Connect with us


The dream rosehip farms



MASERU – Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were when they gave up.

That famous quotation is attributed to Thomas Edison, the man who invented the electric lightbulb that has proven to be arguably one the greatest inventions mankind has ever made.

Miloane Mokhobo was in that bracket of men who were close to quitting when the going got tough. That was not because he had not tried.

He had experimented with several business ideas which had all spectacularly failed.

His worst moment came in 2016 when he took a flight to Nairobi, Kenya, to pitch a business idea, blowing M22 000 on the trip only to be informed on his arrival there that the meeting had been cancelled.

A year later, Mokhobo began a cosmetics manufacturing business. He packaged petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and olive oil for cosmetic use.

“We invested M24 000 in that business and it too failed,” he says.

“It was one of the most painful moments for me.”

He then hit the streets selling T-shirts and sweaters which were printed ‘Lesotho Mzuku’ and ‘Haeso Mzuku’.

He says there was a time when he felt like he had already invested too much energy and resources in business but all without tangible results.

“I felt like without it there was no bright future for me, it was a matter of do or die,” he says.

It was these failures that were to soon act as a launch-pad for a thriving multi-million agribusiness.

In 2019, Mokhobo set up Wild Plants Growers (Pty) Ltd which is based in Mohale’s Hoek specialising in the production of wild plants which have commercial value.

The main products of Wild Plants Growers are whole berry rosehip, Rosehip shells, rosehip seeds and pelargonium sidoides (African geranium).

“We are currently generating revenue of M3 million,” he says.

Mokhobo was born and raised in Mohale’s Hoek.

After completing his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSE) in 2007 at Likuena High School, he enrolled at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) where he studied for a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology.

In 2013, he got an internship at the Ministry of Trade.

He says he was doing research on how to establish commercial plantations of Agave Americana (lekhala le leputsoa) including the design of the farms and the factory for processing cosmetics using agave sap and the costs.

“So it was during this time of my internship that I started reading widely about wild plants that have commercial value,” he says.

He says as the internship was about to end, he started thinking about work opportunities and how he could secure a job for himself.

“That’s when the idea of rosehip came to my mind,” he says.

Mokhobo proposed to develop the commercial plantations to one of the local rosehip processing companies.

“My proposal was given a chance,” he says.

In 2015, he then left to study for a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) in Kenya.

He says in his final year, he continued with the research on rosehip.

“I was developing a protocol for tissue culture production of rosehip seedlings,” he says.

“When my previous employer heard about the research, he was so excited that he even promised that he was going to build a tissue culture laboratory where I would be working upon completion of my studies,” he says.

However, he says he could not finish up his research due to limited time.

“I was about to take only one year of research,” he says.

He says he had to drop this research when it was not yet completed.

After he returned home, he says he came with consumables used in the tissue culture lab with the aim to ask for an opportunity to finish this work at the tissue culture lab at any college of Lesotho.

“I tried both but failed,” he says.

Mokhobo says he was left with one option — seeking a job. He failed.

In 2018, he wrote a proposal to his previous employer asking for a supply contract to supply them with rosehip seedlings again and they agreed.

Mokhobo says while he was still struggling to sustain his dream, he applied for the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project (BEP).

“I won a whopping M195 000 and that led to the formal registration of Wild Plants Growers in January 2019,” he says.

Mokhobo says the establishment of Wild Plants Grower came after multiple failed projects. He tried beekeeping in 2014 and seed oil extraction from peach and apricot seeds that is usually used in cosmetics in 2016.

Furthermore, he says he applied for the BEP with the idea of processing Aloe forex. He says he then received training on how to write a business plan and basic business management skills.

“When Wild Plants Growers was born I had already learned a lot from the previous failures,” he says.

Mokhobo says when the business was developed they did not have enough resources. He needed a greenhouse due to our climate.

“I had to collect small timbers from the nearest forest and plastics from the nearest hardware to make my own greenhouse structures,” he says.

He says because the structure was weak, when it was windy the greenhouse would collapse. Mokhobo says they started with only one client.

They are currently supplying South Africa and European markets, specifically Germany. He says their rosehip is organic certified according to European Union (EU) standards which have opened the market in Europe.

“I thank the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Trade hub that paid 50 percent of our initial audit costs,” he says.

Mokhobo says they have established five hectares of commercial plantations of rosehip with additional 20 hectares to be developed before the end of this year.

“We are developing a partnership with field owners who will be enjoying 30 percent sales of the yield from their fields,” he says.

Wild Plants Growers plays a colossal role at community level.

This year they have trained 527 wild plant harvesters who are harvesting and selling their rosehip and pelargonium sidoides to them. Wild Plants Growers has now created both direct and indirect jobs for Basotho.

He says they buy rosehip and pelargonium sidoides out of the country thereby providing alternative income to most families in rural communities of Lesotho.

He says currently they are working with 17 farmers on the rosehip cultivation project. They have seven full-time employees.

At pick season, he says they hire about 20 temporary laborers working with them at various levels of the supply chain.

Despite the achievement, Mokhobo says the challenges in this industry are overwhelming including the reluctance by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to issue permits which would allow them to export in time when they are needed.

“I have lost M500 000 worth of pelargonium orders from January up until now,” he says.

“We urge the government to play its role of creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to compete and flourish,” he says.

He further explains that since pelargonium is endemic in Lesotho and South Africa, when things like this happens they lose their customers to their SA competitors.

“That’s how overseas companies lose trust in Lesotho companies and so we lose more in the process,” he says.

Mokhobo says the absence of machinery leads them to selling their products as raw products which do not allow them to add value.

“This in turn affects our economy because we are not getting much from our sales,” he says.

Through his experience, Mokhobo says he has witnessed big commercial plantations of products such as tea, sugar cane, pineapple and rooibos.

“I witnessed the commercial plantation of wild plants growing in the mountains of Western Cape,” he says.

“However I have never seen sizable commercial plantations of certain crops which can generate over 1 000 jobs at the peak season,” he says.

“My dream is to make my own Lesotho Ceres,” he says. He says he wants to create a place where people can go from corners of Lesotho to get seasonal jobs in winter to harvest rosehip and hopefully other crops that will come at a later stage.

“My dream is to develop 100 hectares of rosehip farm,” he says.

“We spent about M115 000 to establish five hectares of rosehip farm from developing seedlings, transplanting seedlings to the field, and labour related costs including annual field fees for the first year,” he says.

He says the challenge they have is having an additional budget to manage the operations of the established farms such as removing weeds.

Mokhobo says the upcoming incubation and trip to Singapore will give their business some global exposure.

“I will be seen not only by potential investors globally but also potential business partners,” he says.

Refiloe Mpobole

Continue Reading


MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

Continue Reading


Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading


Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading