The call for agricultural entrepreneurship echoes evermore loudly across the expanses of farmland nestled in the valleys and bases of the mountains of Lesotho. Eager to leap beyond the paltry returns from subsistence farming (with only 27, 897mt of total national crop yields for maize, sorghum and wheat in 2019/20) associations of farmers in Lesotho convened at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre on February 8, 2022 to deliberate on the establishment of a forum for narrative labelling for organic and traditional produce, such as grass-fed read meat, dairy, beans and sorghum.
This inaugural summit to discuss mechanisms which have the potential of opening up markets for Basotho farm produce ushered in an understanding of ‘Slow Food Lesotho’; who they are and how they work. Slow Food is a grassroots organisation which was founded in 1989 in Italy, it has since broadened its horizons globally, including establishing a base in Lesotho. Slow Food endorses the protection of local food and traditional cooking to prevent the desertion of these core aspects of culture. Integral to their mandate is access to good and clean food which is healthy for consumers and the planet, coupled with food production in fair working conditions and accessible prices for consumers resulting in fair pay for producers
This call aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)12, 8 and 1, which encourage sustainable production and consumption; good health and economic growth; and no poverty respectively. Indeed, in a country where the poverty rate was recorded at 49.7% prior to COVID19 (with the situation worsening as the pandemic prevails), Lesotho needs to explore other mechanisms for production and agricultural entrepreneurship, especially in the face of exacerbated levels of domestic violence which have a correlation to poverty.
The Slow Food Network aims to build producer-consumer links as well as identify 10,000 Ark of Taste Products, which are quality foods that are unique to their respective countries and cultures. These products will be included in Slow Food Global’s website and will be accredited as food for sale internationally. In this regard, Slow Food Lesotho sought to sensitize Basotho farmers on the role they can play to position their products on this world stage so that Basotho's traditional food and heritage, in addition to their indigenous produce, can be seen, tasted and experienced by people separated far and wide by oceans and borders.
To achieve these goals, Basotho farmers, supported by Rural Self-Help Development Association (RSDA), the Small Grants Programme (SGP) which is overseen by UNDP Lesotho with funding from The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), received guidelines on how they can improve their produce for inclusion in the Ark of Taste. Emphasizing the importance of indigenous culture and intellectual property, Mr. Chauke Themba, the Slow Food Spokes Person of Vhemba Gardens, urged Basotho to return back to their traditional dishes and prepare them with the organic produce they used to prepare them with. He underscored the importance of guarding this indigenous knowledge, which Slow Food International offers an opportunity for their protection. Ultimately, the food will become classified as Slow Food Presidium which is the highest level of protection gained if the taste, the ingredients used and the ways of preparing these cuisines are unique to that specific traditional food and region.
A question which came to the fore during an interview, was how the organisers would ensure sustainability of the market interventions which were proposed at the event. To give assurance that this initiative will be sustainable, Mr. Themba said “this narrative labelling is where we want to build a relationship with [multiple] stakeholders in Lesotho, even the ministry.” This would certainly ensure longevity of mechanisms applied because capacity building would have been one of the elements left behind for Basotho to continuously reap the benefits. In addition, Mrs. ‘Mampho Thulo (Managing Director of RSDA) stated that a seed had been sown on fertile soil from the day’s dialogues. Further emphasizing the importance of multiple stakeholders’ involvement, she stated that “Our biggest message to Basotho is that they must please eat food which has been produced in Lesotho; and the farmers are requesting for information on what it is that Basotho want to eat so that they can grow it for them.”
In the face of the Anthropocene, where human beings’ impact on the planet has led to climate change and increased food insecurity, adopting agricultural practices which guard our environment and biodiversity, while also protecting every person’s health, safety and dignity are important to build the kind of solidarity between humans and the planet which the 2022 Human Security Report calls for. This initiative invites such practices, in addition to unearthing a new approach to doing business for Basotho farmers, a trek which aligns with UNDP’s pillars of environmental sustainability, climate change and resilience, as well as sustainable and inclusive economic growth. An exciting venture for the men and women who hold our daily bread in the palms of their hands.
 Bureau of Statistics, “Selected Indicators”, accessed on 10 February, 2022, https://www.bos.gov.ls/.
 See Ilze Slabbert, “Domestic Violence and Poverty: Some Women’s Experiences”, Sage Journals 27, no. 2 (2017), https://doi.org/10.1177/1049731516662321.
 United Nations Development Programme, “2022 Special Report, New Threats to Human Security in the Anthropocene: Demanding greater solidarity”, 8 February 2022, https://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/srhs2022.pdf.