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Farmers slam quality of seeds



MASERU – FARMERS say they are not happy with the quality of seeds and fertilisers they received from some agro-dealers in the country this year. The Lesotho National Farmers Union (LENAFU) says the quality of seeds affects the national output. “Quality yields start with quality seeds and appropriate fertilizers; however, many agro-dealers whom farmers have entrusted to supply them with quality inputs sell poor quality inputs,” said Khotso Lepheana, the LENAFU Programmes Manager. He was speaking at the launch of the Agro-Dealers Profile last Wednesday. Lepheana said the poor inputs contribute significantly to the failure of local products to penetrate the formal markets. He said there is a serious concern that retailers do not want to accept local produce. “We buy from dealers with the confidence that we buy quality products but have been proven otherwise,” Lepheana said. Access to farming technologies according to Lepheana is yet another challenge that farmers face and as a result are unable to upscale production as they would like. He said without farming technologies and proper supervision, farmers will struggle to meet the nation’s food security aspirations. He said things are no longer the same and it is impossible to rely on natural rains or manpower. Lepheana said farmers need to have access to farming technologies like harvesting machines across the country. Farmers must not be left out because of the terrain of where they farm, he said. For this reason, it is important for agro-dealers to have in-depth knowledge of the inputs they are selling and also to differentiate dealers who are briefcase businesses. He said there are dealers who only exist when there are tenders or chances to make money from real dealers who are committed towards the development of the local agricultural sector. Lebohang Mosaola, an agro dealer, said the biggest challenge is lack of knowledge as seed and fertiliser usage depend on several aspects like soil type, weather and seasons. “We need to have a lengthy dialogue on what we want out of this sector as farmers,” he said. “We need to understand the type of soil we are dealing with and match that to suitable seeds during proper seasons,” Mosaola said. Thabo Sekhonyana, who is Director Field Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, (CONFIRM) said farmers are facing numerous challenges like access to finance, inadequate skills and lack of knowledge. Sekhonyana said the ministry is already trying to address the challenge of access to finance through projects like the Smallholder Agricultural Development Programme (SADP). He said supervision is difficult especially in the absence of short courses for field supervisors due to inadequate resources. He said supervisors are left behind due to lack of resources. “They are unable to stay ahead of trends to assist farmers. Therefore, they end up feeling disadvantaged as farmers and are often able to take study tours and are aware of the latest trends and practices,” Sekhonyana said. To avoid having agro-dealers who are also left behind, who just sell seeds and fertilisers without in-depth knowledge, agro-dealers must also attend courses and get certification. Sekhonyana said there is a need for detailed discussions regarding farming including the usage of chemicals, working towards minimising the importation of seeds and adopting best farming practices. Lemohang Rakotsoane

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