Writes; Tshepo Heqoa
The 2019 Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) national show held at the Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC) in Maseru has been an overwhelming mammoth success, with the highest attendance of 7,600 viewers (rough estimate) and performance results despite the rough patch the fibre industry has been facing. From across the breadth of the country the farmers had prepared their flocks tirelessly though the loss they have often sustained in the past season had betrayed the best of the highest desired outcomes.
Many Basotho farmers had attempted by hook or by crook to have their sheep and goats winning this year. It was actually awe-filling to see the judges having a hard time deciding which the best ram was as many were remarkably fine. A hard decision was however imperative and having every participant on tenterhooks all morning as we waited for the final result. The international judges from the breeders’ community and co-operative society of South African Farms, sometimes at loggerheads, were baffled by which impression brought by the rams. The last four rams that remained in the panel, from which the ram of the year would be selected had the judges deciding for the about 20-30 minutes. Three of the four rams belonged to Lepoka Leanya, a merino sheep farmer from Qhoalinyane in Qacha’s Nek district.
As mentioned above, some of the judges from the co-operative society were from OVK South Africa. OVK said there is a general improvement in the appearance of the Merino and Angora in Lesotho however there is still a big gap to fill for many group B flocks therefore there is a lot of work to be done. Evan Hartley the senior tech officer at OVK further said that he wishes OVK could be more involved with the farmers themselves to mentor and teach them about the sheep on an economical view. The top sheep he said are very good and can compete in South Africa as the standards are outstanding and good.
Evan further said, “We have been in Free State few weeks ago and I can say the top sheep here can compete very fairly there. We just have to equip ordinary farmers with the economic value of sheep. We found that the sheep that are not good are not good at all. A lot has to be done in regard to procuring better genetics for group B farmers. But those that are good are exceptionally breath-taking. Now there are three important things that we look for: 1. uniformity of wool on the sheep, 2. uniformity of the sheep in the flock and 3. the uniformity of the flocks with economic value of wool”.
“There are a lot of positive factors as well, out of seven places that we do in classing, from number one to number seven, they can all compete in South Africa. You can also tell that the farmers prepare well for the show. Counsel for an ordinary farmer who does not have a lot of financial resources to survive in the mean-time; knowledge and good farming practices with good genetics and good type of sheep and lastly keeping up with modern trends are very important in livestock farming.”
The Silo magazine also had a privilege to interview a number of farmers that come from different experiences and credentials. One such farmer was Tumahole Lerafa, a member of parliament and a farmer from Motete shearing shed. When asked what difference he could see this year, he said Group B, had brought their flocks in large numbers, and had also improved their stock while Group A farmers seemed to be very few in number owing to the lack of funds to feed their flock. (Group A farmers are farmers that have well advanced in improving their stock genetic make-up).
“I was also unprepared for this year’s show, thinking that maybe there was no show until at a later stage. It could also be a reason why other farmers did not attend. The truth is that we need to prepare for this show but I did not perform well this year as I indicated before that I was unprepared, the only winning sheep from my flock came out number seven” Lerafa concluded.
Interview with Mapesela
Over the years the minister has taken part in National show and has been performing exceptionally well he says. This year he revealed that he lend other farmers his sheep that they may compete with them while he stayed back to watch. By this act he said that he wanted to play fair as farmers from across the country would presume he had won at multiple levels simply because he is a minister. “I hesitated because some people would think I have a powerful financial muscle for my feeding program.”
The minister comes from Mateanong shearing shad, and said he is a group A farmer. Mapesela shared with the Silo that he has a relative estimate of 800 sheep and 150 goats. For range management he indicated that he owns three sheep posts well separated at which his livestock are well integrated in.
The Silo took the liberty to proof check the statements revealed by the minister and found that much of what he expressed in the interview was to a great degree faulty and misleading. Reports suggest that Mapesela did not qualify to take part in the National show, has not been selling rams for the past 10 years as he had suggested and neither is he a group A farmer.
Upon the quest of delayed payments, the minister said he received his money in full, the last payment on wool having been done on Friday the 17th May 2018
The Chairman’s guests
His Majesty King Letsie III graced the event with his presence. Speaking as an affectionate father to his beloved nation he encouraged farmers that they should not give in to despair but preserve and continue the premium practices of rearing Merino and Angora amidst the current most trying conditions of the country because by them they are able to sustain both their families and the economy of the Lesotho. He ended by giving charge to the Minister of Agriculture and Food security that he should make it his highest aim to fix the prevalent situation in the wool and mohair industry.
Present also at the National show was Chief Kgomotshwana Lebenya from Matatiele in Eastern Cape. He came to honour the event with his presence and also learn how the LNWMGA operates that he may challenge his people to also be thus organised.
As much as Lesotho’s participation in the wool and mohair sector is improving year in year out due to many factors. There is furthermore chances and room for improvement due to the fact that Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP) has been implemented and seem to be on the right track after a snail pace that was caused by political interference of previous regime.
OVK’s appetite to mentor the Lesotho farmers’ seem to be brought about by the fact that there are some deficiencies they picked from this year’s show hence the small stock farmers need them.