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We’ll ban import of agric products, says RFP

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MASERU – THE Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) says it might consider banning the importation of agricultural products from South Africa to promote the domestic market when it wins power in October.

The party’s spokesman, Mokhethi Shelile, said this in an interview with thepost in reaction to the launch of a new agricultural produce market centre for the northern region last week.

Shelile, who was once the head of the Domestic Investment Promotion Division at the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), told thepost that such a ban would help boost local farmers.

He said for that to be effective, there would be need to support local production as the first stage.

“This is the major challenge for the market sectors currently,’’ Shelile said.

He said since the farmers’ capacity is still low, only a few products such as potatoes are banned this season. Shelile said the production sector will need special attention to help the market centre.

Once they form government, he said they will immediately implement the idea to boost local farmers.

Shelile said an RFP government is going to establish markets where farmers will be able to sell the products even before they can start with the production so that they secure the financial means of increasing the production.

He said they realised that there are farmers who are still losing on their products because they cannot access markets.

“We want to give farmers a market even before they can start,’’ he said, adding that this will encourage farmers to increase their capacity and improve their standards.

The Lesotho National Farmers Union (LENAFU) programmes manager, Khotso Lepheane, said the setting up of the market centres will boost the farming industry in Lesotho.

“For the longest time this concept has been a good idea,” Lepheane said.

“Many potato farmers, amongst others, have benefited from this (Maseru) centre,” he said.

However, he said this concept introduction lacks a strong system which will encourage the retailers and the final consumers to buy from the market centre.

“This has caused a stagnation of products from reaching the consumers,” he said.

“This has discouraged many farmers from taking their products in the markets centre since it takes time for the products to be sold out and this might lead to damage of products.”

He said most of the farmers still consider the old method much safer. As much as the initiative is good, he said the concept cannot achieve its goal unless the market is channelled to market centres rather than seeing retailers and consumers importing what the country is producing.

“This is one of their biggest diversification mechanisms to commercial agriculture hence there are still some pricing challenges,” he said.

However, he said the cost is still bearable as compared to the role the centre plays. He said farmers still consider it as part of the change not a hiccup. Despite the challenges, he said they are still playing their role to educate farmers on how to improve their capacity and quality.

He said they also teach farmers on how the commercial sector works so that the pricing issues cannot tarnish the good initiative. He said they are also working with different departments to smoothen the supply chain.
Lepheane said they want to see more market centres being established in all the regions.

The Manager of Maluti Fresh Produce, Nthako Supi, said the market centre has the potential to encourage high productivity and boost the economy of the country. He said for the past 10 years, they were able to gather about 240 farmers who were growing crops, vegetables and fruits.

He said this year they were able to gather about 87 potato farmers and over 6 200 bags were sold out. He said they have a transparent system which allows the farmers to know and see how their products were sold and how they work. He said the centre is only entitled to the commission of the money they generated when the product is sold.

“The product belongs to the farmers until it has been sold out,’’ he said.

As much as they tried to improve their system for the sustainability of the centre, he said they still have some challenges which need to be addressed for its sustainability. He said the consistency and low productivity from the farmers’ side as one of the major challenges.

The setback, he said, is that the place where the market side is located is far from the traffic and shops hence the number of customers is still low. Supi said the major challenge is the tight competition they had with the South African producers.

He said most of the retailers and final consumers still consider buying the products in South Africa rather than supporting the market centre.

“We currently have more potatoes in our storage which are not performing so well in the market due to tight competition,’’ he said.

He said this is triggered by inconsistency of local farmers in terms of quality and quantity.

“Consumers buy what attracts their eyes, so if today consumers get a good quality product and tomorrow they get something different they lose hope in us,’’ he said.

“For the market centre to continue functioning, the market has to be regulated.”

The Public Relation Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lereko Masupha, said Lesotho still needs to import basic products from South Africa because local farmers are not able to meet demand.

“However, our consumption is so high hence we still need products from other countries,” he said.

Refiloe Mpobole

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Short courses for ex-mineworkers

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THE Lesotho Diamond Academy has introduced mining short courses, particularly to ex-mineworkers, to help them re-enter the mining sector.
The Essential Introductory Courses, which will run for two weeks, will start from June this year. The courses are meant particularly for people who worked in mines in South Africa.

The Academy’s CEO, Relebohile Molefe, unveiled the new courses during the graduation of 18 students last week, four of whom are now armed with Cutting and Polishing certificates while 14 graduated with Rough Diamond Evaluation certificates.

The new courses include the Essential Certificate in Diamond Grading and the Essential Certificate in Diamond Evaluation.

“The decision to offer these courses aligns with the Academy’s dedication to bridge the gap and ensure that individuals with valuable experience can seamlessly reintegrate into the diamond and jewelry industry,” Molefe said.

“By providing short courses, the academy does not only impart essential skills but also contributes to the sector’s growth by reactivating experienced individuals who had lost access to the industry due to no formal documents showing their experience in the industry,’’ she said.

During the graduation celebration, Molefe also unveiled a new sponsorship programme for various courses.

One outstanding student previously sponsored, who demonstrated exceptional proficiency in Rough Diamond Evaluation, was granted a fully funded bursary to further his studies into Advanced Certificate in Round Diamond Brilliantering.

In pursuit of its multifaceted objectives, one of which is to serve as a catalyst for employers in the diamond and jewelry sector to devise skills development strategies, the Academy is set to sponsor four additional students in the upcoming intake starting from February 15.

Two of these bursaries will afford a 30 percent discount on overall fees for two students progressing from Cutting and Polishing to advanced studies in Rough Diamond Evaluation.

Two will be fully funded bursaries to study for a Certificate in Diamond Cutting and Polishing.

Additionally, the institution will extend two fully funded bursaries to the public, fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities.

The Academy says it plans to announce the search for two deserving Basotho individuals on its social media pages and website.

“Importantly, the bursary programme bears no age restrictions, reflecting a commitment to fairness and inclusiveness, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all, irrespective of age,” it says in a statement.

The Academy says it seeks “to be a dynamic force in shaping the industry, not just within national borders, but also on regional and international platforms”.

“The emphasis on competitiveness within these markets underscores the institution’s commitment to producing graduates who are not only proficient but also globally competitive,” the statement reads.

“The recent graduation ceremony symbolises a milestone in the Academy’s journey. The success of its students is a testament to the quality of education and the foresight embedded in the curriculum.”

The Academy says its decision to sponsor further education for outstanding performers reflects a belief in nurturing talent and contributing to the continuous improvement of the diamond industry.

The Lesotho Diamond Academy was founded by the late Mpalipali Molefe, a prominent educator, diamond trader and an MP, who recognised the imperative to elevate professionalism in the diamond industry.

Staff Reporter

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Bank hands over uniforms to students

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THE Lesotho Post Bank donated uniforms to students at Leqele High School worth a staggering M60 000 as part of its Back-To-School campaign.
The bank said it did this “to keep needy children in school and to promote their education”.

A teacher at the school, Tšepo Semethe, said the uniforms will likely motivate the students to work harder in their studies.

Semethe insisted on giving the bank the names of the students so that it could check their performance at the end of the year.

“At Leqele High School, we work very hard because what we want is excellence above all. To us, hard work pays,” he said.

The bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Molefi Khama, said they are getting old, they will soon retire and Lesotho Post Bank will be in the hands of these children.

He pleaded with the students to work harder.

“This is why we decided to come here to support the students in their education so that when coming to school, they should be confident,” Khama said.

“We are watching you and waiting on you,” he said.

The school’s head prefect, Tholoana Monatsi, said from now on, “no student will be identified by what they wear”.

“(Lesotho) Post Bank made us one and we thank them for that because what we wear cannot stand before our education. We indeed thank you and forever you will hold special places in our hearts,” she said.

A parent, ’Marorisang Latela, said they were very grateful for the gift from Lesotho Post Bank adding that they must also donate to other schools.

Minister of Trade, Mokethi Shelile, promised to go back to the school to discuss how the children could learn in comfortable surroundings.

Relebohile Tšepe

 

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Mamello School of Special Needs wins prize

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MAMELLO School of Special Needs is the first-place winner of Standard Lesotho Bank’s Scaled-Up Pitching Den held at Maseru Avani on Tuesday.
The school has secured a grand prize for an all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya to participate as a finalist representing Lesotho at the Standard Bank Africa Awards.

The school, pioneered in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic through Zoom classes, deals with children who live with conditions such as autism, attachment disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) dyslexia, Down syndrome and slow learners.


STKTM Solutions claimed the second-place spot, receiving a commendable M10 000, while Masia Farms secured third place and a M5 000 prize.


Pheello Masia of Masia Farms, thanked Standard Lesotho Bank for backing their vision and that of other Basotho entrepreneurs.


He acknowledged that the bank’s faith in their endeavours serves as a source of inspiration, propelling them to work harder and foster growth within the community.


The event, aimed at fortifying support and fostering regional integration for Basotho entrepreneurs across the African continent, showcased the bank’s commitment to driving the growth of Lesotho.


Malatola Phothane, Head of Enterprise Banking at Standard Lesotho Bank, set the tone in his welcoming remarks.


“As Standard Lesotho Bank, through business and commercial banking, we strive to turn possibilities into opportunities,” Phothane said.


“Lesotho is our home, and we drive her growth,” he said.


His words resonated with the bank’s dedication to nurturing local talent and fostering economic development.


Phothane acknowledged the eight finalists, commending them for their resilience and passion for their businesses.


He emphasised how each entrepreneur had stood their ground, displaying knowledge and unwavering commitment.


The recognition not only highlighted the achievements of the finalists but also underscored the bank’s role in recognising and uplifting the entrepreneurial spirit within the community.


Aliciah Motšoane, founder of Prestige Furnitures and Sentebale Gap Funeral Services, played a significant role at the event as a motivational speaker, sharing her entrepreneurial journey filled with challenges and triumphs.


She recounted her humble beginnings when she was selling bread in high school, leading to the establishment of Prestige Furnitures in 1998.


Despite facing a significant setback after her shop was burnt down during the riots and incurring a loss of M5 million, Motšoane never gave up.


She said business is always a demanding endeavour adding that it needs hard work and a unique mindset.


She urged entrepreneurs to embrace their roots, seek inspiration, and persevere through challenges.


The keynote speaker, the bank’s Head of Business and Commercial Clients, Keketso Makara, said the bank is committed to foster a thriving business environment, highlighting the pivotal role of youth collaboration across diverse economic sectors.


Makara said their mandate aims to empower youths in steering the private sector towards growth, contributing to economic diversification.


Makara urged the eight finalists to actively involve bankers in refining their proposals for maximum impact on economic stimulation and sustainable development.


The bank said the Scaled-Up Pitching Den not only served as a stage for entrepreneurs to present their ventures but also acted as a driving force for networking, collaboration, and collective empowerment.

Staff Reporter

 

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