Writes: Tshepo Heqoa
In the quietude of the 29th August 2017 Tuesday evening, as masses were flocking and assembling in diverse hotels and accommodation places in preparation for the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Grower’s Association’s (LNWMGA) 2017 Annual Report Summit, such miniatures were but narrow illustrations of what would come to be of the entire function. Different districts were but immaculate in their dissimilar regalia while the fine spirit that all had harbingered the higher heights to be attained by multiple fruitful discussions.
At the LNWMGA’s 17th annual general meeting, delegates from different Ministries and different Districts had assembled for the sole purpose of discussing the operations, challenges, opportunities, and growth of the wool and mohair industry. A few points for discussions included; the National Committees’ achievements, the 2017 annual report on the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) from Harrogate in the United Kingdom, World Federation of Merino Breeders report (Merino Insight 2016), Sheep Scab vaccination programme report, the 2016 annual summit’s minutes, and ultimately the mohair investment programme report for the period 2016/2017.
Present at the meeting was “The Silo” Chief Editor, Tjonane Matla and Tshepo Heqoa who chronicled all the proceedings of the meeting. The Wool and Mohair Promotion Project – WAMPP was set as one of the grand themes that were celebrated as achievements by the National Committee, however after the presentation by WAMPP, the chairman Mokoenehi Thinyane expressed his dissatisfaction that WAMPP seem to be taking very serious decisions without consulting LNWMGA, yet WAMPP must be answerable to the contributing partners. In the same conference Thinyane sited migration of WAMPP offices from Department of Livestock Services (where there were no rentals) at Moshoeshoe II, to New Europa (where they pay prime monthly rent) along Orpen road as not only a shock but irresponsible behaviour. Thinyane further welcomed a complaint that WAMPP does not even air nor publish any knowledge programs supporting the farmers yet such is planned and budgeted for.
From the start, this project was designed to improve resilience amid the hostile effects of climate change and toward the economic shocks among poor rural people across the country. Most of its activities focus on poorer mountain regions of the country, where the incidence of poverty and food insecurity is highest and the agricultural activities are severely restricted due to the lack of cultivatable land, the degraded rangelands and the harsh climate. As a result, three components were set as focal points in this colossal venture; Climate-smart rangeland management, improved livestock production and management, and Wool and mohair fibre handling and marketing.
Our understanding is that LNWMGA – Chairman was complaining of educational articles covering Component A: Sub-Component A1 – Effective information for climate smart rangeland management. Component B: Sub-B.1 – Improved livestock nutrition, B.2 – Improved livestock breeding, B.3 – Improved animal health and Component C – Wool and Mohair Fibre handling and Marketing.
At this moment, it was clear that the writing was on the wall that WAMPP is heading for disaster if it does not change direction. WAMPP Knowledge Management Office could have be seen implementing this component in other forms of media programs like radio, but comparative to SADP project that has multiple radio lessons, WAMPP is doing absolutely nothing, therefore this beautiful project seem to be sabotaged by officers who are supposed to be implementing its objectives as they are undermining both LNWMGA and the Government of Lesotho.
WAMPP is a national project in scope, covering all the ten Districts of Lesotho, and has its focus on the rangelands therefore tremendous costs are inevitable in such an endeavour. The total investment cost and recurrent costs, including contingencies, over the seven-year Project life are estimated at around US$ 38.9 million (around M408 million). An amount of US$11.6million is financed by an IFAD loan, US$ 7 million from ASAP with potential co-financing from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) of approximately US$ 12million, while the LNWMGA guaranteed a contribution of US$ 1.5 million (around M16 million). Any balance of the Project costs will be financed by the Government of Lesotho and the beneficiaries (LNWMGA).
Much has been achieved by the LNWMGA and seemingly more will be in the unfolding of time. A burning issue that was settled exceptionally well was a M30 million amount that was contributed by a Chinese company to form Thaba – Bosiu Wool Centre. This company known as Maseru Dawning had contributed and is currently developing Thaba – Bosiu Wool Centre and it was not clear how their contribution should be allocated, whether a loan, equity contribution or debenture. The conference therefore made a resolution to the National Committee to properly contract and document the transaction for clarity and avoid surprises or misunderstandings in future.
However the bottom line is that, the money was aimed to set up Thaba bosiu Wool Centre which would belong and be run by the LNWMGA. According to Maseru Dawning, the reasons for the establishment of this Wool Centre was that LNWMGA may stand a better chance of finding a direct access to the world market without any intermediates or brokers that normally decrease the profitability of all the items sold.
However it is worth disclosing that as much as this welcoming concept is concerned, LNWMGA’s immediate need was disclosed to be the establishment of a wool and mohair warehouse as the association had to vacate the government stores in Maseru Industrial Area. Grapevine then suggests that more feasibility studies to cut middlemen shall be done before jumping to conclusions and this shall be done in consultation with all grass root committees of LNWMGA, and it is more of a long-term issue not something that the association can be ventured into recklessly only to destroy already existing wool and mohair market at the expense of the farmer’s secured, steady and guaranteed cash flows.
Besides the Wool Centre, a wonderful animal hospital shall be constructed for the sole purpose of eliminating multiple ailments that may often occur in the livestock husbandry. These diseases do not only have a negative impact on the wool and mohair quality but leave many causalities in the cases where such maladies are contagious.
In 2016 January, a contract was made between Maseru Dawning and LNWMGA with regard to the operations of these facilities. Inclusive of the contract were the stipulated agreements of the 75% and the 25% ownership of the Wool Centre by the LNWMGA and Maseru Dawning respectively. This gave much emphasise and confidence that LNWMGA would have control of the facility.
It is very common indeed that a few of us do not cherish the feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality we may possess, but the success story of LNWMGA will be one that words alone will not tell.