Encouraging sustainable economic development through our dairy project
With approximately 70 percent of Lesotho’s population living in rural areas, farming activity supports a significant proportion of the Basotho nation . Recognising this, many of our social initiatives have taken an agricultural focus – seeking to support the creation of viable and sustainable community income streams.
Based in Mokhotlong, our dairy farming project is an initiative that aims to deliver locally supplied pasteurised and packaged fresh milk as an alternative to the milk imported from South Africa, which constitutes the vast majority of locally consumed dairy products. Building on the remarkable success of this project to date, Gem Diamonds purchased ten additional cows during 2018 in response to the growing demand for fresh milk in the region. With the purchase of the additional cows, we anticipate that this will increase to approximately 450 litres of milk per day.
Furthermore, as part of this initiative, we have partnered with the Dairy Farmers Association in Mokhotlong to provide mentoring, business coaching and education in animal welfare, and build on the expertise of the farmers. Currently, our challenge is keeping up with the demand of the local market. Maintaining the quality of animal feed is also an ongoing difficulty, as well as securing affordable and safe water resources for the project. While sharecropping was initially considered an option to produce feed for animals, this approach proved to be labour intensive, costly and prone to theft. As a result, farmers in the area have been encouraged to plant crops that can be used for animal feed, which can, in turn, be sold to the dairy project.
In 2019, we will hand over the project to the community, following our three-year financial investment to establish the project. Gem Diamonds will continue, however, with mentorship and training as required to ensure the ongoing viability and positive contribution of the project.