The orchard Letsatsi planted

The orchard Letsatsi planted

ROMA – THE competition involved 123 participants from 49 different countries in four continents.
Out of all these, Letsatsi Lekhooa, a former National University of Lesotho (NUL) Mathematics and Computer Science student was number one after beating 122 other entrants.
That is thanks to his work on sustainable agriculture, a development of his own orchard and community service in his village!
By winning, this fellow effectively booked his ticket to a Global Heroes Platform conference to be held in spring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“That is where I will receive my award,’’ Letsatsi says.

The Global Heroes Platform is a youth-led organisation, with a mission to empower young people around the world on climate change and entrepreneurship.
In the competition, which ran between April 12, 2018 and May 12, 2018, folks from Mexico and Cameroon came second and third respectively, with Letsatsi from Lesotho comfortably at the top.
People were supposed to read the stories of the 123 youths and vote for the person with the best story.

Letsatsi received the thumbs up by getting 3 840 votes from all over the world to a Mexican’s 3 200 and Cameroonian’s 1 618 !
The winning was not a matter of chance.

This is the man that seems to have captured the art of getting the often conflicting business interests and community service in a single bowl.
Just to pick one facet of his work, take his company, Agri-Tech.
The company seeks to fuse technology and agriculture.

Today, we will just focus on the agric side of the company that already has an orchard of around 1 000 trees, with nearly 10 000 more in the pipeline.
“At home, we are a family of farmers,” he told his audience.
“From a young age, we used to grow vegetables to earn a living.”

That is how a soft spot for agriculture was instilled in this young man’s heart.
Perhaps he inherited the “agric genes” from his mom — like-mother-like-son.
His mom did not only love agriculture.

“When she was elected a councillor in her area, she helped the community to develop fruit orchards which unfortunately some members of the community destroyed,” he says.
But even when he was at the NUL, the agri-genes he inherited from his mom had already gotten the better of him.
“I was already part of an organisation that was helping communities around the Roma Valley in agric and other forms of entrepreneurship.”
After he completed his studies at the NUL, he was more on an agric-fever than ever before.
“I started organising other young people in my area to grow fruit trees.”

You see, there is something uniquely funny about Lesotho.
It is a country with pristine environment for growing all kinds of fruits; peaches, apples, grapes, pears, the list is endless.
But, lo and behold! We still import all these!

But thanks at last, the young generation is set to dramatically change that mindset.
Back to the story, Letsatsi had a different view of community partnership.
He formed a team of 10 young people but instead of the whole team owning one business, “each of them had to own their own business”.
That was stroke of genius!

It was meant to reap the benefits of working together while avoiding the pitfalls of doing the same.
“The pitfalls are well known, the perception that one member is not doing enough or is doing too much and so on,” you know the so-called tragedy of the commons, everyone’s business is nobody’s business.
The group was set up with the aim of sharing ideas and solving problems together.
“While businesses are separate, problems may not be. Even when problems are separate, we assist each other in solving those problems,” he says.
So the idea was to start ten orchards, but only four survived including his.

Now the time came for him to show his ability to understand and persuade the community.
Those who ever had to deal with communities will tell you one unmistakable thing, communities can be a headache sometimes.
No sooner had he planted the trees in his unfenced orchard than the community started having their animals in the area, destroying some of the trees.
But he had a plan.

“I involved the community from the start of the project,” he says.
“For instance, I used money I made from my other business to pay them when they dug holes for trees.”
When their animals ransacked his young orchard, “I talked to each one of the animal-owners, young and old, about the benefits of the orchard. It was there, not for my own benefit but for them, I told them. The trespassing slowly subsided.”

When he was making new seedlings for transplanting, which will yield 15 000 trees, “I did not go far to get seeds”.
“Actually, I bought seeds from the community households.”
As if that would not be enough, “I am only going to plant the 10 000 of the 15 000 seedlings.”
The rest he will give back to the community.
It is no wonder, that his story captured the imagination of many around the world.

Own Correspondent

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