09/07/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/07/2021 11:38
This is one of 38 winning blogs from the 2021 Blog4Dev competition, the World Bank Africa annual writing contest, inviting young people to weigh in on a topic critical to their country's economic development. Blog4Dev winners responded to the question: How can young people work with their governments and civil society organizations to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and build a stronger post-pandemic economic and social system?
On March 27, 2020, when the president of South Africa announced the lockdown, I thought of my beloved country, Lesotho that heavily depends on South Africa for almost everything from toilet paper to basic food to petrol. Closure of shops, restaurants, and borders meant no custom income for the beloved enclave, no remittances for thousands of the households, and deferment or complete abandonment of small-scale farming because of lack of agricultural inputs.
My country, with its breath-taking scenery of snow-capped mountain ranges in winter and water coming out of rocks in summer, is classified as a lower-middle-income country. Economically, households in Lesotho depend worryingly on remittances, which formed more than 23 percent of the country's GDP in 2020. The country is landlocked inside South Africa. On Lesotho's income pie-chart, income from South African Custom Union and royalties from the South African Government for water takes the great piece. It imports 85 percent of the goods it consumes from South Africa, including most agricultural inputs, yet about three-fourths of the people live in rural areas and engage in animal herding and subsistence agriculture.
The dignity of the country stems from its ability to feed its people, and so agriculture is the key to regaining nobility. This is not a new concept; Lesotho embarked on block farming journey in the financial year 2005/6 in selected rural areas across the country where individual fields of farmers were merged into a large block to increase productivity. According to the report by Rantšo & Seboka (2019), the response from majority of the farmers in this scheme had been positive, some interviewed farmers indicated the need for more farmers to be included.
Considering how COVID-19 (coronavirus) has taken its toll on our poor motherland and its people, Lesotho needs leadership, productive hands, and solidarity to combat economic effects. Young people, together with civil society and the government can reintroduce block farming in Lesotho, this time with climate smart agriculture that will improve nutritional outcomes . Spirit of volunteerism needs to reign to rebuild the growing of food, strong value chain and market access means.
Additionally, the government needs to go an extra mile in making policies that support food security and start-ups run by young people, seeking investments and mobilizing knowledge resources through partnerships with civil society and young unemployed people the country has in numbers.
In service for humanity in these trying times, young people would gain knowledge and relevant skills to produce food, see a way to create businesses that enhances value chain and market access. Through this interaction, international organizations can even identify capable future leaders and provide relevant training as a way of investing in the better future and sustainable development.
1. Lesotho Economy 2020, CIA World Factbook. Theodora.com. (2020). Retrieved 24 October 2020, from https://theodora.com/wfbcurrent/lesotho/lesotho_economy.html.
2. Rantšo, T., & Seboka, M. (2019). Agriculture and food security in Lesotho: Government sponsored block farming programme in the Berea, Leribe and Maseru Districts. Cogent Food & Agriculture, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/23311932.2019.1657300.
Paballo Sekoto is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Lesotho. See the full list of 2021 Blog4Dev winners here, and read their blog posts.