IFAD in Lesotho
The main objectives of IFAD's operations in the country are to improve food security and family nutrition. Since 1980, IFAD has supported agricultural development by investing a total of US$60.3 million in eight programmes and projects to reduce poverty in the country's rural areas.
Normally, Lesotho is not in a position to grow enough food to feed its growing population. Offsetting the effects on poor households of declining agricultural production, IFAD investments support the efforts of small-scale farmers to ensure food security for their families and improve their incomes. Increased productivity is a key to achieving these aims and to reducing poverty in rural areas. IFAD finances programmes and projects that encourage poor people's participation in the planning and development of income-generating activities, including microenterprises.
In harmony with the government's poverty reduction strategy, IFAD supports development programmes and projects to:
- improve food security and household nutrition and income, particularly among households headed by women
- foster local people's participation in planning and implementing development activities
- reverse land degradation and the decline in agricultural production by promoting sustainable natural resource use and management
- build local capacities in support of the decentralization process
- promote partnerships with NGOs
- improve access to financial services in rural areas
The first IFAD-supported project in Lesotho was the Agricultural Marketing and Co-operatives Project, which had the aim of increasing national food production and household food security in response to prolonged drought. The Local Initiatives Support Project promoted the development of simple, micro-scale gravity-fed irrigation systems owned and managed by small-scale farmers. The success of small-scale irrigation in increasing agricultural productivity in the project area led the government to support the use of inexpensive small-scale irrigation technology by farmers elsewhere in the country.
The Soil and Water Conservation and Agro-forestry Project focused on improved natural resource management, particularly through an indigenous, labour-intensive cropping technology developed by a local NGO, the Machobane Agricultural Development Foundation. The so-called Machobane farming system is based on four principles: full use of the calendar year, use of organic sources to build up and maintain soil fertility, maximization of plant arrangements, and production of cash and subsistence crops. The Rural Finance and Enterprise Support Project pioneered the development of rural savings and credit groups as viable financial intermediaries operating within the guidelines of the Central Bank.
The Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme for the Mountain Areas, which closed in 2006, provided training for local communities and assisted the government in reviewing and improving existing pubic accounting and budgetary systems. The ongoing Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Programme provides support to small-scale farmers so they can increase agricultural production and productivity in a sustainable manner. The most recent IFAD-funded programme in the country, the Rural Financial Intermediation Programme aims at enabling poor rural people to access financial services that respond to their needs.
IFAD operations in Lesotho have focused on three main opportunities for reducing rural poverty:
- diversifying and intensifying agriculture
- rehabilitating and reclaiming degraded lands
- developing rural financial services to support improved agricultural production and create income-generating activities