UN agency uses European funding to boost food production in Lesotho

19 May 2010

The United Nations food and agriculture agency said today it is helping 36,000 farmers in Lesotho boost food production in the southern Africa country where the soaring prices of seeds, fertilizer and tools have greatly reduced producers’ capacity to grow food.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has received €4 million from European Union to support Lesotho’s agriculture ministry’s effort to help farmers buy the much-needed seeds, fertilizer and tools to stave off hunger in a country where the livelihoods of the majority of its 1.9 million people depend on farming.

The cost of planting crops in Lesotho has risen four times in just one year and assessments have found that over half of the country's arable farm land was lying idle, FAO said in a statement.

“Unacceptable risks of hunger and household-level food shortages among Lesotho's poor soon became apparent,” said Farayi Zimudzi, FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator in Lesotho.

Farmers are receiving the seeds of maize, beans, wheat, sorghum, potatoes and vegetables, as wells as fertilizer and tools such as yokes, chains, hand hoes and ox-drawn ploughs and planters.

It is estimated that FAO's assistance will lead to an additional 7,300 hectares of land being put under cultivation, which can mean 10,000 to 18,000 extra tons of crops harvested.

“It's very impressive,” said Andrew Headey, acting head of the European Union Mission in Lesotho. “Activities were well chosen. If successful, they will lay the foundation for an improved situation in the future, enhancing sustainability and building on existing initiatives,” he added.

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