Monethi’s ‘love affair’ with farming

Monethi’s ‘love affair’ with farming

Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU – WHEN Relebohile Monethi dropped out of her Bachelor of Commerce Statistics course at the University of Free State in 2012 after failing to raise fees, it was as if her world had come crashing down.

Depressed and feeling like a complete failure, Monethi trudged back home to plan her next step.

In the meantime, her mother was frantically putting together some money to allow her daughter to go back to school.

After a year of serious soul-searching, Monethi finally went back to university only to find that the workload had almost trebled.

Monethi found that her “modules had accumulated and there was no way I could finish them within the time-frame that was left for me at university”.

“I had to come back home again with no degree and with my dreams broken,” Monethi says.

Monethi says she took that time to introspect on the way forward.

“After a lot of thinking I realised that I loved farming and decided to start something in the meantime while awaiting the right time to go back to school,” Monethi says.

She decided to produce maize and butternut.

“That project failed, the yield was not good at all but I was not discouraged as the project sparked some determination for me to try harder, learn more and do better,” she says.

And so began her love affair with farming.

Monethi says she realised she could eke a living out of the land despite failing to get any university degree.

“I told myself that even though I did not have a degree, I had learned something and the knowledge I had gained was going to help me plan better,” Monethi says.

In 2015 Monethi rented a piece of land and started Morali oa Monethi Farm (WHERE) where she produces green pepper and rears chickens on a small piece of land.

The land is about ** square metres.

“I know to a lot of people it is nothing much but this is how I earn a living and one day people will not believe me when I tell them how I started Monethi Farms,” Monethi says.

Monethi says small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs should be proud to start small.

“I am very proud of my business even though most might view it as nothing and I think fellow small-scale farmers should not be ashamed of how small they are, everything starts somewhere,” she says.

She urges those who are still planning to venture into any business not to wait for too long.

“The most important step is to start and the rest will fall into place along the way. Instead of procrastinating, wake up and do what you want to do,” Monethi says.

“I am a firm believer that if God has placed a dream inside you he will provide all the resources that you need to get you where he wants you to be.”

Monethi says when she started she did not know anything about peppers.

“I woke up and decided that I will grow them. I was determined and willing to learn, and when the harvesting season came I had the best yields ever,” she says.

“They exceeded my expectations and I made a healthy profit from them.”

Monethi says the advantage of being a small-scale farmer especially when starting is that “even if you incur expenses and things do not go well you will not have lost much”.

Though Monethi is determined to grow her business she acknowledges running a business is no walk in the park.

“I have just realised that rats from the neighbouring field are getting into my shack and killing my chickens. Sometimes I wake up and find five to 10 chicks dead and for me that is a loss, every chick and every seed counts,” Monethi says.

She says one of her challenges is the escalating cost of chicken feed.

“That is worrying and making it difficult to rear chickens. However I am trying to stay afloat.”

“There will be a lot of challenges along the way, disappointments and embarrassments but at the end of the day it is so fulfilling doing something you love,” she says.

She adds that sometimes even the people within one’s family can be a source of discouragement “but what is most important is to listen to the godly voice within and ignore what others are saying about you”.

“I had people telling me not to breed chickens because everyone was already in that business, but because I knew that I would bring a competitive edge to my business I forged forward,” she says.

“Others told me that I was wasting my time when I was planting my pepper because it was during the drought season but I still did it and at the end of the day it has paid off,” she says.

“One should not be afraid to be a risk-taker or to stand alone from the crowd in order to make it in life.”

She says she has also had to battle societal attitudes that women cannot be successful farmers and that farming is a man’s job.

“I wake up in the morning and use my hands just like every farmer but because I am a girl and apply lipstick and eyeliner some farmers, especially the males, think that I cannot succeed,” Monethi says, adding: “It is only after sitting down with me that they realise that I mean business.”

She advises small-scale famers not to fall for the trend of giving out products on credit because “we are in business and in order to stay afloat we cannot continue conducting business by giving people credit every time”.

“We need support and not to be pulled back at such a fragile stage,” she says.

Monethi supplies her chickens to street vendors selling food in Maseru and her peppers to individuals and businesses.

“I have a lot of respect for the ladies and gentlemen who are selling food in the streets of Maseru. Those people are hard workers,” Monethi says.

“It is just that as Basotho we are in the business of taking them for granted because we deem their businesses not classy enough.”

“I slaughter my chickens, pluck out their feathers, package and sell to street vendors. I even deliver and charge a reasonable price which has given me an edge against my competitors.”

Monethi says she did not even know how to slaughter a chicken when she started but she had to learn the hard way.

“This is what being in business does, it changes you,” she says.

“I am no longer a shy person because I need to market my produce and for me to achieve what I want to achieve I need to conquer my fears.”

And conquer her fears she has done!

She says it is also crucial to be creative when one is in business.

“I cannot afford a greenhouse at the moment so I opted for basic nets to cover my produce from the harsh sun,” she says.

“It is also important to use social media as an advertising platform, it is cheap and has a lot of reach that is how I have been marketing my produce and it has worked wonders.”

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