nutrition needs.
It said as the world emerges from a global pandemic and faces the challenges of rising hunger and poverty, climate change, and the raging war on Ukraine, more than 190 million people worldwide experience acute food insecurity.
The issue of food security has grown even more urgent, according to the Embassy and the effects of food insecurity are widespread and devastating.
It said when there is food insecurity, farmers lose their livelihoods.
“Parents spend hours every day trying to secure their family’s next meal. Hungry children struggle to learn, and they suffer irreversible health consequences. Already vulnerable populations are always hit hardest, and food insecurity also holds back broader economic growth and increases the risk of violent conflict and civil unrest,” it concluded.