17 November 2017

Lesotho: Farmers Up in Arms Over Dairy Board

MAAPARAKOBO Dairy Farmers have called on the government to immediately dissolve the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB), arguing that it was not serving the interests of the local farmers.

This came out during a meeting organized by the Development for Peace (DPE) with the aim to assess whether the Government was making any progress or undertaking to respond to people's needs in its first 100 days in office. The meeting also facilitated presentation of needs by various sectors with a view to ensure responsive programming by the Government.

Participants in the meeting, which was held in Maseru on Monday, included the civil society, and representatives of various organisations and sectors, including the agriculture sector.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane returned to power on 16 June this year following the 3 June snap elections produced a Hung Parliament.

Dr Thabane's All Basotho Convention, Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho cobbled their parliamentary seats to form a Coalition Government.

The four-party Coalition Government replaced former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili's Government of seven political parties after a two-year rule.

However, speaking during the meeting, the DPE's Peace Education Researcher, Mr Mosala Mokutlulu explained similar initiatives were being conducted with various stakeholders to measure the performance of Dr Thabane's first 100 days in office.

"As is the norm, representatives from different sectors will express their views on Government's responsiveness to their needs and also present their expectations from different Government ministries. Information gathered from these meetings will be presented during a Ministerial meeting led by Prime Minister Thabane on 20 November. Responsible ministers will be required to respond to issues raised during the DPE meetings," Mr Mokutulu said.

Presenting grievances pertaining the dairy sector, the Maaparakobo Dairy Farmers Association Chairman, Mr Tšeliso Tšenoli urged the Government to dissolve the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) and replace it with members who will serve the local farmers' interests.

"LNDB is a state-owned enterprise which ideally is supposed to serve and protect the interests of local dairy farmers as per the Lesotho Canada Dairy Development Project," Mr Tšenoli said.

He explained the initial plan was to have farmers represented in the board as per the Act 246 of 1991 so that they can protect and serve the interest of all farmers.

Mr Tšenoli said they were however surprised to see individuals without a stake in the local farming industry included on the board instead of local dairy farmers who understood the sector and its needs.

He said farmers want Government to transfer ownership of the Lesotho Dairy plant to dairy farmers associations to improve its utilization and ensure improved benefits to the farmers. Recently, the Government injected M18 million towards the refurbishment of the plant in Maseru.

A representative of the Lesotho National Farmers Union (LENAFU), Ms 'Noi Selepe said there was an urgent need to support farmers to access finance for them to boost their productivity, as was promised during election campaigns.

"Most farmers would like to commercialise their operations through the production of cash crops throughout the year. Financial support will enable farmers to mechanise their production and introduce protected agriculture through greenhouse infrastructure," Ms Selelpe said.

She added the importance of engaging farmers in all Government programmes, Strategies and Policies aimed at developing the agriculture sector.

The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) urged the Government to pass the Gender-Based Violence Bill as well as commencing the process of enacting legislation that will help to end child marriages.

FIDA Representative, Ms 'Mamasilo Dlamini said child marriage poses danger for the girl-child and contributed to the high rates of maternal mortality the country is battling.

"Government should prioritise enacting laws that amplify the protection of women and girls particularly from discrimination that is brought about by some bad cultural practices, among other factors," Ms Dlamini said. She emphasized the need to develop a new National Action Plan, following the expiry of the 2008-2012 blue print, with the aim to outline new strategies that would help to end gender-based violence.

Speaking on the law governing inheritance issues, Ms Dlamini said a review was needed to respond to challenges that have seen the girl -child deprived of inheritance opportunities equal to the boy-child.

"Denying the girl-child the right to inherit property places her at a disadvantage and promotes the feminization of poverty."

Ms Dlamini also urged the Government to use the 50/50 Proportional Representation method used by political parties when submitting candidates to also be applied in the submission of constituency candidates in the National Assembly election. This will help to improve the participation of women in politics.

Other issues that emerged from the same meeting are as follows:

Disability sector - Establish causes for the delay in tabling Disability Equity Bill in Parliament; and consider planning performance and monitoring systems by a specialised unit in the ministry.

Arts sector - Review laws governing the ministry; resolve that this unit be led by artists and formalise popularization of art products by artists abroad.

Public Transport sector - Remove all impediments to allow cross border activities; consider harmonizing B, C and D permits; and transport and goods commission must be implemented.

Matrix Support Group - Lobby for constitutional, legal and policy reforms with the review of promoting and protecting human rights of all persons irrespective of their sex, sexual orientation and gender identities or expressions; review and harmonise definitions of sex and gender to engage diversity of gender and sex and health.

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