Com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture un­der spot­light

Lesotho Times - - News - Retha­bile Pitso

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.

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