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Lemohang Rakotsoane

BUTHA-BUTHE

’Mamotebele Ratšele has always been a resilient person but after months of knocking on doors for a job in Maseru she had lost hope.

So she packed her few possessions, including the Graphic Design Degree from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, and went back home in Butha-Buthe.

Ratšele says she was however not bitter because she was not the only graduate whose persistent job hunt had come to naught.

Lesotho’s unemployment rate stands at 25 percent but the proportion of youths (15-24) who don’t have a job is a staggering 33 percent. Among female youths like Ratšele the figure is 40 percent.

The economy is not growing fast enough to create jobs for the thousands of graduates produced every year.

Back home Ratšele decided to try earning a living the way her forefathers did, from the land. But hurdles soon started popping up even before she could put anything in the ground.

The first problem was that her family’s fields were far from the water source, making it impossible for her use them for horticulture.

Then there was the reality check: she knew nothing about farming especially one as technical as market gardening.

Her solution came in the form of a retired agriculture teacher who stayed in the village. They partnered and Ratšele thought the project was about to start. Yet her plan to lease land from people whose fields were near the water source proved difficult.

“As an aspiring farmer, people were very reluctant to lease their fields to us hence they only decided to give us their fields which were no longer producing quality crops,” she says.

The biggest problem however came after she had managed to secure the fields. Ratšele and her partner soon realised it takes more than land and skill to start an agribusiness.

They were fast running out of money and banks were reluctant to lend them any.

The partners had poured all their savings into seedlings and fertilisers, leaving almost nothing for operational costs.

Still they were however not deterred.

“Life does not allow us to save and have enough money to start our own businesses or pursue our ideas and if you wait until you have more than you have today you will wait forever,” Ratšele says.

Without enough money they found themselves having to constantly plead with landlords who wanted to kick them off their land.

“That in itself was a setback because at the end of the month they were demanding their money and threating to destroy our crops when we failed to pay on time,” she says.

Their problems did not end there.

“About 300 of our cabbage seedlings died due to harsh weather conditions, it was very hot and they just died. That was when I understood the saying do not count your chicks before they are hatched”.

“To us every seedling had a price tag and we were hoping to get as much as we can to help sustain the following growing season.”

The problems persisted. They found that they were wrong in their market analysis. They had thought the villages near their small farm would be their major market but the first harvest proved that they were wrong.

“People in our area did not buy our produce and that we did not expect or saw coming,” Ratšele explains.

“When this happened we had to go to town to look for a market to sell our produce and luckily we were able to get a deal from the fruit and vegetable stores”.

After securing a market for their vegetables Ratšele and her partner saw another opportunity to sell peaches.

“Unfortunately, sometimes we would go for some time without the peaches being sold and they would rot. That was when we decided to start making juice”.

Last year they got funding from the Smallholder Agricultural Development Project (SADP) to buy the necessary equipment to establish a juice making plant.

“We received about M270 000 to buy the equipment that we needed and slowly but surely we have been able to secure most of the needed equipment and hopefully by September we will start making juice on a bigger scale,” Ratšele says.

Currently they have been producing juice and ginger drink which they are selling at garages in Butha-Buthe.

“We have received good feedback that our juice is in demand, people like it. However, now because it is winter the consumption of juice has declined,” she says.

Ratšele says there is a lot of potential in the agriculture sector and the youth should not be afraid to get their hands dirty.

She says unlike with the vegetables, when the locals were reluctant to buy, with the juice things have turned around.

“We realised that our peach juice was selling better than the apple juice we made with imported apples,” she says.

Their plan is to make tomato juice, carrot and pumpkin juice.

She urges the youth to “take matters into their own hands and create their own jobs”.

“We are the future and we should start building the future we want today. We have heard that the government can no longer afford to hire us. Let us create our own employment with brilliant ideas that we have.  Let us stop running after politicians and focus on our future,” Ratšele says.

She adds that people should not be shy to ask and share information they have because “the time to keep information to ourselves is way gone”.

“We should help each other to work on our dreams so that we can one day defeat this escalating unemployment problem.”

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King launches Lesotho Nation Brand

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KING Letsie III launched the Lesotho Nation Brand yesterday which he says has identified four main pillars which form the foundation of the national vision for a prosperous and thriving Lesotho.

These pillars are investment, trade, tourism, development of local products, and patriotism.

“They will be the cornerstones upon which we will build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” the King said.

“In investment we recognise the vital role that it plays in driving economic growth and creating opportunities for our people,” he said.

“By fostering a conducive environment for investment, we will attract both domestic and foreign capital, fuelling innovation, job creation, and accelerated growth across all sectors of our economy.”

The king said trade, in this increasingly interconnected world, serves as a catalyst for progress and prosperity.

He said through strategic partnerships and trade agreements, we will expand our market reach, promote our unique offerings, and ensure that Lesotho-made goods and services are attractive, competitive and sought after in global markets.

He said Basotho will continue to harness their God-given natural resources to drive economic growth and social transformation, and where appropriate, utilise those natural resources to create industries and businesses that can expand export offerings.

“We have always believed that our country is blessed with an array of breath-taking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and a people whose hearts are warm and hospitable,” he said.

The King said all of these qualities and attributes are valuable ingredients for building a prosperous tourism industry.

Under this pillar, he said, Basotho will endeavour to showcase the beauty and diversity of Lesotho with the aim of attracting visitors from far and wide.

He said this will undoubtedly generate growth in Lesotho’s tourism industry and will create much needed economic opportunities for local communities.

“I am very much aware that we take immense pride in the craftsmanship and ingenuity of our people,” he said.

“This pride has to be supported and matched by a strong commitment to champion local products and industries in order to empower Basotho entrepreneurs, promote sustainable livelihoods and preserve our heritage for generations to come.”

Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister Sam Matekane said for Lesotho to truly prosper as a serious contender on the world stage, “we need all Basotho to stand united behind Lesotho Nation Brand”.

The Lesotho Nation Brand was spearheaded by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LDNC), which is mandated to promote trade and industry for Basotho.

Staff Reporter

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Powering dreams!

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STANDARD Lesotho Bank, Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), and the Revenue Services Lesotho will provide M1.4 million for this year’s Bacha Entrepreneurship Project.

This was announced by the BEDCO CEO, Lemphane Lesoli, at the 2024 BEP launch in Maseru on Tuesday. The fund will be distributed among five aspiring businesses that will benefit from the project this year.

“This is to indicate significant opportunity for individuals to show innovative ideas and turn their dreams into reality,” Lesoli said.

BEP is a joint venture between Standard Lesotho Bank, Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL) and BEDCO. It was introduced in 2014 to bring a positive change and create opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Lesoli said with an investment of M8.8 million, they have supported the dreams and ambitions of over 28 businesses while at the same time providing employment to over 103 young individuals.

The call for proposals was opened to all industries until June 28, 2024.

All the industries countrywide are invited to submit their proposals.

“Whether you are passionate about agriculture, tourism or any other sector, we invite you to submit your innovative ideas,” Lesoli said.

“This is your chance to turn your vision into reality to ensure your creativity and contribute to the economy of this country,” he said.

“Your ideas have the power to shape our future and create positive change within our community. Let’s redouble our efforts to empower our aspiring entrepreneurs.”

Manager of Public Relations at the RSL, Tšepang Mncina, said the proposals will be taken for screening to select those who qualify and those who do not.

Then the panel of adjudicators will assign those proposals to shortlist 50 people.

The 50 people will have to draw their proposal because some people know nothing about their ideas and who their markets will be.

After that they will be trained so that they can be good at writing effective business proposals.

The proposals will be back to the adjudicators to adjust the top 15 that will go through pitching and psychologic tests to see if they are real entrepreneurs.

The top five will be selected and awarded a sum of M1.4 million.

Relebohile Tšepe

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The road to recovery

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THE Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Business Development, Thabo Moleko, says cohesion among key stakeholders is critical to the revival of the textile sector.
Moleko was speaking at two consultative meetings held this week as part of the Expanding Enterprises Participation in Textile and Clothing Global Value Chain project.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC), the technical partners in the project, coordinated meetings.

The consultations are a critical step towards addressing the concerns and priorities of employers and workers in Lesotho’s textile industry.

Held on Tuesday, the first meeting brought together employers in the sector.

Trade unions met on Wednesday. A joint meeting of businesses and unions will be held today. The textile project is a subcomponent of the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI), a government and World Bank-funded project that seeks to build a vibrant and sustainable private sector that delivers shared economic growth.

Moleko told both meetings that the consultations are critical to the successful implementation of the Enterprises Participation in Textile and Clothing Global Value Chain project which seeks to revive the textile industry.

He said Lesotho’s textile sector is currently in the doldrums as it struggles to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, wars across the globe, supply chain problems, economic challenges, declining consumer confidence and rising inflation.

In addition, Lesotho faces stiff competition from countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritius and Madagascar which have vibrant textile sectors.

Moleko said the growing power of global apparel-producing giants like China, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam has made the prospects of Lesotho’s textile industry bleaker.

He said the project is meant to reposition the sector so it can compete in the global market. The dialogue, he said, creates the platform for Lesotho to “take advantage of new opportunities emerging from the reorganization of GVCs (Global Value Chains).”

The ultimate goal, he noted, is to expand business opportunities to “reach out to new markets, improve enterprise-level productivity and employment conditions”.

His sentiments were echoed by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Palesa Matobako, who spoke at the same meetings.

Matobako said the meetings were meant to ensure that the project achieves its objectives of enhancing productivity, improving employment conditions and enhancing the sector’s overall competitiveness.

“The ultimate goal of this initiative (the project) is to expand enterprise participation in the global textile and clothing value chains,” Matobako.

The project will focus on workplace collaboration, total quality management, resource efficiency and cleaner production, occupational safety and health and better workforce management.

Staff Reporter

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