WHEN Lebaka Makana and Rethabile Mohapeloa quit their jobs in 2012 to focus on a piggery project some people thought they had lost their minds. The friends had decent jobs.
Mohapeloa was an administrative manager at a car dealership in Maseru while Makana was managing a lodge in Morija. For years they had dreamt of starting their own business.
So in 2010 they started contributing a portion of their salaries to start a piggery. Although they had not done much by way of market research, they were confident that they would succeed.
And for some time it seemed like they had correctly read the market. With hindsight they now admit that the only reason they thought they were doing well was because they were still earning their salaries.
The money from the piggery was merely an additional income. Trouble started in 2012 when they quit their jobs to focus on the business. Suddenly the piggery project was their only source of livelihood.
To earn more they needed to produce more pigs. After slaughtering six of their 20 pigs they realised that they did not have a market for the meat. The people who had promised to buy from them were not forthcoming.
“Before slaughtering them, a lot of people had shown interest in buying meat from us but after slaughtering all of a sudden everyone had bought meat from elsewhere,” Makana says.
Without buyers they had to sell their meat cheap before it rot.
“That was a blow for us because we had spent three quarters of our salaries on the piggery thinking that soon we would have a thriving business,” he says.
“We had sacrificed our families’ money, left them with only enough to buy maize meal.Now we had to go back to them to negotiate more capital from the little they had.”
Soon they had gone through their savings.
“We learnt the hard way and we nearly threw in the towel at some point but we forged forward because we were determined not to fail but to achieve our dream”.
Makana admits they had made a blunder by keeping the pigs in two locations.
Makana was keeping some at Morija while Mohapeloa kept some in Mohale’s Hoek. That almost doubled their costs, wiping their already thin margins.
Eventually they were forced to move the animals to Morija to cut operating costs and to be near their buyers who are food vendors in Maseru.
“We had to put our thinking caps on. We could not go on producing and not being able to sell. We sat down and decided to create our own market and came to the conclusion that we should start our own butchery in Maseru,” Makana says.
They rented space next to Twisters Pub in Ha-Matala where they established Sharp Corner Butchery. The results of that move were instant.
“Creating our own market was the greatest step we took. Our pork sold out,” Makana says.
“We are only able to provide a quarter of the market’s needs and we import three quarters of our meat from South Africa”.
Though theylook like they are already living their dream the two men say they are still very far from getting where they want.
“There are obstacles to overcome and until we are able to satisfy our market we will not rest,” Makana says.
“We have a serious challenge with water.Because we are at the end of the village WASCO does not supply us with water,” he says.
“It is impossible to run this type of business without water. We have tried to make a borehole and failed three times but we won’t give up.We are going to make it the fourth time.”
Makana says because of the scarcity of water they buy 10 000 litres of water twice every week from WASCO”.
“Water is not expensive but the transport is”.
Another problem is that of land.
“We applied to the Makhoarane Council for extension of our land in 2014 but we did not get an answer until recently. The answer we got was that the land that we already have is more than enough”.
“We were disappointed with the answer the people who are supposed to be drivers of development gave us.They are the same ones rejecting the development. They didn’t even come to see what we were talking about, they just rejected our request,” he says.
Makana says the local government authorities like the Makhoarane Council should see that the piggery’s expansion will create more jobs for the community.
“So far the only land we have is that which we bought from our neighbours. Hopefully we will have enough money to buy most of the land in future”.
Like many other farming businesses, the recent drought has affected them.
“The food prices have escalated ridiculously but luckily our breed only eat 2kg per day,” he Makana.
According to Mohapeloa, the piggery still has a long way to go.
“We need to slaughter at least three pigs a day and 90 per month but we are far from that. If we can have 5000 pigs here at the piggery then we would be comfortable,” Mohapeloa says.
“Though we are not able to satisfy our market with our own meat the little that is available makes a huge difference especially during those times when meat is not available in South Africa,”adds Mohapeloa.
Mohapeloa says they started the piggery with large white and landrace pigs but later realised that they had a lot of fat and little meat.
“We bought a top pig and a duroc and ventured into cross breeding. The results were spectacular because it has leaner meat,” Mohapeloa says.
He further saysthey have also discovered that their bred pigs reach maturity quickly and eat less.
“By five or six months our pig already weighs 70-90kgsdespite eating about 2kg only per day,” Mohapeloa says.
Both partners urged Basotho to stop waiting for someone to give them funds to start working on their dreams.
“Usually people wait to have a lot of money before chasing their dreams. They expect to have M5million when they start,” Mohapeloa says.
He says there is nothing “as satisfying like seeing something that you started with nothing but sweat and passion grow on a daily basis and bringing you a step closer to your ultimate dream”.
“We had nothing but a dream and the determination to see it materialise into reality. As long as you have passion work hard and you will make it,” Mohapeloa says.
He adds that although they are still far from their ultimate goal they see light at the end of the tunnel.
“When we started the butchery we didn’t even have equipment. The only thing we had was a deep freezer and we had to slaughter about 15 pigs so that we could buy things like the display unit,” Mohapeloa says.
“I recall that we would take the meat to the next butchery to have it sliced because we didn’t have a slicing machine.Our challenges and struggles made us better,” he says.
“We have also learnt that experience is the biggest teacher. Learn as you go, start small and grow gradually.”
They have hired 20 permanent staff and two part time workers for both the piggery and the butchery. The farm has over 200 pigs.
Mohapeloa says they have also trained four people on the proper rearing of pigs and thereafter sold them piglets.
“We have a deal with them that they buy our piglets, rear them and then when they have piglets we buy those piglets and raise them ourselves. We do not want them to struggle like we did in terms of market but if they choose to do otherwise we let them do,” Mohapeloa says.
“We don’t buy pigs from anybody who does not know how to take care of them properly.Even those we sold our pigs, we monitor them to ensure that they are doing what we taught them, we cannot compromise the quality of our product”.
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.
Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel
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