Lineo Mahlomola/Pheello Mosesi
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition through the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP II) will host the first-ever national market day for farmers in a move linking producers and buyers from all corners of the country.
Scheduled for this coming Friday at Pitso Ground in Maseru, the event was inspired by lack of market access and coordinated efforts toward the establishment of business networks for smallholder farmers in the country.
The targeted audience includes farmers engaged in horticultural, agronomy, and livestock farming. The platform further targets all SADP beneficiaries, producer organisations, individuals, input traders, agro-processors, agro-dealers, insurances, banks, and all other organisations in the agriculture sector including donor-funded projects and non-governmental organisations.
“As farmers get to network this will then improve the level of production in the country both on a quantity and quality spectrum. We want to reduce the rate of importing agricultural products which we as Basotho can produce by ourselves,” said Relebohile Khathibe, SADP II’s project field officer and matching grants specialist.
“Our biggest target behind the creation of this event is accomplishment of agricultural commercialisation. We want to create a platform that opens up the market for the farmers to be creative and have easier access to customers so that agriculture could again be one of the strongest bones that are forming part of the economy’s backbone.” added Khathibe.
He further emphasized the importance of inviting other agricultural stakeholders such as financial institutions to the market day.
“We noticed that banks are significant stakeholders who could have a huge impact in the growth of our agricultural produce. We have come to a realization that many farmers could be in desperate need of financial assistance, which could be in a form of loans. We have therefore invited banks to partake in the national market day to explain what is required for the farmers to qualify for agricultural loans,” he said.
‘Mabafokeng Mangope, the Horizontal Alliances manager indicated that the event is intended to raise awareness that there are farmers who can produce enough food in the country.
“We want people to realise that there are farmers who produce enough food, of good quality, and consumers no longer need to go out of the country to buy some of these products,” she said.
She added that they had also invited the agricultural schools to attend the event.
“We had invited all the tertiary schools that are agric related or that agriculture is part of their modules. We also invite everyone who wants to learn about agri-business, they are free to come and learn skills from other farmers to make them aware that there is money and agriculture, there are many job opportunities,” Mangope added.
The SADP is a World Bank – supported project aimed at supporting the increased adoption of climate-smart agricultural technologies in Lesotho’s agriculture, enhanced commercialization, and improved dietary diversity among targeted beneficiaries.
It also encourages farmers to establish producer groups, strengthens vertical alliances by building trusted commercial partnerships between farmers and private agri-businesses, and drives enterprise operations towards more lucrative domestic and export markets.