Something good is happening in Marakabei

Something good is happening in Marakabei

Recently I met one of the most inspiring businessmen in Lesotho – Andree Bothma. Andre was quite excited about his new business venture under Medigrow, a Cannabis processing plant. It was quite astonishing that out of all the places in Lesotho he decided to set up his Cannabis processing plant in Marakabei.
I wondered, why Marakabei?
I was later reminded of John 1:46: “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.

But Nathanael could not fathom the idea:
He thought he knew Nazareth – those who came from Nazareth could not contribute to the economy or create beauty and art. As far as he was concerned, coming from Nazareth was like coming from the wrong side of the tracks. Nazareth was a dusty, little village, hardly worth the acknowledgement.
He thought he knew Nazareth – those from Nazareth were not “good” and Messiahs could not come from there. Philip heard his friend and was bound to make a choice. On the one hand he had an option to argue about it. He could have argued that Nazareth was really good, and beautiful, and productive. But that was not his intention.

In our day of constant debate accompanied by the relentless need to be right, Philip’s response is worth noting. Philip doesn’t defend Nazareth: “Have you ever even been to Nazareth? It is beautiful this time of year. Lots of lovely people in Nazareth.”
He simply says, “Come and see.” Don’t believe me? Come see for yourself.
Philip was wise enough not to argue, he gently invited his friend to meet Jesus: Come and see. Three words that would change Nathanael’s life. Three words that shatter cynicism. He knew that Nathanael’s perception about Nazareth would be eradicated.
I’m addicted to asking cynical questions like the one Nathanael asked about Jesus: Marakabei! I exclaimed. “Can anything good come from Marakabei?” Come and see for yourself,” says Andree Bothma, the CEO of Medigrow.
I have passed through Marakabei several times when I had to travel to Thaba-Tseka. I know Marakabei very well. It’s a little backward, rural village, and it’s hardly worth any acknowledgement.
But Bothma was very persistent in convincing me to visit the area.

“You have got to see the place Mr. Matlosa, we have turned it around,” he said.
So I decided to go and see for myself what Marakabei and Medigrow could offer. I must say I came back very excited about the area and the employment opportunities created for local people. What I saw, my eyes did not blink for days.
Medigrow holds an operator’s licence, issued in terms of the Lesotho Drugs of Abuse Act of 2008 which allows it to cultivate, extract and process hemp and cannabis for medical purposes. It is located in a beautiful, pristine natural environment – free of any historic or future chemical contamination risk.

Marakabei is approximately 2 000m above sea level, giving Medigrow an advantage of clean and dry air, significantly lower risk of mold, mites and mildew infestation. The site benefits from an abundance of clean water.
At this Medigrow is still at its commencement stage and it has not exported a single litre of extracted medical oil from cannabis. Nevertheless it’s already giving job opportunities to 400 Basotho, most of them from Marakabei. I am told once it’s fully operational it will employ about 3 000 Basotho.

This new industry will be a game-changer in the composition of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It will increase the production of our economy in the coming years. This emerging industry requires to be nurtured and managed well.
One must admit that the lack of stringent laws and regulations has attracted many entrants into this emerging industry. Several applications for permission or licences were made since the cannabis medical industry was launched by the Ministry of Health. Over 30 licences have been issued to date – a situation that is expected to lead to a fiercely competitive market that could generate up to M100 billion in annual sales within a few years.

Given this experience in Marakabei, with Medigrow, it is clear that medical cannabis is a high capital intensive business. The industry requires large amounts of investment to produce a good product. It must be done properly in order to meet international standards and be certified to be sold to the pharmaceutical industry.

If half of these licences were to fully realise their potential, the industry could employ over 45 000 people. Surely this could be bigger than the mining industry. We could generate up to M50 billion per year. The total possible tax collection per year could be unthinkable.
Lesotho introduced legislation to legalise the cultivation and use of medical cannabis in 2008 under the Lesotho, Drugs of Abuse Act. Regulations for cultivation and extraction have been promulgated and the regulations for local use and distribution of medical cannabis and hemp products are being drafted. Both sets of regulations are modelled on the Canadian framework.

Indeed something remarkable is happening in Marakabei. The village is expanding at a phenomenal rate. It’s incredible! I am yet to visit other sites that got licences and I am excited already. Our country must be able to diversify the composition of our GDP in order to create meaningful and sustainable jobs.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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