1.1.1 Objectives of the intervention

The long-standing partnership between RSDA and Denmark Lesotho Network has consistently supported smallholder farmers and their organisations in Lesotho, most recently through the Lesotho Agriculture and Food Forum (LAFF) platform, elevating farmers voices and providing a mechanism for advocacy and engagement with national government. RSDA is now well positioned to expand their support to farmers, and this intervention seeks to build the resilience of farmers to the climate change. Impacts which they are increasingly experiencing.

The target group (smallholder farmers) as well as the thematic area (agriculture) are heavely impacted by the increasing variability in climate patterns in Lesotho. 60-80% of the population in Lesotho depend on the outputs of, predominantly rain-fed, subsistence farming.  The nature of their agriculture practices leave them vulnerable to the increasingly erratic variations in seasonal weather patterns such as increased incidence of drought, late onset of rain, early onset of frost amongst others.  This intervention targets 5000 farmers by leveraging their own structures of farmers groups and organisations to support the uptake of farming practices which are more resilient to climate variability as well strengthen the parts of the system (value chains, markets, enabling policies) which ensure their farming operations can deliver strong financial returns.  

Impact: Agriculture practices and systems that reduce vulnerability to climate by creating sustainable production and increased income for small holder farmers. 

The key intervention components are outlined in the diagram below.

Fundamental to the intervention is the promotion of the types of agriculture practices which can improve the resilience of small holder farmers production in the face of climate change. These practices represent emerging best practice to ‘climate-proof’ the agriculture sector and include the concept of Climate Smart Agriculture and Regenerative Farming (Box 1 & 2 for further explanation of these concepts). Smallholder farmers in Lesotho are quite well sensitised to many of these practices from previous interventions and government extension, but often lack the practical support or resources to implement them. This intervention focuses on the practices that the farmers have chosen as their own highest priority to implement.

Box 1. Climate Smart Agriculture Laid out for the first time in 2015 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Climate Smart Agriculture[1] is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural production systems and food value chains so that they support sustainable development and can ensure food security under climate change. It has since been adopted as best practice in Agriculture Development particularly in low-income countries. Climate Smart Agriculture has three pillars and aims to;Sustainably increase agricultural productivity, to support equitable increases in farm incomes, food security and development.Strengthens resilience of Agriculture to the impacts of climate changeReduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (where possible)CSA is not a set of practices that can be universally applied, but rather an approach that involves different elements embedded on-farm and beyond the farm and incorporates technologies, policies, institutions, and investment. Contrary to conventional agricultural development, CSA systematically integrates climate change into the planning and development of sustainable agricultural systems.  

Box 2. Regenerative farming Regenerative farming is a system of farming practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm by placing a strong focus on soil health. There are 5 core objectives;1. Keep the soil surface covered as much as possible2. Try to limit the amount of physical and chemical disturbance of the soil as much as possible3. A wide diversity of plants is encouraged to increase soil biodiversity4. Keep living roots in the soil for as much of the year as possible5. Integrate grazing livestock into the system

As well as supporting and training farmers with specific agriculture practices the intervention will also address value chain gaps – labelling for green products (narrative labelling) agreed with smallholder farmers and multi-stakeholders , which is necessary as part of the produce aggregation and quality control required by consumers.  Narrative labelling is explained in box 3 below:

Box 3. Support for green value chains (Slow Food Narrative Labelling) According to Slow Food Movement, a narrative label does not replace the legal labels, but supplements it by providing additional information regarding varieties and breeds, cultivations and processing methods, areas of origin, animal welfare, and advice on storage and use. They can be printed on the package or downloaded by using a QR code. Labels and packaging can indeed constitute effective instruments to inform consumers about how the product was made and its links to local terroir, culture, and traditions. They can contain storytelling elements, and thanks to QR codes they can link to multimedia narrations hosted on websites and social media. Adopting a narrative approach to labelling can permit to influence consumers at points of sales during their comparison of purchase alternatives and successfully differentiate heritage products from lower-priced alternatives. Under the support for green value chains, the intervention will launch a process of activities which evaluates;
1.  What the narrative label for Lesotho smallholder farmers (SHFs) products should be2.  Determine possible barriers to launching of the label and support advocacy activities for enabling environment
3. What production methods will be set in the production protocol
4. How the small holder farmers will be monitored and how to keep traceability
5. Training of smallholder Farmers.  

Whilst the green (sustainable, organic, biodynamic) market systems are not as developed in Lesotho as in Europe there is an opportunity to access premium prices for products which may be selected from dry beans, sorghum, and grass- fed red meat and milk.

The intervention will also promote and support public-private integrated agricultural extension services that promote climate resilient agriculture and e-agricultural extension services to reach out and provide updated information on weather and climate alongside the regenerative farming practices and value chain information.

Working together with likeminded CSO and the private sector in the network “Lesotho Agriculture and Food Forum – Partnership” (also initiated within the DLN-RSDA Partnership), the intervention will widely build the capacity and provide the necessary infrastructure to allow smallholder farmers’ organisations and forums to both speak with one strong voice in advocating to government regarding their needs. Additionally, this platform can serve the function of aggregating the volumes of green products and quality control.

1.1.2. The Climate Challenge for smallholder farmers

This intervention has been designed to respond specifically to challenges created by the climate change impacts on agriculture production and the smallholder farmers of Lesotho. A selection of key stakeholders and smallholder farmers were asked to identify the climate related impacts on their production. Centring the analysis around crops for food, crops for fodder and the linkages from fodder to livestock production, the following problem tree was constructed linking the climate hazards to the direct and indirect impacts and risks to smallholder farmers.