Search for:

How Lesotho Farmers are Tackling Food Waste Head-on

14 May 2024 by Pascalinah Kabi

 Est Read Time: 5 min(s) 51 sec(s)

Listen to this article:

Members of the Botha-Bothe Farmers Forum celebrate the launch of their organisation through jubilant songs on April 26, 2024. Photo Credit: Pascalinah Kabi

A selection of organically grown vegetables – including oversized pumpkins, carrots, beetroot, butternut, radishes and spinach– is displayed on the table in front of their growers.

While some fresh produce items, like carrots, radishes, and spinach, may initially appear fresh, they can spoil quickly if not utilised, prompting producers to dispose of or feed them to domestic animals such as pigs.

However, a rapidly growing collaboration between the Rural Self-Help Development Association (RSDA), Slow Food Lesotho, and local farmers aims to tackle food waste amidst the challenges of climate change.

The collaboration with local farmers, aimed at bridging the gap between producers and consumers, is materialising through the establishment of district farmers’ forums by the RSDA, supported by the Denmark Lesotho Network.

On April 26, 2024, the RSDA inaugurated the Botha-Bothe Farmers forum in the district, led by chairperson Thabang Joel. He emphasised that the purpose of these forums is to unite farmers nationwide to enhance food production.

“This will allow us to collectively market our food items using an aggregation model, and the benefits extend beyond that,” Joel explained.

He added: “With the collaboration between the Botha-Bothe Farmers Forum and other districts, we realise that we can also supply produce to neighbouring districts. For example, if Thaba-Tseka requires chicken, we can provide it through the aggregation model.”

He mentioned that his organization has already embraced the aggregation model by selling beans.

“The achievements of the Botha-Bothe Farmers’ Forum include aggregating beans, through which we supplied beans to five primary schools with the support of RSDA. We underwent trainings from RSDA, covering topics such as good governance and export readiness,” Joel explained.

Joel urged more farmers from Botha-Bothe to join the forum, aiming to achieve their target of 750 members.

“Together, we can boost our production and ensure food security, providing for our families, our district, and our nation. Any surplus can be exported to other countries,” Joel emphasised.

A distant dream

Currently, with evident food insecurity in Lesotho, the prospect of exporting to other countries remains distant. As recently as May 8, the Lesotho government disclosed that approximately 581,000 people are grappling with food insecurity, equating to 145,250 families struggling to obtain sustenance.

Limpho Tau, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, identified various factors contributing to food insecurity in Lesotho. These include diminished food production due to climate change-induced drought during the 2023/24 farming season, spanning from October 2023 to March 2024.

Additionally, Tau highlighted the surge in food prices and the escalating number of poverty-stricken families as further exacerbating the issue of hunger in Lesotho.

“The government has allocated M100,104,160 million for job creation initiatives such as road rehabilitation, soil and rangeland protection and rehabilitation and other employment opportunities across 960 sites nationwide over a six-month period.

“The objective is for this funding to directly benefit struggling families, empowering them to purchase their preferred food items, acquire seedlings, and utilise the cash for additional income-generating endeavours,” Tau explained.

He further highlighted the government’s belief that direct financial support to affected families will stimulate Lesotho’s economy during the six-month project implementation, set to commence in June 2024.

Meanwhile, in Botha-Bothe, with the steadfast support of RSDA, farmers are dedicatedly working to sustain themselves and their communities. They are actively vending their produce and other goods, with prices starting as low as M10.

RSDA Director ‘Mampho Thulo emphasised that the launch of the Botha-Bothe Farmers Forum aligns with her organization’s commitment to assist the Lesotho government in combating food insecurity.

“We have established a partnership with food producers and cooks, positioning RSDA as the intermediary between these two sectors,” Thulo explained.

RSDA Director Mampho Thulo, centre, receives gifts from Botha-Bothe Farmers Forum for her organisation’s efforts to empower farmers in Botha-Bothe and across the country. Photo Credit: Pascalinah Kabi.

A troubling pattern – household food waste

In 2020, Lisemelo Mateboho Lucia Chenene conducted research on the correlation between household-generated food waste in rural and urban areas of Lesotho. Chenene’s findings revealed that income level serves as a notable determinant of food wastage.

“Consumers who reside in both rural and urban areas are fully aware of the negative consequences of food waste. Consumers apply a great deal of effort to minimise the amount of discarded food in their households, which was also statistically significant (p=0.022).

“Approximately three-quarters (76 percent) of the consumers in urban areas undertake their main shopping from a supermarket, while it is the case with just more than half (52 percent) of consumers in rural areas,” she said.

With Lesotho being a low-income country with scarce resources, Chenene said the country could benefit from food waste reduction and intervention programmes to assist in alleviating food insecurity.

“It is therefore recommended that the Lesotho government supports educational campaigns aimed at reducing food wastage and to enhance household planning skills and routines regarding food preparation,” she explained.

Amidst Lesotho’s struggle with the ramifications of climate change, RSDA has urged local farmers and consumers to combat food waste.

“This year, we are contending with the consequences of climate change; I have been attempting to procure beans from farmers without success due to the adverse impacts of climate change.

“In light of these challenges, we implore both farmers and consumers not to squander food. Regrettably, certain food items are discarded under the pretext of being spoiled,” elucidated Mampho Thulo, Director of RSDA.

She added: “Some of them are not rotten, some are carrots with weird shapes, oversized pumpkin and an equally oversized potato that cannot be graded in a machine.”

She further clarified that the aim of the event on April 26, 2024, was to emphasise that the abundance of harvested maize lying on the floor of households should serve as a reminder that no child should go to bed on an empty stomach.

“Let’s return to our roots and embrace the food we produce. Consuming a meal made from our own harvested maize is not backward. Every produce we have, even if it’s blemished, remains a viable food item worthy of consumption, irrespective of its appearance.”

Chef Ska Moteane from Slow Food Lesotho expressed gratitude to RSDA for recognising the significance of connecting producers with consumers, including both cooks and those who enjoy our food.

Chef Ska advocates for clean eating

At Slow Food Lesotho, Moteane explained, they adhere to three fundamental principles of food handling – promoting good, clean, and fair practices for all.

“When I speak about good, I mean food that is healthy, nutritious and food that taste good. On the clean component, we want food that was produced in a manner that did not dirty our environment. When it comes to fair, we want prices that are fair both for the consumers and the producers,” Moteane said.

She elaborated on the significance of the partnership between RSDA and Slow Food, highlighting their extensive travels across the country to collaborate with farmers.

“All the food items served today (April 26, 2024) are sourced from the Botha-Bothe district, and we engaged young people in the preparation process. We even organised a soap disco while cooking because involving young people and everyone in discussions about climate change and raising awareness on food waste is crucial,” she explained.

Moteane emphasised the importance of discussing food security, handling, and climate change in a welcoming environment, which is why they coined it “disco soup.”

“The soup you will be enjoying today (April 26, 2024) is crafted from ingredients like carrots, beans, and sorghum—each sourced from producers who expressed concerns about potential waste if not used promptly. Our aim is to assist you in minimising food wastage by showcasing various cooking methods that make the most of your ingredients,” she elaborated.

Slow Food Lesotho showcased different methods through which Botha-Bothe farmers can utilise food items approaching their expiration to prevent wastage. These methods included crafting smoothies from vegetables, fruits, milk, and papa (Lesotho’s staple food).

Meanwhile, Thulo addressed the predominant challenge confronting Lesotho today: a preference for foreign foods over locally sourced produce.

“As we gather here today, we advocate for eating local with the hashtag #EatLocal. Let us prioritise our own homegrown foods and resist the temptation to solely rely on imported items.

“We urge residents of Botha-Bothe to support local producers and refrain from seeking food items across the border. Our locally grown produce is clean and organic, cultivated right here in our communities. Unlike the items found in retail shops, the origins of which are often unknown,” Thulo emphasised.

Please Share Our Content To Help You Own Your Story

Leave A Comment

All fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required