Commercial agriculture under spotlight
The National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2012/13 to 2016/17, puts emphasis on poverty-reduction through high, shared job-creating and sustainable economic growth.
Conversely, a target of at least 10,000 newly created sustainable jobs per year, totaling 50,000 jobs by the end of the five-year period has been set. The NSDP also calls for tapping into various sectors to facilitate diversification of the economic base and active participation of the private sector in creating the employment.
The government of Lesotho, through the Ministry of Development Planning, is facilitating a process towards an event to be used as a platform to articulate and adopt a strategy for the creation of jobs and shared economic growth. The strategy would present potential areas of investment an investment package and also advocate for active participation of the private sector in its implementation. The NSDP would also define the role of government to create a conducive environment for effective participation of the private sector in economic growth through job-creation.
The key sectors for the creation of jobs have been identified as tourism, commercial agriculture and natural resources management, mining and manufacturing. These will be the core of the investment package that will be put together for presentation to all stakeholders. Work has started to develop jobs strategies according to each of the key productive sectors. Technical working groups have been formed according to the different sectors to coordinate the development of the jobs strategies.
The commercial agriculture and natural resources management technical working group organised a three-day stakeholder inputs workshop this week. The main overarching objective of the workshop, which ended yesterday in Maseru, was to gather inputs that would inform the development of commercial agriculture and natural resources management jobs strategies. The workshop was meant to identify the role that commercial agriculture plays in people’s livelihoods and identify the gap between the current situation in the sector and the anticipated situation.
According to Ministry of Development Planning Principal Secretary, Lerotholi Pheko ( pictured), the government of Lesotho decided to take the initiative and implement the job-creation aspirations laid out in the NSDP through a strategy with a clearly defined implementation plan and monitoring and evaluation framework. The strategy would outline precisely how the said jobs are to be created and how to address risks/ issues faced when working towards commercialiding agriculture.
“This is an attempt for Government to develop strategies which would guide us through the risks in- volved in establishing an agricultural business. We would want to engage banks and insurance companies as some of the most important stakeholders who can assist with risk-management. Natural disasters pose a risk which a lot of these financial institutions do not wish to carry. We are also going to involve the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) to guide us through taxation laws and the movement of agricultural exports.
“We would want the projects to be Private Sector-led where government comes in to assist the research programmes and marketing after taking into consideration aspects such as the value chain analysis which assesses the product from inception until it reaches the consumer.
“We will be taking into consideration the issue of standards, to ensure that not only the food produced is fit for consumption but that it is also internationally accredited for global markets as well as considering the challenges farmers encounter in their attempts to produce on a large scale,” he said.
When addressing the manufacturing sector, Mr Pheko reiterated similar concerns raised by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Joshua Setipa, when expressing the need for Basotho-owned manufacturing industries.
Mr Pheko said: “There is an opportunity to localise the manufacturing industry and promote diversification of products and the markets and not only focus on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) agenda.”
Meanwhile, in his recent remarks when speaking about AGOA’S imminent renewal for a 10-year period, Mr Setipa encouraged Basotho to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the American trade concession, and promised government would provide some incentives to entrepreneurs willing to take business abroad.
Mr Pheko revealed government had started by initialising the programme internally in order to empower its human resource base to assist with coordination of ministerial activities.
“Government further realised that there was need for people with Project Management skills, hence the decision to reintroduce something called a ‘project appraisal’s committee’ which is now called the ‘Public Sector Committee’ whose objective is to evaluate whether there is a potential for jobs within any projects which are proposed by ministries.
“The Public Sector Committee also seeks to integrate planning among all these other ministries with the purpose to consolidate their efforts. We wanted to avoid situations where two or three Ministries in their respective solo ventures apply for certain developments which, if those efforts were consolidated, would bring about a better outcome.
“For instance, if the Ministry of Agriculture decided to create a farming project in an area where there was lack of roads which would be a barrier for farmers to transport their products to the markets, and they cannot store them in safe places because of lack of electricity and electrical appliances to support the storage, and they are unable to irrigate because there is no electricity so that they have to resort to using diesel-driven facilities which is quite expensive.
“So these aspects are some of the things government is looking into towards that objective of reaching the 10 000 jobs per year which at the moment, it has failed to uphold. We owe ourselves to make up for the two years since 2013 in which we were supposed to create the jobs. however, we have a department of Monitoring and evaluation which is currently assessing the number of jobs that have been created since the NSDP was implemented,” he said.
According to a Natural Sciences expert, Dr ’Mota Lesoli who facilitated the workshop, Lesotho was already facing a food crisis and was also one of the countries in the world ranking low on development. however, Dr Lesoli advised that the little shred of agriculture the country has been getting on with, could be developed for commercial purposes.
According to statistics presented by Dr ’Mota, the human Development Index (HDI) for Lesotho is 0.514 and gives the country a ranking of 156th out of 182 countries. The Gross National Income per capita (2008) of the USD 1970 (ppp dollars) about 50% of the population still lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day and the Global Hunger Index (GHI) still classifies Lesotho as “serious” with a score of 12.
“We are on the last quarter measurements of all countries. While keeping our minds on agriculture, we are still lagging behind in development. We have come this far with agriculture without any strategies, but now it is time that its contribution is significant to answer the questions that have been left unanswered over the years,” he said.