All eyes on ganja cash

All eyes on ganja cash

Weed powers dreams of a better future……………

MARAKABEI – LIKE many people in his community, Thabang Marakabei has his eyes on marijuana money.
But unlike most villagers here, Marakabei is not planning on growing the herb or leasing land to commercial growers.
The 18-year-old plans to get a piece of the cake as a downstream beneficiary by moulding bricks.

Medigrow Lesotho, which is growing marijuana on a commercial scale, has rented 66 hectares from villagers to grow weed for medicinal purposes for export to Canada.
Most of the villagers who have leased their land are using their proceeds to improve their environment by building new houses or improving existing ones.
“I became aware that those people have money and obviously will want to build houses,” Marakabei says.

“I realised that brick-making firms are far away from here, tens of kilometres away, and I saw a business opportunity.”
Marakabei’s small brick plant is situated in the valley that runs through Marakabei village, along a small stream which he says always has running water.
The location of Marakabei’s plant at the centre of the village provides a proximity to villagers that could help him grow his business.

“When they first started building houses with concrete blocks, I observed that they travelled far away either to Mantšonyane, Thaba-Tseka or to Maseru,” he says. “I decided to make bricks here so that they cut transport costs.” With about 500 people each earning M2 500 every month and over a 100 more getting M6 000 twice a year, Marakabei is certain a substantial portion of these earnings will trickle down to his brick-making business.

“I know that people want to build houses and they will never stop building as long as they have money. Supplying building material is the business to go for,” he says.
Marakabei is a rural farming village deep in the mountainous region of Lesotho, beyond the popular snowy Thaba-Putsoa ranges, where black basalt is the main building material.
There are a few old concrete block houses that were built decades ago when many local men were employed in South African mines.

Ever since many stopped migrating to South Africa following a wave of retrenchments in the 1990s, less of these concrete block houses are sprouting.
The only major building projects in the village seem to be at the local Nōka-Ntšo Primary School, which was built about three decades ago.
There are also a few old grocery shops that are no longer operating and a health clinic, built with concrete blocks as most people returned to their traditional black basalt.

Now, marijuana has provided them with another chance to continue building with concrete blocks – thanks to Medigrow Lesotho.
When thepost visited the village Marakabei was busy mixing cement with concrete preparing to make bricks.
He had completed about 400 new bricks. A further 500 blocks which he said had already been paid for were stashed nearby.
He proudly pointed at some new houses in the village, which he said were built with the bricks he made.

“I started this business at the beginning of this year when I could no longer go to school,” he says.
Marakabei dropped out of secondary school because of his family’s financial constraints.
His parents’ fields are not in ’Matsaile valley, where Medigrow has hired land.
“I am 18 years old and I am a grown up man who need not depend on parents. I have to work for my food,” he says.

Others in his age group are thinking of going back to school to take full advantage of the marijuana boom.
Lebohang Seitlheko, a 22-year-old who did his matric at Thabeng High School in Morija, says marijuana farming has given him the motivation to go back to school to study agricultural science.
“I know that this project requires individuals who have the knowledge of the work, people who are qualified for that job, and those who have some experience,” Seitlheko says.
“I did my Form E last year at Thabeng High School but I did not obtain good results. That is why I was not able to go to university or college,” he says.

“But the presence of this project in my village has opened my eyes. People who have researched on medicinal marijuana went to school and if I want to work with them or compete with them I must go back to school,” he says. His friend Mpho Khabolisa, 23, who attended school at Sefika High School in Maseru last year says “there is need for the youth to absorb every little information they get about marijuana because it seems the weed is holding a better future for us”.

“Much as I agree and have accepted that the white people are more intelligent than us, I also believe that we can achieve good results and prosper just like them if we are determined,” Khabolisa says. “If we have enough education, we can work under the guidance of white people and turn this place into whatever we want it to be for us and for the generations yet unborn,” he says.
“I see a very bright future for our society and the youths at large.”
“Going back to school is my dream and if I can get that opportunity I will do agricultural science, so that I can work at this project, not only as a labourer but as someone leading the company.”

Thooe Ramolibeli

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