Farm­ers equipped with new tech­niques

Lesotho Times - - Business - Bereng Mpaki

THE Depart­ment of Stan­dards and Qual­ity As­sur­ance (DSQA) in the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try is dis­tribut­ing 400 veg­etable crates to fresh pro­duce farm­ers to aid the safe trans­porta­tion of their har­vest to the mar­ket.

The small­holder farm­ers re­ceiv­ing the crates are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­tiv­ity and Trade De­vel­op­ment Project of the En­hanced In­te­grated Frame­work (EIF) which is im­ple­mented through the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try and Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity.

Also known as EIF Tier 2, the project’s over­all ob­jec­tive is to fos­ter Le­sotho’s sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth, em­ploy­ment, food se­cu­rity, nu­tri­tion and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion.

This is done through build­ing and strength­en­ing the ca­pac­ity of small-scale farm­ers to com­mer­cialise, di­ver­sify and in­crease their pro­duc­tion of fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles for do­mes­tic and ex­port mar­kets.

Through the project which be­gan in 2014, many small­holder farm­ers from Mafeteng, Leribe, Berea, and Maseru have been equipped with green­house equip­ment and tech­ni­cal skills to pro­duce high-value veg­eta­bles such cab­bage, toma­toes, green, yel­low and red pep­pers among oth­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to DSQA of­fi­cial Mos­ito Kanono, the crates were meant to en­sure the qual­ity of fruits and veg­eta­bles did not de­te­ri­o­rate dur­ing their trans­porta­tion to the mar­ket.

“The crates will help to main­tain the qual­ity of prod­ucts dur­ing trans­porta­tion from the farmer to the mar­ket,” Mr Kanono told the Le­sotho Times this week.

He said prior to re­ceiv­ing the crates, the farm­ers had to im­pro­vise with makeshift con­tain­ers which were not al­ways suit­able for car­ry­ing per­ish­able prod­ucts like fruits and veg­eta­bles.

“Some­times they would use dis­carded pack­ag­ing for sim­i­lar im­ported prod­ucts, which meant they were un­wit­tingly mar­ket­ing those com­pet­ing prod­ucts,” said Mr Kanono.

“With the crates we are dis­tribut­ing, they will be able to mar­ket their own brands be­cause they have a pro­vi­sion to place stick­ers on them, along with those of the EIF and the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho.”

On the cri­te­ria used to is­sue the crates, Mr Kanono said the quan­tity of crates given to farm­ers de­pended on each farmer’s pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity, with pro­duc­ers with more ca­pac­ity get­ting more crates.

He said DSQA’S role in the project also in­cluded train­ing the farm­ers on stan­dards and qual­ity, bar cod­ing and trace­abil­ity as­pects to ad­dress the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with meet­ing for­mal mar­ket re­quire­ments.

Mr Kanono added the train­ing they had im­parted on the farm­ers was yield­ing fruits, as some were al­ready in­cor­po­rat­ing the newly-ac­quired skills into their pro­duc­tion pro­cesses.

THE crates are meant to aid the fresh pro­duce farm­ers to safely trans­port their har­vest to the mar­ket.

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