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Local food purchase by UN agency provides boost to Lesotho’s farmers

Local food purchase by UN agency provides boost to Lesotho’s farmers

Small farmers in Lesotho receive WFP's help
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported today that its purchase of maize directly from small farmers in Lesotho, who used conservation to produce a surplus amid the country’s worst drought in 30 years, is having a beneficial effect on local communities.

By buying the maize directly from a group of small-scale local farmers rather than in neighbouring South Africa, WFP saves $45 per ton and helps stimulate the local agricultural economy.

“This is a win-win situation,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said. “It helps provide income for small-scale farmers while saving money for WFP.”

In the first ever direct purchase in Lesotho, WFP paid 20 farmers from the isolated and impoverished district of Qacha’s Nek around $2,800 for eight metric tons of their maize – a considerable sum in a country where more than a third of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

“WFP is committed to buying locally whenever possible because – as this historic deal proves – even a small purchase can have a huge impact on the lives of small-scale farmers,” Ms. Sheeran said.

The maize will help feed thousands of children attending primary school in Qacha’s Nek.

On 9 July, Lesotho’s Government declared a state of emergency following an unprecedented period of hot, dry weather between January and March, which devastated the maize crop across the country.

Despite the drought, the 20 farmers in Qacha’s Nek were able to produce a surplus of maize by following conservation farming methods picked up through a WFP-assisted food-for-training programme.

Some 400,000 people in Lesotho need immediate humanitarian aid – a figure that could rise to 550,000 during the first three months of 2008.

WFP plans to distribute food to about 260,000 people in Lesotho from now until the next maize harvest next April. The Government and other humanitarian organizations are aiming to reach the others in need.

So far this year, WFP has bought 7,000 tons of food in Lesotho at a cost of $2.3 million.