LESOTHO LOCAL CHIEFS AND COUNCILORS PREACHING THE CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE “GOSPEL”
The Department of Agricultural Research under the umbrella of the Lesotho National Conservation Task Force (NCATF) conducted a two day CA awareness training for the local chiefs and councilors. This training came about after the realisation that they know nothing about this concept whereas they are expected to protect and guard the CA fields from free ranging animals which has been a long battle facing CA farmers. They were very happy and thankful for these trainings as some of them are not only local authorities but farmers as well and they promised to go and preach the CA Gospel. After the training, one councilor and local chief invited the trainers to a CA public gathering to back-stop them when they disseminated what they learned during the two day training.
The day’s proceedings were opened with a prayer followed by the introductions. The councilor started her presentation by engaging those present on the issues of climate change, what it is and how it affects agricultural production. A lot of responses were given which clearly indicated that they understood climate change and its negative impacts on agriculture, especially hitting hard on subsistence farmers. They were further asked how to deal with these negative impacts because at the end of the day, fields have to be “ploughed”/planted to put food on the table. The response was that we (the Nation) have to pray hard that rains come before the end of the planting season and if that happens then we will plough and plant as usual.
The discussions then moved to CA, where they were asked if they have heard of it before. There were “yes’s” and “No’s”. The yes answers knew pot-holing type of CA. This was not surprising as this type of CA has been mostly popularized in the country more than other types. The councilor then gave a definition of CA, its three concepts and its relation to climate change, as well as how CA can be used to plant our fields and get good harvests even when rains are as limited as they are presently.
This “new” information created a lot of hype and numerous questions came up and it was during this question and answer session that the facilitators came in to help in answering them. Some of the heated discussions were on the issue of livestock not permitted to graze on the CA fields. The chief reiterated that even on ordinary fields no animals are allowed, it has just been a common practice but that is unlawful and many people still report the matter to her and actions are taken against those livestock owners.
The discussions then moved on to the importance of cover crops including their types and timely weeding. These were strongly stressed on because in the past CA in some parts of Lesotho failed tremendously because people were given the false impression that CA fields are not weeded and farmers lost most if not all of their crops to weeds. This scenario created very negative attitudes towards CA in Lesotho. After learning about the cover crops and their purposes that include being used for livestock feeding, some participants had a change of heart and acknowledged that then there is no need for their animals to graze on CA protected fields.
Even though the public gathering lasted for only a couple of hours, most farmers left the place with a new knowledge on CA, its benefits and types. There is however a lot of lobbying that still needs to be done. More trainings on CA are needed as well, especially separating the youth from the old people. This was evidenced during this short public gathering where the youth were asking questions that needed the nitty gritty details of CA and soil health among others. Extension workers were asked to continue assisting the councilor and chief in spreading CA messages and conducting small demonstrations of CA and conventional agriculture so that farmers can compare the two farming systems and make decisions based on what they saw.