South African Farmers Help Hungry People In Lesotho – And In So Doing, Help Themselves

By purchasing from small holder farmers, WFP and it's partners are making positive changes on both sides of the border. 

Smallholder farmer Sibongile Congwane (35) grins as she watches the mill employees carry bag after bag of maize meal, each marked with the South African flag, onto the trucks bound for Lesotho. This is the first consignment of maize purchased from South African smallholders to head to the Mountain Kingdom, where it will support the most vulnerable and food-insecure people.

In contributing US$20 million to WFP’s nutrition and school feeding programmes in Lesotho, the South African Government stipulated that 40 percent of food commodities be procured from South African smallholders. As one of the first 18 South African smallholders to supply maize for WFP’s operations, Sibongile is pleased to witness the fruits of her labour.

“I’m so proud to see my food being loaded onto the trucks,” she says.

Growing up, food security was always a challenge for Sibongile. Her experiences as a child prompted her to start growing her own food so that she could ensure her family had enough to eat.

Sibongile now produces maize on 186 hectares of land and employs other farmers in the area. She is one of four female smallholders in a cooperative of six. After passing a competitive tender process that required meeting WFP’s quality and quantity standards, her cooperative received a contract to provide 47.2 metric tons of maize grain to WFP.

Limited access to markets is one of the key obstacles to growth for smallholders in South Africa. That is why WFP - in collaboration with the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and its Provincial Departments of Agriculture - implements capacity-building activities to help smallholders become viable market players.

stacks of wfp food

For Sibongile, this first sale has already gone a long way towards helping her sustain her family, as well as creating more income-earning opportunities for her cooperative and community. With improved market access for her maize, she has been able to employ 60 people, including 15 seasonal workers.

“My life has changed dramatically,” says Sibongile, “and so have lives and livelihoods of people in my community.”

Well able to relate to those affected by hunger in both South Africa and neighbouring Lesotho, Sibongile is satisfied knowing that her maize will directly assist those who need it most.