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Bean deal for Lesotho farmers



MASERU-A local food packaging company has come to the rescue of farmers who were struggling to get a reliable market for their beans because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Tasty Food Packers has sealed a deal to buy beans from local farmers.
In the past two years, farmers were supplying beans to the World Food Programme (WFP)’s school feeding programme.
But this year’s harvest came after schools closed in March due to Covid-19. 
As such hundreds of farmers found themselves stuck with their harvest.
Some, like ’Mapula Makara, started selling to individuals who bought small quantities.

“As a farmer I am now relieved that there is a market for my produce, as through LENAFU we were able to meet with a local food packer who is willing to buy from us,” Makara said.
“The problem that we had in the past months of not knowing what to do with our sugar beans is now in the past.”

“What is left is for us to work hard and increase our production in the next season,” Makara said.
“At the end of the day we should all benefit, avoid having one person benefit a lot more than the other.”

That misery ended last week when farmers negotiated with Tasty Food Packers to buy their beans.

Khotso Lepheane, the Programmes Manager of the Lesotho National Farmers’ Association (LENAFU), described the agreement as “a milestone”.
He said the deal comes at a time when most farmers were struggling to sell their beans.

“Some were even selling them for very little just so that they could get money. With this new market not only will farmers have a buyer for their produce but they will also be selling them at an acceptable price,” Lepheane said.

Lepheane said another crucial aspect of the meeting was about knowing the quantities of beans available in the country.
“We are still expecting numbers from farmers across the country. So far we know that we have over 800 bags of 50 kilograms of beans, we expect this number to rise significantly when all numbers are in,” Lepheane said.

The agreed price, he said, was that the packer would pay M16 per kilogram.
“The M16 is the selling price floor. No farmer should go below that. Inconsistency in prices is not good for our industry hence we had to nip it in the bud before it has significant damage,” Lepheane said.
“As farmers, at this point we are satisfied and determined to increase our produce.”

Lepheane also applauded the government’s recent decision to buy maize and beans from farmers.  
“We hope that when time comes for implementation farmers will be notified so that they can take their produce to designated areas of sale on specific dates,” Lepheana said.
He said failure to consult and communicate properly with farmers can taint the whole initiative.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement needs clear policy guideline for implementation otherwise only the few with connections will end up benefiting.”

Daniel Chakela, a farmer in Leribe, said they are grateful for this opportunity as they still have a lot of beans in storage.
“Some company bought a hundred and eighty bags weighing fifty kilograms of beans but only 18 farmers benefitted. Hundreds more are still left out, so this new market will relieve farmers of market related stress and enable them to focus on production,” Chakela said.

Chakela added that the loss of the WFP market had left them stranded as they had tried to get into commercial farming and for the past  two years they were seeing significant growth amongst farmers.

’Matseleng Keele, Officer at Tasty Food Packers, told thepost that indeed they have opened their doors to bean farmers to supply them with produce.
She said this is the beginning of a long journey ahead.
“We are looking for a lot of beans and specifically first grade sugar beans.

We are asking bean farmers with stock to come see us,” Keele said.
She added that they are already receiving beans from farmers.  “They are allowed to bring their produce to Maputsoe, or organise other farmers to keep them at a certain storage facility and we can come there,” Keele said.
“Individuals with at least hundred bags will be met halfway in terms of transport.”

She said they are happy with the quality of beans they have been receiving.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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