When farming is therapeutic

When farming is therapeutic

MASERU-A HUMAN resources practitioner by profession and a farmer by accident.
After spending over 20 years working in human resources, Koenene Leanya’s best friends these days are animals.

Ducks, turkeys, free range chickens and pigs are what Leanya and his wife ’Matšoanelo have been spending their time with for the last three years.
“Farming is therapeutic,” says Leanya, whose family has been surviving on farming for the past three years.

The family runs small farms, where they also grow crops such as vegetables in Khubetsoana and Ha-’Mamathe in Berea.
Describing himself as an accidental farmer, Leanya showed no interest in animals while growing up.

“I hated it as a teenager, especially when it disturbed my fun moments on Saturdays,” he says, recalling his high school days when he used to stay with an aunt who worked at a veterinary clinic in Hlotse.

“As expected, there were dogs to look after and cows to milk but I just wanted to chill after school playing volleyball. I couldn’t as the cows would be waiting to be milked at home,” says the 43-year-old whose family also runs a fruits and vegetables business in Maseru.
Thanks to nudging by his wife, Leanya is now absorbed in animal and crop farming.

“But being a curious individual, I quickly realised the potential of livestock and crops, especially when other normal corporate experiences didn’t work as expected,” Leanya says.
The family’s first major farming operation as ambitious novices then was 500 broilers in early 2018.

“But we pulled through as we received training, hands on approach and passion,” says Leanya who holds a BA in Public Administration from the National University of Lesotho and a Masters degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa.
The project soon grew to include pigs, ducks, and later turkeys, free range and light Sussex chickens.

“After several successful runs, we have halted our broiler production mainly due to lack of running water, which is critical, while seeking remedies and assistance,” he says.
“I love birds, which started as a hobby which my wife introduced us to by buying 10 ducklings, which quickly and easily grew to over 100 in a year,” he says.

The ducks were decimated by a disease that killed 70 of 80 of the birds two months ago.
“We desperately searched for solutions by talking to other farmers, self-diagnosis, and visiting the vet at the Ministry of Agriculture, who did post mortems on some carcasses,” he says.

“It was devastating but I learned a lot from that experience,” he adds, stating the family’s ambition to grow the duck population to more than 4 000 ducks in a year.
“My dream and vision is to lobby the local communities and land owners for a strategic partnership which will see their land being productive again and all of us benefitting,” says Leanya, who counts on his family for support of the venture.

Because the business is so lucrative, he has no intention of returning to the corporate sector, where he left after “my seemingly comfortable corporate life unexpectedly came tumbling down”.
“That was when I realised that farming is not only a fall-back position but a more sustainable source of livelihood and an empowering one as in the process we get to contribute to our own food security. I only realised as an adult that farming is life, a worthwhile business venture, if done right.”
He says “oddly”, he found farming therapeutic.

“Personally, I healed through interaction with my animals and crops. Nurturing and seeing them thrive despite many problems along the growth journey fulfils me,” he says.
“And that resilient spirit in crops and animals reassured me that the journey of life may be hard and long but it is worthy and possible through perseverance,” added Leanya, who looks up to NUL lecturer Setšabi Setšabi “as he ventures into the unconventional route with farm products often neglected, underrated or taken for granted by Basotho”.

Managing the venture is certainly no walk in the park “as it needs an observant individual, who persists, learns, consults and is not afraid to get dirty”, said the man who has permanently dumped his suits for overalls and boots.

He says he researches a lot as an avid reader, noting that he had planned to attend a number of agricultural shows such as Bloem Show, Nampa in Bothaville, and Royal show in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa.
He says although the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown severely affected the business, it has also been an eye opener.
“We have to start producing crops often used lettuce, red onion and be independent as our food security depends on it.”

He says he appreciates the government’s efforts help farmers, although conditions for the assistance sometimes leave some behind.
“Only a few privileged individuals get to benefit while the majority remain outside yet they have land and animals. I always wonder why these educated professionals don’t try to design something specific for Basotho farmers instead of copying and pasting donor or western world concepts such as the demand for leases and company registrations,” he laments.

In his other world as a retailer, he enjoys interacting with his customers as this helps him to grow both personally and professionally.
The name of his enterprise, Kingdom Farm, was inspired by his passionate patriotism for the Kingdom of Lesotho, “which is fuelled by the spirit of Morena Mohlomi and his student, our founding father Morena Moshoeshoe”.

“So my principles are aligned to their values – in fact I am finalising registration for PhD studies with a topic on the life and values of Morena Mohlomi.”
Also he says being a Christian he believes in the Kingdom of God.
“Everything about me is Kingdom-aligned.

’Mapule Motsopa

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