The new Garden  of Eden

The new Garden of Eden

ROMA – GARDENING is his love and passion.
Setšabi Setšabi, is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
His thoughts and actions point to one thing – his vision is that Lesotho’s agriculture can be redefined and be taken to new heights, where it can meaningfully contribute to the sustainable development of the country, create high income jobs, attract the youth, and become a meaningful player in agricultural export markets.

His philosophy is to fuse what he teaches in the classroom to what he does.
His garden is currently home to over 200 species and subspecies of plants.
He emphatically argues that Lesotho can feed itself and contribute meaningfully to international development through its horticultural produce.
As you go around with him in his yard, you cannot fail to miss the almost indefinable link between him and his plants.

He knows each one of them by name, and he knows what each can do for you.
He connects with his plants down to the soul.
He has a stern message.

“We need to change the way we think about agriculture in Lesotho,” he says.
First of all, “we need to infuse an entrepreneurial thinking into agric.”
The government’s main role should be to create an enabling environment including appropriate policies for agricultural development and appropriate support mechanisms for the realisation of the agricultural dream.

“One such institution is a Development Bank,” he suggests.
“Commercial banks make money, development banks fund ideas, they fund potential.”
But why is it important to focus on the entrepreneur?

According to him, “a government employee and an entrepreneur think differently.”
A government employee is assured of his salary at the end of the month whether he delivers or not.
An entrepreneur knows that his survival depends on whether the business succeeds or not.
True entrepreneurs are driven by passion for what they do.

They are driven by continuous innovation and sharing the fruits of their success with others.
He therefore argues that success in the agricultural sector rests on meaningful engagement with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial associations that have a passion for what they are doing
Then there is irrigation.

The potential for irrigation is huge in Lesotho.
“Why don’t we use the potential?”
He is also very philosophical about this one.

Quoting the legendary reggae singer, Bob Marley, he says “in the abundance of water the fool is thirsty”.
Lesotho has huge fresh water resources which are not tapped into for the development of the country.
The run-off water can be harnessed in our dongas and be used to irrigate nearby fields and ground water has great potential to do the same.
The natural spring water can also be collected and harnessed to go beyond the villages to the fields.

A walk through his garden then takes us to the tree nursery section where he estimates that he could have between 3000 and 5000 seedlings of peach trees.
He says ideally he would like to transplant them all to his fields in Leribe.
Some he would like to donate to a women’s cooperative that makes dried fruits in Ha-Ramabanta as a way of giving back to communities the taxes they contributed to his education.

Two questions immediately spring up, why aren’t you talking about selling them to government as most people are doing?
His response is quick and brisk — “Remember I said entrepreneurs do not think like governments”.
He argues that for many years the government has bought thousands of trees and giving them out to people to plant all over the place.
After those trees have been planted, there is no monitoring of their progress, there is no coordination on what should happen to the produce derived thereof.

So nobody knows what happens to those trees after they have been distributed.
There needs to be proper planning around the fruit value chain — this involves selection of appropriate fruit varieties that do well in Lesotho, put up appropriate agro-industries that become markets for the fruit produce, identify local and international markets to which the fruit products can be sent.

Asked as to why he keeps so many different plants in his garden he says “I practice what I preach”.
Lesotho is losing its biodiversity very rapidly, he argues.
Many of these plants need to be conserved.

He says this biodiversity is essential for Lesotho’s need to diversify its agricultural sector where the herbs can be processed into spices, essential oils can be extracted from the aromatic plants to make soaps and other things.
Finally, he notes that this country needs a quick turnaround in its thinking on agriculture and how it can meaningfully contribute to the development of this country.

Policies need to be supportive of farmers’ initiatives.
However, there is too little dialogue between farmers and government.
Government is taking its time to shift from production of maize, sorghum, beans and peas to high value horticultural produce and supporting farmers to enter into national and international markets.

Own Correspondent

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