The Lesotho wool and mohair value chain: production aspects

Wool and mohair together account for 58.3% of agricultural exports. Lesotho produces 3,320 tons of Merino-type greasy wool and 750 tons of Angora-type greasy mohair annually, respectively 0.2% and 14% of 2011 world production. As such, Lesotho is not a major wool producing country but it is the second leading mohair producer in the world, after South Africa. Wool is Lesotho’s leading agriculture commodity export, while its mohair exports rank 5th. Production remains largely in the hands of smallholder and subsistence farmer producers. Prices for both wool and mohair are on the rise in recent years, amid growing demand for natural fibres and price volatility of synthetics.

For both wool and mohair, Lesotho is able to access international auction markets (Port Elizabeth and Durban) and distribution networks of South Africa, which is ranked 12th and 1st in the world for wool and mohair production, respectively. An estimated 90% of Lesotho’s wool production and 58% of mohair production are sold via the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA)’s relationship with the South African broker BKB Ltd, who provides the Government of Lesotho (GOL) with aggregate statistics regarding sales by district, grade and more. The GOL and LNWMGA lack capacity to develop independent data regarding total sector production for planning, benchmarking, market development and other purposes. Lesotho lacks its own certificate of origin to facilitate product source traceability, and historically Lesotho production is blended with that of South Africa’s for export purposes. Overall, Lesotho lacks clarity regarding purchasers, end users and end use of its wool/mohair. As such the producers largely are price takers in the market.

The rural economy of Lesotho is dominated by livestock production which contributes 4.8% of GDP compared to agricultural crops which contributes only 1.9%. Rangeland suitable for grazing stock covers more than two thirds of the country while less than 10% of the land is able to be cultivated. Wool and mohair are the main agricultural exports and Lesotho is the world’s second largest producer of mohair (after South Africa7) – it produces 14% of the mohair produced globally. During the 2012/2013 season Lesotho’s wool sales grossed R192 million (USD 19.2 million) and mohair sales grossed R29 million (USD 2.9 million). All production is in the hands of smallholder farmers and most of these are in the mountain areas where the incidence of poverty is highest.  Wool and mohair production is a major factor in injecting cash into rural communities and addressing poverty in Lesotho. However, the production system is at risk due to overgrazing leading to rangeland degradation.

Climate scenarios for Lesotho indicate that the process of degradation in likely to accelerate under climate change and a major objective of the project is to introduce a more sustainable approach to rangeland management in order to mitigate these climate risks in the future.

The Project is national in scope covering all 10 administrative districts but focusing on the poorer highland areas that cover more than two thirds of the country’s surface area; this is also the production base for the wool and mohair industry, which is the backbone of Lesotho’s agricultural economy.

Project Implementation

WAMPP will be implemented over a period of 7 years. It will be coordinated and implemented through existing institutions according to their mandated responsibilities. The key government organizations involved are: (i) the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) through the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) will be responsible for the technical aspects of animal production and health; (ii) the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation (MFRSC) through the Department of Range Resources Management (DRRM) will be responsible for the technical aspects of climate smart rangeland management and rehabilitation; (iii) Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing willl be responsible for policies and regulations governing the wool and mohair handling and marketing and the development of cottage industries; and, (iv) the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology, through Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS), will be responsible for the technical aspects of Climate Information Services.

Project Outcomes

The Impact of WAMPP will be measured along the following impact indicators. More details are provided in the project’s logical framework.

 Reduction in the prevalence of child malnutrition from 39.2 percent (2009) to 32.7 percent by year 7

 200,000 poor household members whose climate resilience has been increased

 50,000 households with improvement in assets ownership index (RIMS Level III)

 Degradation of mountainous rangelands is reduced by 10 % over baseline

 25,000 households report a 50% reduction in hunger period by year 7

 50,000 households with improved income by 50% by Year 7