Connect with us

News

The dream rosehip farms

Published

on

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
Advertisement

News

Doctor tampers with corpse

Published

on

THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

Continue Reading

News

Villagers whipped as police seize guns

Published

on

Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

Continue Reading

News

Magistrate saves WILSA boss

Published

on

A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading
Advertisement

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending