The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with financial support from the World Bank, is distributing emergency fodder seeds to vulnerable Lesotho livestock owners affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
The intervention seeks to make a quick impact on about 1200 vulnerable farmers from wool sheds and livestock communities in five rangelands districts which were affected by COVID-19 related restrictions that included restricted movements and closure of some activities. During the national lockdown in Lesotho, livestock keepers were unable to buy animal feeds due to access challenges and also the fact that the prices of the feed had been hiked.
Matsepo Mohapi, 48 years old, has a family of six members. She keeps 60 livestock including sheep, goats, donkey and horses in Mokhethoaneng Tocha village, Berea district. Once a year she shears her sheep for wool and goat for mohair to sell to get income for her household. Her husband who works in the mines in a neighboring country sends her money to buy livestock feeds.
“During the lockdown my husband stayed at home; the mine had been closed. We didn’t have money to buy livestock feed. The animals looked underfed because we were feeding them on residuals from the farm. In August and May this year when I took them for shearing, I realized the quality and quantity of the wool and mohair had reduced, I was given little money compared to previous years,” said Matsepo.
“COVID-19 affected my family in terms of incomes and food security. Getting food for the animals was a challenge. I had to borrow corn residuals from neighbors’ farms to feed the animals, yet there were no buyers of the animals during that time. We lacked food at home,” said Mootisi Mocase, a father of two, from Liphiring village. He keeps 30 livestock including, sheep, donkey, rabbits, chicken, and pigs.
The targeted communities rely on livestock for food and income from wool and mohair production. They received animal fodder seeds, including grazing vetch, lucerne, barley, rye, and oats, to help protect their animals and restore their livelihoods.
Making livestock more resilient
The fodder seeds are expected to boost livestock production and incomes of the farmers.
“We’re delighted that the fodder seeds have been distributed in time as the planting season starts. Most of the livestock keepers are first time fodder growers; the seeds will encourage them to grow more nutritious animals fodder crops in the future and reduce dependence on rangelands for grazing,” said David Mwesigwa, FAO Emergency and Resilience Coordinator in Lesotho.
Additionally, fodder seeds like the grazing vetch fix nitrogen in soil thus helping to provide a high protein, palatable forage.