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  • Lesotho Upgrading Sanitary and Phytosanitary System

    Lesotho Upgrading Sanitary and Phytosanitary System

    After almost two years of intervention from the SADC-EU TRF which started in 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in the Kingdom of Lesotho, through the Department of Agricultural Research, has fulfilled some of the most critical requirements for international trade.

    Lesotho acceded to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership in May 1995. Owing to this, the country agreed to be bound by the rules and regulations related to multilateral trade. On the other side, it became a contracting party to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in October 2013, which is the body that oversees all the plant health issues, particularly that enables smooth and safe trade. Acceding to these two international organisations was not enough, as the country had to observe requirements and standards for better trade facilitation, thus exporting and importing commodities that meet the international required Sanitary and Phytosanitary standards.

    The SPS team (Phytosanitary and Quarantine Unit) had to create awareness about Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements throughout the country targeting farmers and other relevant stakeholders. Ten awareness workshops were held in the 10 administrative districts of the country and in total 197 people participated in these workshops of whom 104 were women.

    Engagement with other border agencies to ensure that they understand issues on SPS was done through combined training with customs officers and five officials were involved, of whom three were women. The unit also distributed promotional materials to retailers and vendors to educate them about the importance of SPS. Awareness creation was also enhanced through visiting points of entry and exit in the districts (Mafeteng, Leribe, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing). At all these points, sensitisation of clientele (retailers, clearing agents, exporters/importers and preferred traders) was undertaken as a means of raising awareness.

    Regional Integration Significance

    The project was aimed at shaping the country’s international trade by ensuring smooth trade and opening up markets for citizens globally that have been hindered by a failure to comply with international standards, in particular SPS measures. Currently, the country, through SPS system, has gained the much-needed recognition to the point where bilateral trade extends to the trading partners in Europe (Germany and UK), Asia (India), United States of America and the SADC region, in particular, South Africa and Swaziland, sharing information and ironing out the differences concerning SPS matters.  Beyond the success achieved to improve its SPS system with the help of EU funding under the TRF, the country will continue to progress in order to match best international practice when it comes to SPS matters. The growth of SPS in the Kingdom of Lesotho means the growth of the economy of the country by protecting its agriculture and natural resources against pests.

    From the SPS team perspective, success has been anchored on the support from the line ministry, understanding from the departmental management, and good planning of activities from the Unit. This enabled the timely consumption of the EU-SADC TRF funds, even though allocation did not cover all our requirements. The positive response we got from the stakeholders also contributed to the success as the catchwords were international trade and plant health, which are the major challenges to many stakeholders, particularly in the farming fraternity.

    Few obstacles such as timing of the release of funds, which sometimes affected the schedule of activities, were encountered along the way but we managed to overcome them. Also, delays from the suppliers, particularly in delivering laboratory equipment, was experienced. Communication and timely reporting helped to iron out most of the challenges.

    Allocation of a budget to SPS could have been done differently compared to Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT). DAR thinks the duration of the project could have been extended from the onset. Marketing of the TRF project could have been magnified compared with what has been the case.

    SPS Border Inspection

    The recruitment of two Phytosanitary border inspectors at two commercial borders (Maputsoe and Maseru) became the other immediate achievement of the project. Placement of the adequately equipped border inspectors, which are the first line of defence against the introduction and spread of plant pests into the country, was a milestone. The department managed to track the trend of plant-based commodities coming into the country with better-regulated flow. This changed the statistics of the number of Phytosanitary Import Permits which increased exponentially from an annual cumulative of 20 to 1 000 per annum, and for Phytosanitary certificates which increased from 100 to 400 plus annually.

    lesotho 2.png
    Two inspectors and a SADC TRF official

    Improved Laboratory Facilities

    Improved laboratory facilities and practices with contemporary equipment installed were another testimony to the success story of the project. This happened after the procurement and capacitation of the staff in certain aspects like the proper use of the High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) (in the picture attached) equipment for the analysis of samples for pesticide residue and mycotoxins, as well as the use of other laboratory equipment. Establishment of new testing disciplines on plant microbiology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, and nematology were introduced. Further setting up of border mini-labs for screening at points of entry, enhanced the capacity of the Agricultural Research Department to monitor plant and plant products movements.

    High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

    Improved Regulatory Framework to Support SPS Activities

    Harmonisation of the Agricultural Marketing Act that controls exports and imports in Lesotho with our regulatory framework to support SPS activities was discovered while trying to harmonise plant heath regulations with other relevant legal frameworks while verging upon Plant Protection Policy and Act thereof. The improved regulatory framework facilitated the incorporation of the plant import permit and phytosanitary certificate into customs system (Asycuda) through harmonised system (HS), which has been a major achievement in promoting collaboration and close working relationship with customs officials.

    Capacity Building Enhanced

    Capacity building through training was also considered a landmark success. The target beneficiaries in this regard were technical and laboratory staff as well as newly recruited border inspectors. Three laboratory technicians and two inspectors, comprising three women and two men, undertook three-week intensive training on pesticide residue analysis through the use of HPLC at KEPHIS Centre of Excellence in Kenya (see picture). The same team also undertook a benchmarking study visit to the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), which helped to share experience on how a single window at the port of entry operates, particularly at the Chirundu One Stop Border Post bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe. The team learned how the entire SPS system is run with emphasis on border and inland inspection.

    The project aimed at improving not only the services rendered to the stakeholders from different walks of life but also targeted the traders to bring closer the facilities that will help them in reaching out to the international market with a convinced level of compliance. Largely the WTO article that talks to inspection and testing, by procuring equipment that will serve that purpose has attained the desired result.

    Pictures below - Chirundu One Stop Border Post. On left, meeting with the plant health inspector and

    Customs officer. On right, traffic at the border

    lesotho 4.png  lesotho 5.png

    The project focused on addressing the following challenges;

    2.1 Lack of SPS awareness within different stakeholders across the board. Institutions dealing with SPS matters have been there for quite some time but previously only the animal health sector was given priority in funding at the expense of plant health issues which had much less resources allocated in the national budget.

    2.2 Ports of entry or borders have  not been manned, hence there were no border inspectors to inspect plants and plant products as well as other regulated articles to guard against exotic plant pests and food safety challenges such as maximum residue levels or mycotoxins (aflatoxin). Quarantine facilities were therefore not available.

    2.3 Poor laboratory facilities to test and identify plant pests. This also covers equipment and other amenities that help to comply and make scientific inferences to support the recommendations for use in international trade.

    2.4 Lack of technical capacity within plant health inspectors in both quantity and quality. One of Lesotho’s key challenges is the lack of technical capacity in terms of adequate numbers of trained and qualified staff in the entire plant health section handling SPS matters. This is largely due to high turnover of well trained staff leaving for greener pastures where there’s better remuneration.

    2.5 Lack of an appropriate policy and regulatory framework: For a long time, Lesotho has lacked an appropriate policy and regulatory framework to deal specifically with SPS matters and its institutional framework was not clearly defined.

    The support of the TRF has assisted Lesotho address most of these challenges, however, the question of sustainability remains to be addressed as the project winds down.

    Beside the TRF support to enhance capacity on SPS issues, Lesotho also managed to access other initiatives in this area.  One of the initiatives that expedited the accession of Lesotho to the IPPC in 2013 was the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation (PCE), which is a management tool, developed by the IPPC, which helped countries rapidly improve their National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPO) and entire phytosanitary system. Around 4 million maloti, which is equivalent to EUR400 000, was granted to the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) to upgrade laboratory facilities, create public awareness on SPS countrywide, improve phytosanitary and quarantine (certification, testing and inspection) services as well building the capacity of the SPS staff. These were done to meet the international requirements and standards for smooth and safe trade.

    The employees of the institutions have been keen to achieve good results from this project after many cases of failing to provide certain services to the clientele of DAR, which resulted in them failing to secure markets for their products. All these results were noted because of the enthusiasm shown by the institution, its plant protection team and from support provided by the following:

    • the Government of Lesotho (pictured herein, the Principal Secretary, officiating the border inspection launch) and Steering Committee comprised of directors from each component;
    • the project management unit which was fully available to the project; and
    • the SADC Secretariat through its  technical support and monitoring missions.

    Conclusion and Next Steps

    The SADC TRF has taught us, as plant health team responsible for Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues, a lesson that nothing is impossible through teamwork. The SPS system was barely existing, but through the funding provided by the EU, we now have something to show regionally and internationally. Infrastructure development and capacity building enhanced, Lesotho is no longer lagging behind in terms of SPS issues as a result of financial assistance from the TRF Project.

    To continue the foundation that has been laid by the TRF Project, DAR will continue to grow the system and human capacity, by so doing more market opportunities for Basotho who aspire to trade safely  and smoothly regionally land internationally will be created. Compliance with SPS requirements will always be key thereby meeting international standards for both emerging and well-developed business persons in the country. DAR will continue to create awareness concerning SPS issues because the more people are informed the better the decision they make on exports and imports. 

    Contact information:

    Name: Mr Solomon Motlatsi Molatela                                                                                         

    Organisation: Department of Agricultural Research

    Phone:  +266 22312395 / 58965880                                                                   

    E-mail:  mmolatela@yahoo.co.uk                                                                    

     

     

    After almost two years of intervention from the SADC-EU TRF which started in 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in the Kingdom of Lesotho, through the Department of Agricultural Research, has fulfilled some of the most critical requirements for international trade.

    Lesotho acceded to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership in May 1995. Owing to this, the country agreed to be bound by the rules and regulations related to multilateral trade. On the other side, it became a contracting party to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in October 2013, which is the body that oversees all the plant health issues, particularly that enables smooth and safe trade. Acceding to these two international organisations was not enough, as the country had to observe requirements and standards for better trade facilitation, thus exporting and importing commodities that meet the international required Sanitary and Phytosanitary standards.

    The SPS team (Phytosanitary and Quarantine Unit) had to create awareness about Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements throughout the country targeting farmers and other relevant stakeholders. Ten awareness workshops were held in the 10 administrative districts of the country and in total 197 people participated in these workshops of whom 104 were women.

    Engagement with other border agencies to ensure that they understand issues on SPS was done through combined training with customs officers and five officials were involved, of whom three were women. The unit also distributed promotional materials to retailers and vendors to educate them about the importance of SPS. Awareness creation was also enhanced through visiting points of entry and exit in the districts (Mafeteng, Leribe, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing). At all these points, sensitisation of clientele (retailers, clearing agents, exporters/importers and preferred traders) was undertaken as a means of raising awareness.

    Regional Integration Significance

    The project was aimed at shaping the country’s international trade by ensuring smooth trade and opening up markets for citizens globally that have been hindered by a failure to comply with international standards, in particular SPS measures. Currently, the country, through SPS system, has gained the much-needed recognition to the point where bilateral trade extends to the trading partners in Europe (Germany and UK), Asia (India), United States of America and the SADC region, in particular, South Africa and Swaziland, sharing information and ironing out the differences concerning SPS matters.  Beyond the success achieved to improve its SPS system with the help of EU funding under the TRF, the country will continue to progress in order to match best international practice when it comes to SPS matters. The growth of SPS in the Kingdom of Lesotho means the growth of the economy of the country by protecting its agriculture and natural resources against pests.

    From the SPS team perspective, success has been anchored on the support from the line ministry, understanding from the departmental management, and good planning of activities from the Unit. This enabled the timely consumption of the EU-SADC TRF funds, even though allocation did not cover all our requirements. The positive response we got from the stakeholders also contributed to the success as the catchwords were international trade and plant health, which are the major challenges to many stakeholders, particularly in the farming fraternity.

    Few obstacles such as timing of the release of funds, which sometimes affected the schedule of activities, were encountered along the way but we managed to overcome them. Also, delays from the suppliers, particularly in delivering laboratory equipment, was experienced. Communication and timely reporting helped to iron out most of the challenges.

    Allocation of a budget to SPS could have been done differently compared to Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT). DAR thinks the duration of the project could have been extended from the onset. Marketing of the TRF project could have been magnified compared with what has been the case.

    SPS Border Inspection

    The recruitment of two Phytosanitary border inspectors at two commercial borders (Maputsoe and Maseru) became the other immediate achievement of the project. Placement of the adequately equipped border inspectors, which are the first line of defence against the introduction and spread of plant pests into the country, was a milestone. The department managed to track the trend of plant-based commodities coming into the country with better-regulated flow. This changed the statistics of the number of Phytosanitary Import Permits which increased exponentially from an annual cumulative of 20 to 1 000 per annum, and for Phytosanitary certificates which increased from 100 to 400 plus annually.

    lesotho 2.png
    Two inspectors and a SADC TRF official

    Improved Laboratory Facilities

    Improved laboratory facilities and practices with contemporary equipment installed were another testimony to the success story of the project. This happened after the procurement and capacitation of the staff in certain aspects like the proper use of the High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) (in the picture attached) equipment for the analysis of samples for pesticide residue and mycotoxins, as well as the use of other laboratory equipment. Establishment of new testing disciplines on plant microbiology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, and nematology were introduced. Further setting up of border mini-labs for screening at points of entry, enhanced the capacity of the Agricultural Research Department to monitor plant and plant products movements.

    High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

    Improved Regulatory Framework to Support SPS Activities

    Harmonisation of the Agricultural Marketing Act that controls exports and imports in Lesotho with our regulatory framework to support SPS activities was discovered while trying to harmonise plant heath regulations with other relevant legal frameworks while verging upon Plant Protection Policy and Act thereof. The improved regulatory framework facilitated the incorporation of the plant import permit and phytosanitary certificate into customs system (Asycuda) through harmonised system (HS), which has been a major achievement in promoting collaboration and close working relationship with customs officials.

    Capacity Building Enhanced

    Capacity building through training was also considered a landmark success. The target beneficiaries in this regard were technical and laboratory staff as well as newly recruited border inspectors. Three laboratory technicians and two inspectors, comprising three women and two men, undertook three-week intensive training on pesticide residue analysis through the use of HPLC at KEPHIS Centre of Excellence in Kenya (see picture). The same team also undertook a benchmarking study visit to the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), which helped to share experience on how a single window at the port of entry operates, particularly at the Chirundu One Stop Border Post bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe. The team learned how the entire SPS system is run with emphasis on border and inland inspection.

    The project aimed at improving not only the services rendered to the stakeholders from different walks of life but also targeted the traders to bring closer the facilities that will help them in reaching out to the international market with a convinced level of compliance. Largely the WTO article that talks to inspection and testing, by procuring equipment that will serve that purpose has attained the desired result.

    Pictures below - Chirundu One Stop Border Post. On left, meeting with the plant health inspector and

    Customs officer. On right, traffic at the border

    lesotho 4.png  lesotho 5.png

    The project focused on addressing the following challenges;

    2.1 Lack of SPS awareness within different stakeholders across the board. Institutions dealing with SPS matters have been there for quite some time but previously only the animal health sector was given priority in funding at the expense of plant health issues which had much less resources allocated in the national budget.

    2.2 Ports of entry or borders have  not been manned, hence there were no border inspectors to inspect plants and plant products as well as other regulated articles to guard against exotic plant pests and food safety challenges such as maximum residue levels or mycotoxins (aflatoxin). Quarantine facilities were therefore not available.

    2.3 Poor laboratory facilities to test and identify plant pests. This also covers equipment and other amenities that help to comply and make scientific inferences to support the recommendations for use in international trade.

    2.4 Lack of technical capacity within plant health inspectors in both quantity and quality. One of Lesotho’s key challenges is the lack of technical capacity in terms of adequate numbers of trained and qualified staff in the entire plant health section handling SPS matters. This is largely due to high turnover of well trained staff leaving for greener pastures where there’s better remuneration.

    2.5 Lack of an appropriate policy and regulatory framework: For a long time, Lesotho has lacked an appropriate policy and regulatory framework to deal specifically with SPS matters and its institutional framework was not clearly defined.

    The support of the TRF has assisted Lesotho address most of these challenges, however, the question of sustainability remains to be addressed as the project winds down.

    Beside the TRF support to enhance capacity on SPS issues, Lesotho also managed to access other initiatives in this area.  One of the initiatives that expedited the accession of Lesotho to the IPPC in 2013 was the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation (PCE), which is a management tool, developed by the IPPC, which helped countries rapidly improve their National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPO) and entire phytosanitary system. Around 4 million maloti, which is equivalent to EUR400 000, was granted to the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) to upgrade laboratory facilities, create public awareness on SPS countrywide, improve phytosanitary and quarantine (certification, testing and inspection) services as well building the capacity of the SPS staff. These were done to meet the international requirements and standards for smooth and safe trade.

    The employees of the institutions have been keen to achieve good results from this project after many cases of failing to provide certain services to the clientele of DAR, which resulted in them failing to secure markets for their products. All these results were noted because of the enthusiasm shown by the institution, its plant protection team and from support provided by the following:

    • the Government of Lesotho (pictured herein, the Principal Secretary, officiating the border inspection launch) and Steering Committee comprised of directors from each component;
    • the project management unit which was fully available to the project; and
    • the SADC Secretariat through its  technical support and monitoring missions.

    Conclusion and Next Steps

    The SADC TRF has taught us, as plant health team responsible for Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues, a lesson that nothing is impossible through teamwork. The SPS system was barely existing, but through the funding provided by the EU, we now have something to show regionally and internationally. Infrastructure development and capacity building enhanced, Lesotho is no longer lagging behind in terms of SPS issues as a result of financial assistance from the TRF Project.

    To continue the foundation that has been laid by the TRF Project, DAR will continue to grow the system and human capacity, by so doing more market opportunities for Basotho who aspire to trade safely  and smoothly regionally land internationally will be created. Compliance with SPS requirements will always be key thereby meeting international standards for both emerging and well-developed business persons in the country. DAR will continue to create awareness concerning SPS issues because the more people are informed the better the decision they make on exports and imports. 

    Contact information:

    Name: Mr Solomon Motlatsi Molatela                                                                                         

    Organisation: Department of Agricultural Research

    Phone:  +266 22312395 / 58965880                                                                   

    E-mail:  mmolatela@yahoo.co.uk