A new window of opportunities

A new window of opportunities

…Wool and mohair business remains lucrative despite challenges

MASERU – FOR many farmers and other stakeholders in the wool and mohair industry, the current situation has left them in limbo, with some contemplating quitting the trade due to regulations they say are retrogressive.
But for some, instead of lamenting, they are taking to heart the adage that if given lemons, then make lemonade.

One such person is Nteboheleng Ntakatsane. The 33-year-old from Mohale’s hoek says the wool and mohair business remains “a precious gold” despite the controversial regulations.
The regulations, termed Wool and Mohair Regulations 2018, have been the subject of criticism, especially from farmers who view them as unfair.

Ntakatsane says she established Ntebo Wool and Mohair Company in 2005 as a registered company, dealing with the production of Merino sheep and Angora goats.
She says what differentiates private traders from the government’s shearing studs is that private traders do not discriminate when buying wool and mohair, while the government rejects some products as low quality.
“We buy every class (of wool and mohair) because we realised that the market still needs those classes,” she says.

Ntakatsane says as private traders, they pay farmers immediately upon delivery.
Ntakatsane is not new to the industry. As a child, she used to help her father who was a private trader and wool and mohair sale was the only thing that guaranteed food on the table and supported their education.
After she completed her COSC in 2009, Ntakatsane decided to join her father in the business on a full time basis.

She says she decided to join her father full time because she was unhappy with the work ethic of some relatives who were working with him.
“Sometimes when you are working for a family business you tend to relax as long as the family needs are being covered,’’ she says, adding that such tendencies were oftentimes a result of people putting money ahead of the well-being of the business.

Ntakatsane says after venturing into the industry, she committed to developing her skills in the trade.
“I attended three training workshops from the Ministry of Small Business… I realised I could not get into this business with abysmal ignorance. I wanted to run this business professionally not just using experience,” she says.
She says her dream was to acquire a licence when she ventured into the industry since they were operating without one.
“We were moving from one door to another collecting the wool and mohair,’’ she recalls.

But at the back of her mind was something more professional, and dreamt of owning a shearing stud.
She says getting a licence is tough due to the cumbersome process. One has to have a shearing stud and the necessary equipment in place, while officials from the ministries of trade and health should evaluate facilities and equipment.

Also, facilities should not be close to a community, school or health institution before a licence can be issued out.
“This is because wool and mohair defile the environment,’’ Ntakatsane says.
She says she has few regrets since venturing into the business. It’s not only her life that has received a boost. Ntakatsane has managed to change the lives of other people as well.

Her business now employs three permanent people and 13 temporary workers.
These include people who shear animals, clean wool and mohair and undertake other processing errands.
Ntakatsane says during the shearing season, most community members know that they would not go to bed hungry because of the “piece jobs” that she offers.
But, she reckons she is still far from achieving her dreams, mainly because of financial constraints.

As for the new and controversial regulations, Ntakatsane says the move does not affect her business in a big way.
“Whether we trade outside the country or in the country, that does not make any difference,” she says.
“It actually cuts the transportation costs.”
Ntakatsane says following the implementation of the repealed regulations, they were forced to take their products to the Lesotho Wool and Mohair centre at Thaba-Bosiu.

In the past, they were taking their fibre to South Africa.
Ntakatsane says after the auction, the centre paid them the full amount for the deliveries unlike at the government shearing studs where they have to wait for the auction without knowing the amount they are supposed to earn.
She says one of the challenges that she faces as a woman in the industry is travelling long distances because most farmers live in remote areas.
Some places, she says, can only be reached on horseback.
“It takes a courageous woman to ride a horse,” she says.
At times, she has to walk long distances to reach farmers.
“After travelling those long distances, I can feel the pain in my feet but there is nothing I can do since it is a business,” she says.

Gender can also be an issue, with some men challenging her on the basis of her sex and age.
“They sometimes challenge me, they want to know whether I know how to operate the shearing stud as a woman and whether I know about wool and mohair classes and processing them,” she says.
She says she has been able to overcome such doubts by being transparent.

Usually, she is the one to impart knowledge to the farmers despite the doubts about her capabilities.
Before she buys their products, she first teaches the farmers about the product before entering into an agreement with them.
“I only buy if both parties are satisfied,” she says.

Refiloe Mpobole


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