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The greenhouse Motoko built



MASERU – Seven years after becoming a beneficiary of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) greenhouse, ’Mathabo Motoko is still going strong.
The greenhouse was given to her in 2015 as part of the countrywide agricultural enhancement programme by the Ministry of Trade.
Motoko produces cash crops like cabbage, spinach, tomato, lettuce, bell peppers and herbs such as parsley, basil and thyme.

Before EIF, like many other Basotho producers, Motoko used to produce in the open due to lack of money for a greenhouse, leaving her produce vulnerable to unfavourable weather conditions.
A greenhouse can cost as much as M150 000, an amount tens of thousands of salaried people cannot afford in Lesotho.
Most Basotho are unbanked and do not qualify for bank loans, especially because for a long time local commercial banks regarded agriculture a high risk investment.

Since Motoko started using the greenhouse, her produce has found its way to restaurant dining tables and vegetable shelves in local retail stores.
“Access to the market is no longer a major challenge like it used to be,” Motoko said.
“All my life I have never been employed, I have always had a passion for farming. Even though my plot was not very big I would always produce vegetables and end up selling to my fellow villagers,” she said.
Farming has always been a source of livelihood for Motoko and her five family members.

Faced with climate change induced problems in 2014, Motoko decided to try her luck and applied to the Ministry of Trade for a greenhouse.
“In November 2014, my request was successful and a greenhouse was installed at home in Ha-Abia, Maseru. This marked the beginning of improved quantity and quality production for me,” she said.
She said that focusing solely on vegetable production has assisted her to take care of the greenhouse.
“Some no longer have these nets for various reasons but for some it is simply because they had other jobs and only focused on farming during the weekends,” Motoko said.

Though Motoko has managed to make it this far, she reckons the journey ahead is still a long one.
One day she would like to have farming technology that will allow her to produce all year round despite weather changes.
“Even though I produce in a greenhouse the impact of climate conditions is still significant resulting in reduced production.”
Sometimes the sun is too hot, winters are harsh and drought terrible despite frequent irrigation.
“Owning one of those technologies whereby temperatures can be controlled no matter the time of the year is a dream I am working towards,” Motoko said.

Another greenhouse farmer who has grown from strength to strength is Makhala Borotho from Marabeng in Berea.
Borotho’s proposal was successful in 2015 and she also received an 8×15 metre greenhouse as well as a 16×18 shade net.
Borotho was already a vegetable farmer who had persevered through difficult climatic conditions.
“Soon after the erection of the net, a bad hailstorm destroyed it. Today you cannot even tell that I once had a shade net.”
“The greenhouse has also seen better days, it has started to deteriorate,” she said.

However, Borotho was able to get assistance with more greenhouses after the Ministry of Agriculture’s Smallholder Agricultural Development Project (SADP) was impressed by her commitment to farming.
“My goal is to become the top vegetable producer in the country using the latest farming technology that will enable all year round production,” she said.

At her vegetable farm in Marabeng, Borotho is producing chilli, okra, spinach, peppers and cabbage.
Borotho employs two permanent employees and, depending on the time of the season, she employs about 10 seasonal employees.
“Farming is not easy but it is very fulfilling. Contributing to families’ health through food production is a blessing. It really needs patience and commitment as the challenges can really be daunting,” she said.
Finding a market for her produce hasn’t been much of a problem for Borotho.

“I sell my produce to informal traders, restaurants and retail stores. However, there is a challenge when it comes to meeting the demand all year round. Contributing to this challenge is also the fact that when we have good rains most people produce the same vegetables forcing producers to sell at a lower price.”
According to the Public Relations Officer of the Trade Ministry, Lihaelo Nkaota, 115 greenhouses and shade nets were distributed to individuals and associations in Maseru, Leribe, Berea and Mafeteng between 2014 and 2015. The greenhouses and shade nets were made possible through EIF.
Out of the 115 greenhouses and shade, 92 are still operational.

“We unfortunately had greenhouses that were damaged by the wind, while some that were given to associations ended up being neglected,” Nkaota said.
She added that many associations performed poorly due to internal disputes and lack of a sense of ownership of the project.
“Through inspections, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we found out that getting inputs for most farmers was a challenge due to restricted movement,” she said.

It is for this reason that the ministry extended a helping hand and sponsored the selected farmers with seeds and pesticides.
“As a result, most were able to benefit earlier this year when certain fresh produce like tomatoes, green beans and peppers importation were temporarily banned,” she said.
The performance of most of the beneficiaries “is pleasing”, said Nkaota.
She said the ministry continues to work on proposals from people seeking assistance in the farming industry, which has been classified as one of the country’s key sectors.

EIF is a partnership of 51 countries, 24 donors and eight partner agencies.
It works closely with governments, development organisations and the civil society to assist least developed countries use trade as an engine for development and poverty reduction.
EIF works with partner countries to harness trade for economic growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Its programmes are tailored to ensure domestic actions are taken to make trade work for economic prosperity, poverty reduction, food security, stability and peace.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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Mahao, PS in big fight



PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors



MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue



LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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