MASERU – Leutsoa Khobotlo, 26, is an accredited soil analyst with a passion for farming.
Over the past few years Khobotlo has taught himself the science of soil testing, analysing the pH of the soil and its suitability to grow certain crops.
Soil pH is a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a soil.
On the pH scale, 7.0 is considered neutral while anything below 7.0 is considered acidic and anything above 7.0 is alkaline.
But without any formal qualifications, Khobotlo had to rely on the little Chemistry knowledge he had gleaned from class during his high school days to test soil using litmus paper.
To do so he had to buy large amounts of distilled water, an exercise which was not cost effective.
To deal with the high cost, Khobotlo had to devise alternative ways of testing soil without using distilled water.
And that is how his own unique distillation system was born.
He says while reading on the internet, he realised he could analyse soil using red cabbage juice.
And thanks to that simple juice, Khobotlo can now successfully analyse the soil pH helping scores of farmers in rural villages.
Khobotlo is among 44 Basotho youths who were awarded certificates after receiving business training provided by Maluti Mountain Brewery under its flagship Kick-Start Project.
The project is being handled in collaboration with UNESCO under its Student Training for Entrepreneurship Promotion (STEP) and the Ministry of Sports and Youth.
Kick-Start is a programme run by the MMB that seeks to assist youths between the ages of 18 and 35 with grants of up to M100 000 to start and enhance their own businesses.
The project is intended to address the issue of unemployment in Lesotho.
To date, 16 youth companies have been assisted with funding.
Under the programme, youths receive one-year mentorship by an expert in business management. The project, which began in 2014, is now in its third round.
The third round was launched in June this year and 673 applications were received from across the country.
The youths were from 41 companies.
The course started on October 17 and ended on November 2.
The MMB Managing Director Mopati Mpedi said under the programme they are building small home-based businesses that allow self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on big firms and government for employment.
“This is our contribution to sustainable employment creation. Kick-Start falls under the growing world, where we want to contribute to the livelihoods of the communities we operate within,” Mpedi said.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Youth, ’Malerato Khoeli, said the Kick-Start applicants are being recognised for completing the students training on entrepreneurial promotion.
The two-week training programme offered basic training in business.
Some of the trainees are already running their own small businesses, while most of them will be starting soon.
“The course you have gone through is well packaged for all of you, I hope that it has opened your eyes enough to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit that you all have,” Khoeli said.
Youth unemployment is not only a critical concern for the Ministry of Gender and Youth but for the government as a whole, she said.
“It is imperative to the government of Lesotho to leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and address the latent risks of unemployment and social instability,” she said.
Khoeli said it is good that the private sector is helping the government by creating jobs.
“The government will not achieve much without the support of the private sector in the country,” Khoeli said.
“I therefore would like to applaud MMB, as one of the private sector organisations that contributes to the promotion of the development of youth entrepreneurship,” she said.
“I am gratified to also learn that this year there has been a great improvement in attracting youths from other districts of the country,” she said.
“My dream is to see all youths from around the country thinking about what businesses they can get into to improve their economic status,” Khoeli said.
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.
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.
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.
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