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Lesotho and IFAD joint project to improve livelihoods of vulnerable small farmers

A new financing project in Lesotho is to benefit 160, 000 poor rural households. It will boost food security and nutrition, mitigate the impact of climate change and strengthen livelihoods for greater income. Women, who typically have limited access to land and finance, will make up 50 per cent of the project’s participants. About 35 per cent will be young people who face high rates of unemployment.

The $62 million project, which will provide the means for a six-year extension of the successful Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP I), was announced on23 September 2020 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations (IFAD). Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, and Thabo Sophonea, Minister of Finance of the Kingdom of Lesotho, signed the financing agreement for the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP II) by correspondence.

The total project financing amounts to $62 million, with $50 million from the World Bank and a $5 million loan from IFAD. The beneficiaries themselves are providing $5 million, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will contribute an additional $2 million. The project will reach all 10 districts of the kingdom, an increase from the seven districts reached through SADP I.

SADP II will build on the achievements of the project’s first phase. It aims to empower women and youth who are especially vulnerable to climate-related events and other shocks. According to the International Labour Organisation, 38.5 per cent of young people in Lesotho, aged 15-24, are unemployed. The creation of sustainable rural employment opportunities will lead to increased incomes and greater long-term resilience.

“In the face of COVID-19, it is even more important that we not allow that progress achieved against poverty during SADP I be lost, or that hunger be allowed to increase”, said Philipp Baumgartner, Country Director for Lesotho. “Small-scale farmers need greater support so that food production, processing and marketing continue, contributing to the country’s food security and economy. I am particularly happy to see an increased focus on youth entrepreneurship and nutrition aspects in this second phase of SADP. ”

SADP II will promote the cultivation of cash crops, such as fruits and vegetables, and will link farmers to markets where they can sell their products. Project participants will also benefit from new technologies for land and water management including the modernisation of irrigation infrastructure to reduce producers’ dependence on rain-fed farming. The project will also train participants on nutrition, food preparation and better hygiene.

Since 1995, IFAD has invested $92.1 million in 11 rural development programmes and projects in the Kingdom of Lesotho worth a total of almost $232.6 million. These projects have directly benefited 339,720 rural households.

* The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an international financial institution and a specialised United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.


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