Lesotho targets a productivity program for climate-smart agriculture with focus on horticulture

Photo by Arnaldo Aldana on Unsplash

Agricultural Productivity Program for Southern Africa (APPSA) is a World Bank funded project focused on improving agricultural technology generation and dissemination within and Agricultural Productivity Program for Southern Africa (APPSA)among participating countries in southern Africa.

The objectives of APPSA are to improve the availability of agricultural technologies within and across SADC countries through the following interventions:

  • Establishing Regional Centers of Leadership on commodities of regional importance, allowing regional specialisation around priority farming systems
  • Supporting regional collaboration in agricultural training and dissemination
  • Facilitating increased sharing of agricultural information, knowledge and technology across boundaries of participating countries

Following the success stories of the APPSA in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, Lesotho has hailed the programme with expectations that it will yield more horticulture products.

Characterised with climate-smart agriculture, APPSA will see Lesotho focusing on horticulture products, including vegetables, fruits and potatoes among several others.

Information shows that the APPSA programme, which was launch in Maseru, Lesotho, two weeks ago, is expected to increase agriculture technologies in horticulture which will improve agriculture production despite the climate change that is striking the region.

Adapting the same concept with the other three countries, Lesotho’s Ministry of Agriculture will implement the APPSA under the Department of Agricultural Research in tandem with other local research stations within the ministry.

In a statement, Dr Lefulesele Lebese, Director of Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture-Lesotho said, “APPSA intends to send up centres of leadership in horticulture which will be informed by research from the University of Lesotho and other neighbouring countries in the region. The programme will also support the upgrading of infrastructure in research of institutions as well as strengthen the institutional capacity of the research stations so that they are capacitated to generate technologies that support sustainable agricultural productivity and improve the country ‘s food and nutrition security,” he said.

Lesotho, like other Southern African countries, has not been spared from the effects of climate change which is negatively affecting agricultural production in the region. The region is now experiencing intensive and shorter rain season leading to increased level of food insecurity and poverty in the region.

Therefore, APPSA comes as a rescue mission to cushion all these challenges that Lesotho is struggling with as the programme also comes with climate-smart agricultural practices.

In Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, APPSA programme is focusing on maize seed cropping systems, rice research and food legume cropping based systems respectively.

According to CCARDESA, the Lesotho APPSA programme is a six-year programme with $20 million fund from the World Bank that will be issued in batches.

CCARDESA is optimistic that Lesotho will make notable strides in this horticulture agriculture and have a positive impact on the rest of the Southern African region.

Agriculture in Lesotho is mainly subsistence-based and is predominantly rain-fed and therefore extremely vulnerable to drought conditions. 80% of the population lives in the rural areas where most agricultural activity occurs.

More than 50% of the population derive their livelihood from crops and livestock production and about 60% of the labour force is employed in the sector. Agriculture accounts for 16% of exports and meets 50% of the country’s basic food needs.

Altogether, arable land represents only about 9% of Lesotho’s total area. The share of the agricultural sectors contribution to the national GDP has been declining in recent years.

The current area of land under irrigation is estimated at 100 ha. The long-term irrigation potential is estimated at 12,500ha.