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Rekindling hope



MASERU – WHEN Nyakallo Mokuena, 26, did not get a pass that would allow him to enrol at the Lesotho College of Agriculture in 2011, he thought he had literally hit a dead end.
His dream was up in flames. Ever since he was young, Mokuena had a passion to work the land.

Yet he knew that to be successful he would not have to rely on the traditional and archaic ways of growing crops and rearing livestock.
He needed a qualification from a reputable college that would put him on a strong footing in the cut-throat business of farming.
That was why he desperately wanted that qualification from the Lesotho College of Agriculture.
With his path blocked, Mokuena did not give up.

Four years after he finished his high school education, he enrolled at the Mahlaseli Agricultural and Vocational Institute of Excellence in Thaba-bosiu.
Mokuena, who was part of the college’s first intake, is set to graduate from the college this coming spring.
Mokuena, who is now a small-scale farmer, says the three-year training programme opened his eyes to the world of business.
He is currently growing vegetables for sale in Mafeteng.

He is also supplying cabbages and other vegetables to schools under the government’s school feeding programme.
Mokuena has also ventured into seedling production. His biggest customer is the Ministry of Forestry.

He says he is looking forward to the ministry buying his seedlings so that it can distribute them countrywide for its reforestation programme in Lesotho as well as developing orchards.
Mokuena says he wants to diversify his vegetable crops to meet growing demand.

He believes the agriculture sector, with proper support from the government, can help minimise food insecurity in Lesotho.
He also says through agriculture youth unemployment can be held at bay.

“Research shows that young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts,” he says.
Youth unemployment in Lesotho currently stands at a staggering 40 percent.

Mokuena says what he particularly liked at Mahlaseli was that the college taught him the art of producing more while using fewer resources.
That skill has often come in handy in his day-to-day activities.

He also appreciates the skills they were given to fight climate change.
Mokuena says it is quite tragic that some youths venture into agriculture when they are “oblivious of some scientific principles they have to employ to produce vegetables and other crops in general”.

“Lack of skills to make use of technology compounded by climate change has worsened the plight of emerging farmers in most rural parts of the country,” he says.
“Youths should be in the driver’s seat in terms of food security and be the key drivers for sustainable production.”
“Climate change is here to stay. We (have to devise ways of dealing with it.)”

He says since he lives in a water-stressed area, he is able to use little water optimally because he engages in Conservation Agriculture (CA).
“And the moisture lasts for a long time,” he says.

The Conservation Agriculture method seeks to maximise land use by growing crops with minimal disruption of the soil’s structure and natural biodiversity.
It has been a hit with Lesotho’s farmers over the years as it boosted crop production.

The programme was introduced in Lesotho by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to fight climate change.
Mokuena says the Conservation Agriculture programme allows him not to rely on rain-fed agriculture.
This allows him to grow crops through-out the year.

Mokuena says it is unacceptable for communities in rural areas to struggle to get adequate nutrition when they have the means to produce enough nutritious food.
He says he wants to help his community get out of this cycle.

Mokuena says he is looking forward to working with the government in providing food under the school feeding programme.
The National School Feeding Policy which became operational in 2014 outlines how key sectors should cooperate in providing healthy meals to primary school children.
The policy encourages that food stocks should be bought largely from local farmers, a policy Mokuena says will help farmers.

The new policy came into operation after the government realised that most of the foodstuffs for the 400 000 school-going children were being imported from South Africa, depriving local farmers of the much-needed revenue.

There are about 50 000 more children who benefit from the programme in pre-schools.
The school feeding policy aims to help smallholder farmers like Mokuena to increase their production levels and revenue, while also diversifying their operations into food processing.
There are at least 1445 primary schools throughout the country that are benefiting from the programme.

Mokuena says “there is a broad market at community level where local farmers including vegetable producers could sell their produce”.
“The government has introduced a feeding scheme programme in government and church-owned schools countrywide where local farmers sell their produce to those who have won tenders at those schools,” Mokuena says.

“And the market is there for everyone to grab.”  Mokuena says the skills he attained at the vocational school have allowed him to “wage war against poverty that is rife in rural communities”. “I am engaged in commercial vegetable production and I am looking forward to stretching my farming tentacles in the nearby future,” he says.
A board member of the Mahlaseli Agricultural and Vocational Institute of Excellence, ’Mantoetse Jobo, says although their institute is only three years old, “it has already made its mark towards poverty reduction and creating job opportunities”.

Jobo says they set up the institute to cater for students who would have failed to make it into tertiary institutions.
“They lose hope that they could ever improve their lives when they fail to pass their (exams),” Jobo says.
She says their school was established to cater for students “who are in despair and to rekindle hope for those who will be roaming the streets without jobs or any admission at any tertiary institution”.

Jobo says while the institute is still trying to find its feet but is already changing lives for Basotho youths.

Majara Molupe

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Why invest for the future



AN investment plan forms a critical pillar of a financial plan, says Tokiso Nthebe, a local author and financial services adviser.

Nthebe, the founder of TKO Financial Wellness and Advisory, says when people invest, they can use their money to buy assets that will increase in value over the long term.
He says these assets can help them build wealth.

“When you invest, your money starts to work for you by providing returns that will beat inflation,’’ Nthebe says.

Nthebe says there is a huge difference between saving and investing.

He says investing requires that you take some level of risk in exchange for an expected return or growth.

Nthebe says Basotho should consider many factors before they decide to start investing.

“It is important to have a clear strategy that guides your investment decisions and to work with qualified professionals,” he says.

Nthebe says one should consider their growth mind-set, investment goals, and their risk tolerance.

In addition, one should consider what kind of growth or return they expect.

He says one should find out whether the institution they invest in is licensed or regulated and how long one should invest.

Nthebe says one should further consider what risks are associated with the investment option and whether there are any associated costs.

He says it is also important to remember that investments take time.

“There are no short cuts to building wealth. Do not fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes,” he says.

Moreover, Nthebe says the investment landscape comprises commercial banks, asset management companies, and insurance companies.

He says each provides different financial products and services.

Nthebe says the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) also offers investment solutions such as treasury bills and treasury bonds that Basotho can consider.

Depending on your investment goals, he says financial service providers have a wide range of investment solutions to choose from that cater for short, medium, and long-term goals.

“I encourage Basotho to do thorough research and seek professional advice before making financial decisions,” he says.

Vince Shorb, the United States National Financial Educators Council CEO, writes that “many of the financial problems people face today started when they were young and making their first financial decisions”.

Shorb further says taking on too much debt, not investing early, and failing to plan can take one decades to recover from such.

However, it takes financial literacy to make good decisions, he says.

Financial literacy has been perceived as a tool that gives you the opportunity to be confident and empowered to live the quality of life you have worked hard for.

Shorb says one of the wisest decisions one can make to prepare for the future is to invest.

Investment has been defined as the commitment of funds with a view to minimising risk and safeguarding capital while earning a return.

Refiloe Mpobole

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When Covid-19 hit and the government shut down all gatherings in April 2020, there seemed no way out for ICONICS (Pty) Ltd, a budding events management company based in Leribe district.

They had two options: shut down or innovate to keep the business going.
They chose the latter.

Three years down the line, ICONICS (Pty) Ltd has completely transformed itself from an events management and public relations company into a manufacturing company that is now the envy of Lesotho.
“The closing of events translated into the closing of our business,” Rapitso Mosebetsi, one of the co-founders of ICONICS (Pty) Ltd told thepost this week.
Mosebetsi established ICONICS in partnership with Tumo Mahapa.

Faced with collapse, Mosebetsi say they began buying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as surgical gowns, disposal coveralls and safety apparel for resale.
Eventually they decided to manufacture the PPEs and safety clothing. That was the turning point.
But since the company was already down, Mosebetsi says diversification was a hard nut to crack.

“It became quite a long journey (for us),” he says. “We had to come up with something new for the industry.”
He says they had to overcome stiff competition from giant companies and come up with something unique that would set them apart.
“That was how thermal heating apparel was born,” he says.

“We are the first company to produce thermal heating apparel,” he says.
The company manufactures thermal clothing, which is electric clothing, using power banks of five voltages.
“The voltage is so low to electrocute a person,” he says.
The clothing also has a power button to turn it on and off.

Mosebetsi says the thermal heating apparel is on corporate clothing as well as high-visibility clothing.
Mosebetsi says they started the journey with the support of several organisations, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO), to build their capacity.
Mosebetsi says they also got mentorship support from organisations such as the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The results of years of hard work are now all out for everyone to see.

In 2022, ICONICS won the M100 000 Business Plan Competition hosted by BEDCO.
This grant enabled them to acquire land and buy five more industrial machines.
This did not only enable the company to increase their production to 100 worksuits a week, but it further created permanent jobs for five people as well as three temporary workers.

Last year, the company took part in the Exporter of the Year event hosted by the LNDC in partnership with the Lesotho Post Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mosebetsi says they won the award for Lesotho’s most innovative and versatile exporter.
He says this did not only put them in the spotlight, but it further encouraged them to do more.
ICONICS was announced as the best exporter of the year at an event hosted by the LNDC earlier this month.
Mosebetsi says this made them proud, as the award is aligned with their vision.

The award further gives the company an opportunity to participate in the regional competition.
He says this opportunity will further give the company a competitive edge in terms of production locally and globally.
“It will be an honour if we can win the regional competition,” he says.

In terms of markets, Mosebetsi says the company has had the opportunity to list their products in the African Trade Market since 2020 with the support of USAID.
This is an e-commerce platform that opens up the market for African countries to list their products.
Mosebetsi says the company did not only get publicity, but the client database also increased.
He says they moved from supplying individuals only to big companies, different organisations, and different government departments such as those involved in mining and health.

Considering the decline of the Lesotho textile industry, Mosebetsi says their secret to success has been their being innovative.
“Our sustainability is matched with innovation,” he says.
Mosebetsi says it also requires patience coupled with lots of investment in terms of time.
“Rome was not built in one day,” he says.

He says working as a team also plays a critical role.
Despite their achievements, Mosebetsi says the market for innovative industries is one of the hardest nuts to crack.
He says the company is in the process of not only making their products known but also educating people about their safety.
Mosebetsi says the other challenge is the decline of the South African Rand as compared to the US Dollar.

He says some of their materials are sourced from China.
Therefore, it is more expensive to buy such materials.
ICONICS is not only seeking to make their brand well known globally, but Mosebetsi says they are also seeking to create more jobs for our youths.

Own Correspondent

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LetsGo and Win!



LETSHEGO Financial Service has launched the LetsGo and Win loan consolidation campaign where customers win weekly and monthly cash prizes of up to M150 000.
The campaign, which was launched yesterday, will end on November 8.
The LetsGo and Win campaign rewards customers for consolidating their loans.
It is aligned with Letshego Lesotho’s version to offer competitive products that cater for the evolving needs of its customers.

The financial services company operates in Lesotho, Botswana, ESwatini, and Zambia.
The Marketing Manager and Business Partner, Tšotetsi Seema, said Letshego Lesotho is committed to delivering increasing value and options to customers.
Seema said this programme is a testament to that commitment.

“The campaign invites customers to consolidate their loans into one low and easy repayment with reduced rates and they stand to win weekly and monthly prizes,” Seema said.

“The weekly cash prizes will be won by lucky customers randomly selected and notified through Letshego Radio shows,” he said.

Additionally, he said two lucky customers will be randomly selected each month and given a chance to spin the wheel of fortune with a chance to receive a maximum of M20 000 each.

“The loans consolidation campaign makes it easier for customers to choose Letshego Lesotho as their preferred financial services partner.”

He said this innovative campaign aims to help individuals streamline their debt payment while benefiting from reduced interest rates.

“Debt consolidation can help customers get a lower monthly payment, pay off their debt sooner, increase their credit score and simplify their life.”

Letshego Lesotho’s Head of Sales, Distribution and Marketing, Motebang Moeketsi, said managing multiple loans can often be overwhelming with varying interest loans due dates and terms.

“The campaign addresses this challenge by combining multiple loans into a single, easy to manage repayment plan,” Moeketsi said.

He added that this simplification not only eases the financial burden on borrowers but also potentially leads to significant savings over time.
Moreover the new consolidation campaign invites customers to take advantage of their best-in-class financial services provided through Letshego Lesotho branch network and digital platforms.

“Letshego Lesotho is committed to increasing financial inclusion through its efforts to serve underbanked communities, promoting financial literacy and delivering positive social impacts for its customers and communities.”

Alice Samuel

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