Out of the mouths of babes

Out of the mouths of babes

Students in programme to repair farming implements………………….

MASERU –  A group of college students has come to the rescue of villagers in Matlameng, where thousands of people risked sinking deeper into poverty due to lack of functional farming implements.

For years, farming implements have been lying idle despite the dire need for their use as farmers struggled to pay for repairs. The story is changing after some polytechnic students volunteered their skills to repair farming implements for the villagers.
Last week alone, the students repaired tools for people from 20 villages in the area. Activity in the fields has since picked up as a result.

It is mid-winter and many farmers in Lesotho’s mountain foothills have tilled the land either to plant peas or to keep moisture for summer cropping.
With less than two months before August, many are already preparing for the planting of sorghum, which is one of the staple foods for Basotho.
Nyembe Phooko might no longer be the local government councillor for the area, having served from 2011 to 2017. But he is happy that residents will be able to grow both sorghum and maize for the next farming season.

The partnership between the students and the villagers began with a meeting between Phooko and Joseph Thaba, a mechanical engineering lecturer at Lerotholi Polytechnic last year.
The lecturer told Phooko his students could volunteer to repair the tools for the poor farmers for free.
“I met him last year and by now I had lost any hope that he would come back to me,” Phooko says.
“He came back with a team of zealous students and I was very happy when I saw people from 20 villages bringing their broken agricultural tools to be repaired,” said Phooko.
“This will bring changes to the lives of the people.”

One of the volunteers, Mathe Matela, said the students plan to take the programme countrywide.
“It costs M15 000 to buy a new oxen-pulled planter and a minor repair may cost a farmer M2 500,” Matela, who leads the team under an organisation called Students Entrepreneurial Community Hand (SECH), said.

“Many of the villagers cannot afford those high costs and we feel that it is our responsibility to use our newly gained skills to help where we can,” he said.
Matela said they started with some villages deep in the mountains before proceeding to Matlameng.
“It is gratifying to see people wholeheartedly appreciating your work,” said Matela.

Four more rural areas in Mantšonyane, in the Thaba-Tseka mountainous region and Tša-Kholo in Mafeteng are on the group’s plans for this year.
Motsoetla Khama is one of the beneficiaries after the students repaired a scotch-cart he inherited from his parents in 1993.
“My fields are far away from home and I am thankful that they came a long way from Maseru to help us here in the mountainous region,” said Khama.

The Matlameng’s Chieftainess ’Masokane Makhethe commended the students.
“I like the spirit these children are showing,” she said.
SECH Lesotho is a network of students at tertiary institutions who, under the guidance of their faculty advisers, offer their time and skills to help with community projects with the aim of enhancing sustainable development.

Thaba said the students are driven by a vision of “breeding the next best generation of business leaders” from both the students body and targeted communities. SECH, which was registered in 2010, gives its members the opportunity to transfer classroom knowledge into real life financially and environmentally impactful projects, said Thaba.
Thaba said they are targeting at least 600 beneficiaries per year and put back into function M1.2 million worth of farming implements this year alone. The project, which started in June and ends in September, boasts of 160 volunteers.

Staff Reporter

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