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Majoro pledges to back farmers

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MASERU-THE government will provide a 60 percent subsidy to farmers to secure inputs for this year’s cropping season.
Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro said this as he donated 12 bags of fertilizers, six bags of beans and maize seed to six young farmers on Tuesday.

Majoro said it is imperative to intensify the country’s efforts in agriculture to ensure Basotho have enough to eat as well as export.
“There will be several efforts by the government to encourage and enable farmers to intensify their agricultural efforts,” Majoro said.
“The first is that farmers across the country will only pay 40 percent for seeds and fertilizers as the government has subsidized them with 60 percent,” he said.

Another contribution by the government is that with the assistance of the Lesotho Post Bank farmers will be able to buy tractors from the government.
“We are also working tirelessly with local businesses and farmers to try and bring workshops here,” he said.

“The biggest concern farmers have at the moment is that they are unable to fix farming equipment due to closed borders because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Majoro added that the government is also committing to buy food from farmers that will be issued as food parcels to the vulnerable public as a means of solving the problem of access to markets by farmers.
He said over the years more and more land lay fallow and that has to come to an end.

“We have a lot of land, all we need to do is to use it to produce food and not leave it unfarmed year after year,” he said.
“We seriously need to start producing food and minimise reliance on South Africa.”

Handing over the agricultural inputs to the six young farmers, Majoro said Lesotho’s state of food security is critical because of poor rainfall last season which has now been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We were only able to produce a bit over 30 000 tons of food when the country needs 200 000 metric tons,” Majoro said.

“My biggest fear and that of the government because of the prevailing pandemic is that one day we might wake up and be told we can no longer buy food from South Africa,” he said.
Mabohlokoa Pii from Mafeteng, the only woman who received seeds and fertilizer, said Basotho should not wait for the rain but go to the fields.
“Farming is a win and lose game. We do not control rain,” Pii said.
“What we can do is to play our part and plough our fields so that when rain comes our crops will grow.”

Pii, who started farming two years ago, said she is proud of what she harvested last season despite the late and low rainfall.
“My maize and sorghum harvest was not good, I ploughed late but I still got more than I expected,” she said.

“I have 50 bags and 22 kilograms of beans,” she said, adding: “I am hoping for a better harvest this year.”
She said the seeds and fertilizer she received will be used well.
“Last year I used 12 bags of 10 kilogram of bean seed, six bags of fertilizer and five litres of pesticide on a 12 acres land,” she said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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A sweet coffee spot in Thetsane

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MASERU – A unique coffee shop deep in Thetsane West in Maseru. This is not just a regular coffee shop; it is a specialty coffee shop that also offers Neapolitan style pizza.

That is where the uniqueness comes in.

It is owned by Sehlabaka Rampeta and Lebohang Moiloa, two friends who studied different courses but were brought together by a common love – love of coffee and pizza.

The shop has been operating since May this year.

“I do not know what coffee did to Sehlabaka but he is always on coffee and he makes the best sour-dough bread I have ever tasted,” Moiloa said.

“So, we decided that since we already had an idea why not turn it into a business?” he said.

They said that the way they make their pizza is different from how everyone does their pizza.

“We probably do the quickest pizza in the country, our pizza is ready within six minutes from when the customer orders, it is out, fresh, delicious and arguably the best pizza in the country,” Moiloa said.

They said they are very particular about their toppings, they do not just marsh in things and call it pizza but they make sure that the added toppings complement each other.

The two said people may think they want to sound fancy by saying they serve specialty coffee.

They indeed sell specialty coffee because their aim is not just to sell but to also open an educational space for people who are interested in coffee.

“Not that we want to sound fancy or anything but we are so far the only specialty coffee spot in town and we do not just sell coffee but we want to establish a sort of an educational hub for people who are interested in coffee, that is why we have picked specialty coffee”, said Moiloa.

They said that people could go online and check what specialty coffee is then come for tasting and sample what they have.

Several online sources define specialty coffee as a term for the highest grade of coffee available, typically relating to the entire supply chain, using single origin or single estate coffee.

The term was first used in 1974 by Erna Knutsen in an issue of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal.

All around the world, Knutsen (1021 – 2018) is known as the godmother of specialty coffee.

She was the first to give a name to the Specialty Coffee Association movement, coining the term “specialty coffee” itself, and she ceaselessly advocated for the values of quality, identity, and distinction in coffee.

Sehlabaka said that primarily they serve the Thetsane West community but their target market is everyone who is interested in coffee, who likes trying out new things and “people who have curious palates”.

“We are a pretty open space, we are a pretty an inclusive space, everyone is welcome”, said the two owners.

The two owners said they are working on being an open space for local artistes and youths to showcase their talent and also create space for exhibitions while people have specialty coffee and Neapolitan pizza.

“We want to create a healthy and welcoming environment for everyone because the support we have received so far has been amazing and we are learning every day,” said Sehlabaka.

Tholoana Lesenya

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New e-commerce platform for small businesses

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MASERU – The Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) will work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist small businesses to trade globally through new e-commerce platforms.

The acting UNDP Resident Representative, Nessie Golakai Gould, said the UNDP has a long history and extensive experience in supporting the government of Lesotho and Lesotho communities.

“The UNDP’s support has been in various initiatives through different pillars of economic growth governance amongst others,” Gould said.

She said the UNDP has developed a new strategic plan 2022/2025, employing three enablers of digitilisation, strategic innovation and development financing as drivers of change.

She said the UNDP has also developed several digital solutions for the government of Lesotho in health, community policing, and some information systems.

She said this was to capture and analyse data to help strategic delivery of different ministerial mandates including the MSMEs database for the Ministry of Small Businesses and waste management information system.

“Based on this experience, it was imperative for the UNDP Lesotho to partner with private sector entities, particularly those in the ICT and telecom sectors like ETL,” she said.

She added that this was crucial to provide both technical support and any required resources.

She said the new MOU will support the UNDP Accelerator Lab Initiative which seeks to support and grow women-led enterprises in Lesotho.

She said this initiative named “Her Empire” which was established in May 2022 has enrolled 18 women who lead their own enterprises in different business sectors.

She said the main objective of the initiative is to ensure that women-led enterprises improve their business capacities so that they transform into iconic business frameworks pioneered by women.

She said this will enable women to compete at the highest level of service provision, including participation in public procurement processes.

“Covid-19 though devastating, has opened up technological opportunities for businesses, where we saw the rise in e-commerce,” she said.

She said this collaboration will assist in responding to some of the emerging issues faced by women-led small businesses while also enabling the generation of employment opportunities.

She said this collaboration will facilitate access to simple digital and mobile technology-based applications to enable community development and participation in national development programmes.

The chief executive officer of Econet Telecom Lesotho, Dennis Platjees, said ETL is in the process of digital transformation.

Therefore they have to be in a position to assist Basotho in small businesses, individuals and businesses to utilise digital services.

He said they had created a platform which will enable Basotho businesses to trade globally.

He said they had developed a platform that will first allow two women to ensure that their products are available country wide and globally.

He said within two to three months, over 200 businesses should be on the platform.

He said they will provide further support to such businesses to get funding for their products.

Refiloe Mpobole

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M780m to boost small businesses

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MASERU – THE Government of Lesotho has received M780 million (US$45 million) financing from the World Bank to implement the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI) Project.

The project starts this month.

Trade Minister Dr Thabiso Molapo said “entrepreneurship is the main driver of economic growth”.

“It is also a factor that makes communities more vibrant, inclusive, and secure,” Dr Molapo said.

He said these are some of the reasons that motivated the design of the CAFI Project, and they are confident as the ministry that the initiative is going to address the challenges faced by Basotho business people, especially women and youths.

“This facility will be an entrepreneurship knowledge hub and business incubator that will work with entrepreneurs to help them learn how to turn their ideas into enterprises,” he said.

Dr Molapo said this initiative has come at an opportune time when the country is facing serious socio-economic challenges including the scourge of poverty and high rate of youth unemployment.

He said this is by far the biggest and the most transformational intervention that is designed to address lack of access to business support services and financial products in Lesotho.

The World Bank Country Director, Marie-Françoise Marie-Nelly, said the money will not only promote business but further improve the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Marie-Nelly said the project is targeting youths and women.

“This will help Basotho to participate in the development of wealth by turning their ideas into business,” she said.

“This will also be addressing the challenge of inequality in the country.”

She said they are also ensuring that the initiative is connected globally so that entrepreneurs can have access to global markets.

The Project Manager of Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification, Chaba Mokuku, said the project started on September 2 and is expected to run for the next six years.

He said they evaluated the economic performance of Lesotho over the decade prior to Covid-19.

He explained that in 2012, the economic growth was negatively affected by the political instability.

In 2020 and this year, the situation was exacerbated by Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.

“This also affected our performance in terms of doing business,” Mokuku said.

Mokuku said the new competitiveness and financial inclusion project was then built on the previous Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project Phase II.

He said it was designed to improve the business environment for firms, strengthen select government institutions and further diversify the economy.

He said the business environment has been improved in areas such as horticulture and tourism.

Mokuku said the new project’s objective is to increase access to business support services and financial products for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Mokuku said the project is composed of scaling support for business and MSMEs by enhancing an entrepreneurship hub and seed financing facility.

It will also scale the Lesotho enterprise assistance programme Lesotho Enterprises Assistance Program (LEAP) for MSMEs.

Mokuku said the project also seeks to explore SME participation in high potential chains where they will focus on the textile and horticulture sector.

He said there are currently 42 active textile firms after eight were shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Basotho only own six out of 42 firms.

“We want to encourage Basotho to venture into the textile sector.”

The Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank, Michael Ehst, said Lesotho entrepreneurship ecosystem is currently in the activation phase where there is limited start-up experience, low start-up of around M1 000.

He said they want to focus on increasing the start-up output and early stage funding.

He further said they are seeking to activate entrepreneurial minded people and grow a more connected local community that helps each other.

Refiloe Mpobole

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