Milking their way out of poverty

Milking their way out of poverty

MOKHOTLONG – As thousands of others migrate from rural areas to Maseru in search of jobs, a group of 15 men have stayed behind – and are successfully milking their way out of poverty. Modest savings and an unshakable desire to succeed resulted in the birth of a dairy project that is tapping into a highly lucrative sector in 2011.

With help from the government and international aid agencies, the Liphamola Dairy Association is hoping to provide the answer to the unemployment woes that have forced many youths to desert home in Mokhotlong district.
Ariel Mosaase is one of those behind the project, which came after a realisation that milk shortages were in fact an opportunity for the community.
These men came with a plan to start a dairy project after realising that milk is in high demand in their area.

Locals spend M3.5 million on milk annually, according to official figures.
“The Ministry of Food and Agriculture gave us an office where we met every last Friday of the month. We decided to form an association and each member was to register after paying a fee of M200 and an annual subscription of M1 000,” Mosaase says.

Due to lack of reliable income, some members were unable to pay the subscription, which was subsequently reduced to M500.
Mosaase says Liphamola Dairy Association was born out of these monthly meetings.
To turn the dream into reality, members have decided to contribute M2 500 each as start-up capital.

“We were able to raise M80 000 in 2013, with which we were able to buy five Brown Swiss dairy cows at M14 000 each in Mpumalanga, South Africa”.
He says the cows were pregnant at the time of purchase hence they gave birth soon after arriving in the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture chipped in with land after realising the potential of the project, which was struggling with land to accommodate the herd.
“We had to work very hard to fix this site in order to make it suitable for our project,” Thabo Moleko, the deputy chairman of the association says.
The United Nations Development Programme assisted with kraals and shelter for the shepherd.

“We also wrote to Letšeng Diamond asking for assistance,” Mosaase says.
The mine promised to assist them with 30 cows, a fully furnished milking parlour, an office and the caring and feeding of the animals.
Letšeng Diamond has also pledged to provide a tractor to help produce food for the cows, veterinary medicines, a vehicle to transport milk and pay for dairy specialists, says Mosaase.

“So far Letšeng has given us 14 females and a bull. We are expecting to get 10 cows soon. In the meantime we have 17 cows that we are milking,” Mosaase says. With the help of the experts provided by Letšeng, they dispose of the cows which are not suitable for the project.
“We just sold six cows at an auction that we held last month. We were able to sell a cow for M14 000 each. We got M3 000 for four month-old calves,” he says.

The farm supplies Letšeng mine and the nearby schools and individuals with milk.
The association is planning to supply the prison, clinic and other government institutions with milk as the client base expands.
A litre of pasteurized milk is sold at M8 to community members and M13.50 for deliveries in areas such as Kao and Letšeng.
During a recent visit, thepost learnt that the farm produces over 200 litres of milk daily and the association is hoping to increase its supply due to growing demand.
Despite making huge strides, the project is still facing challenges.
“Our biggest challenge at the moment is access to land. We have asked the Ministry of Agriculture to give us more land,” says Moleko, the deputy chairman.
He says they have also pleaded with fellow residents to lease unutilised fields to the association for the production of fodder crops. Many seem unwilling to allow the association to use the fields, says Moleko.
Moleko says the vision is to own more than 50 cows, venture into production of other dairy products like cheese and yoghurt as well as to produce livestock food to mitigate expensive imports.

A company in Letšeng is assisting with milk hygiene issues.
“By 2020 milk producers will be coming to the farm to learn a lot about the production and handling of milk,” says Moleko.
The high demand of milk ensures a steady demand.

“We have learned that the district alone needs 30 000 litres of milk a month and we are unable to satisfy that demand. But if we work together in the community we will be able to satisfy the demand,” he says.
Meanwhile, Abiel Mashale, who is the Director of Lesotho National Dairy Board, said Liphamola’s milk production accounts for five percent of the country’s total milk production.

“Milk consumption is growing globally and locally. In the past six months Lesotho has imported dairy products to the tune of M98 million,” he says.
And out of this amount, M67 million is for long life imports while the rest is shared across other dairy imports.
He indicated that locally produced milk accounts for M3.5 million of the money spent on milk and there is a need to intensify and empower local farmers in milk production.

Mashale advised Liphamola to start producing yoghurt and fresh milk in cartons as they have a longer shelf life and are in great demand.
“We are already sensitising our people about appropriate ways of caring for livestock including artificial insemination” he says.

Lemohang Rakotsoane


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