Botswana, Lesotho eye climate smart sorghum

STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, in collaboration with Rural Self-help Development Association (RSDA), is geared towards implementing a project on Risk Assessment of Climate Smart Sorghum production in Lesotho and Botswana.

The project is part of a partnership between the Department of Agriculture Research – Lesotho, the Centre for Co-ordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) Botswana and RSDA for implementing mechanisms for Climate Resilient Sorghum Production and Scale Up programme.

The programme is implemented across both Lesotho and Botswana allowing for regional learning and knowledge sharing funded by a German development agency.

RSDA managing director ‘Mathabo Thulo told Metro the risk assessment study looks at sorghum production, while identifying and prioritising best climate smart agriculture practice.

She said the study also develops a feasibility study that will lead to the formation of an investment proposal for financing further development of climate resilient agriculture.

Thulo said the project engages with the relevant technical personnel in relevant government ministries, farmer representatives and stakeholders to validate and consolidate inputs.

The inputs, she said, will be used to finalise the climate risk assessment stages which gather evidence needed for the investment proposal.

She said climate change vicissitudes make it difficult for the rural communities whose source of living is solely agriculture, thereby condemning them to wallow in poverty.

Thulo said the summer planting window is shrinking thereby threatening food security in the country as Lesotho relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture.

Lesotho has just received meaningful rains this year when the ploughing season has just ended.

The ploughing season starts in August in the highlands of the country where the cold winter starts earlier than in the lowlands.

Early frost attacks plants if ploughing is delayed in the highlands.

In the lowlands the ploughing season starts in October and runs through December, including up to January 15 for selected crops.

“There are a lot of hazards that make agriculture impossible these days,” Thulo said.

Temperatures now rise well above 30 degrees Celsius which she said was not the case during her childhood.

She said all the relevant stakeholders have to up their game to deal with the changing climatic conditions which are threatening food security.

The points to focus on in a bid to counter the challenges, Thulo said, include easing access to inputs (seeds and fertiliser) and making sure improved seeds and breeds are availed in a timely manner.

She said information services for weather and crops should also be given a priority and be made known to farmers to make an informed choice.

Farming systems are also major factors to look into as part of a strategy to assess climatic risk, Thulo said.

The president of the Maseru District Agricultural Union which is a member of the Lesotho National Farmers Union (Lenafu), Taoana Lephoto, said climate change is a serious problem they are facing.

He added they are appealing to the government to initiate irrigation schemes so that they could shift from the rain-fed agriculture which is unreliable during drought seasons.

Lephoto said some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like the Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) are helping farmers with safety nets so that they can protect their crops against hail and other ills triggered by climate change.

He said they also advise their members to venture into Conservation Agriculture (CA) as another strategy to combat climate change because it improves soil structure and protects the soil against erosion and nutrient losses by maintaining a permanent soil cover and minimising soil disturbance.

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