Monday, December 4, 2023
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Defying the odds of unemployment

Business

Mohloai Mpesi

Faced with the burden to feed his family, Leoma Monaheng (29) had to push through boundaries to make it in the Agri-Business markets.

Like other graduates who taste the bitter pill of unemployment after completing their tertiary education, Monaheng was soon to become part of the statistics upon attaining a Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

He was propelled to push through the peril of starvation to make a living for his family of five, and without a penny, delved into the untidy agriculture business which he started from a small family plot of about 3mx7m. He was to later cover 40 acres of crop production, but was further challenged to defy the odds of climate change which affected his new agricultural business, Kasi Farm that he started alone before his brother, TÅ¡itso joined-in at expansion.

Monaheng now owns two green-house plants at Thaba-Bosiu as part of resilience measures against unemployment which has been exacerbated by the surging climate change.  

“I was unemployed from NUL, at the time I had no money to feed my family and I had to find ways to feed my family so I decided to plant because seeds are cheap,” he says.

“I started small with a little garden at my home,” he continued.

“Kasi Farm is a business that started about five years ago; I was alone when I started with a small plot, but now we have two green houses in Thaba-Bosiu. I partnered with my brother when I wanted to expand the business to Ha Abia and Ha Pita. I didn’t have a budget in the beginning,” he recalls.

After establishing the brand, he started supplying the products to the local giant supermarkets including Pick and Pay, Enrich as well as Mpeoa Supermarket with fresh produce.

Monaheng says besides growing they helped the other upcoming formers to gain access to the market as they don’t have a brand.

Monaheng produces green pepper, Okra and tomatoes among others; hence some of the crops are selective to seasons. He says that he is able to produce all year round regardless of seasons after he secured a greenhouse from the Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) to mitigate the impacts of climate change. He remembers how unsuccessful efforts were made to secure grants from Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and BEDCO.

The objective of SADP is to increase in marketed output among project beneficiaries in Lesotho’s smallholder agriculture sector and, to improve the recipient’s capacity to respond promptly and effectively to an Eligible Crisis Emergency.

With its four components it aims to increase agricultural market opportunities, aims to support Lesotho’s developing agricultural business sector to contribute to increased commercialization of smallholder agriculture.

Some of its agendas are promotion of innovative Agri-Business initiatives, market linkage development. Some of the components include increasing Market-Oriented Smallholder production, Climate Smart Packages for Smallholders aims to for productive investment.

“Some crops depend on season, this winter we were able to produce spinach, cabbage and pinto beans. Since now we are in a conducive environment, we are producing green pepper, tomatoes and Okra. Our production also depends on what the market wants, we conduct a research first where we look at the crops in demand then produce them,” he said enlisting challenges he came across.

“We came across the challenges when establishing the brand, it took time to grow and be recognised because some products don’t get recognition after a short time, and it takes time to grow. The other challenge was that of establishing business relationship with the customers and markets who are buying from us.

“Some supermarkets did not trust that we could keep the end of our promise in delivering the food items consistently. We also came across the problem of correct packaging,” he said, adding that the land was not a problem.

“Land was not the problem because we negotiated with the owners of the land, part of the treaty being how we share the proceeds that come from the land.

“We had to adopt some shocks during drought and when there is no rain. We experienced some long dry spells and we had to approach Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) which assisted with greenhouses for the project,” he adds.  

“But now we are able to produce even during dry spells,” he says.

According to the Climate Change COY 16 Country Coordinator Thabo Mahamo, the nation has to adapt to the current resilient measures to beat the impacts of Climate Change.

She said the custom that has been planted in the minds of the youth that agriculture is only for the illiterate people has to come to end since the rising youth unemployment rate forces one to return to tilling the land.   

“The backbone of Lesotho’s economy relies on agriculture, so lately the youths will be studying in other departments such as Arts and Science while thinking less of agriculture.

“There are changing rain patterns right now, sometimes it’s dry and sometimes it’s raining which makes it difficult for one to know what to plant. So we have to adapt to the new types of planting like conservation agriculture with the practice of likoti farming, also the modern technology like greenhouse plants which helps our agriculture to be resilient against the changing climatic conditions,” she said.

“This will enable us to produce where we are going to sell to the supermarkets and eke out a living for our families. We have to adapt to the current situation of climate change, like practicing the methods of harvesting water and use it during the dry season,” she said.

According to the United Nation Development Programme 2021 on Climate Change Adaptation, the climate of Lesotho is characterised by the occurrence of dry spells and wet spells over recorded time. The variation is said to cause food insecurity as well as invasion of exotic plants.   

“These climatic fluctuations have had serious impacts on the environment. The impacts associated with dry spells include food shortages, famine, disease epidemic, invasion of exotic plants and destructive insects,” the findings read.

Lesotho is expected to experience a change in temperature and precipitation patterns, towards dryer and hotter conditions. The intensity and frequency of extreme events such as foods and drought are expected to increase, especially in the western and northern lowlands,” the report read.

A Research highlights on climate change and future crop sustainability in Lesotho which was funded by Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) Phase II, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) which was conducted in 2020 indicates that households are going to experience a decrease in annual production ranging from 0.7% in Berea, up to 16.9% in Mafeteng.

“In terms of the potential change in annual household production, households are anticipated to experience a loss ranging from o.2 kg per household in Berea up to 8.1 kg in Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek. The costs reduced production of beans is estimated to range from USD 0.1 to 5.8 per person or, up to USD 19 per household.

At the district and national level, the decrease in production is equivalent to 22 tonnes per annum, and the total annual cost of replacing this loss in production is estimated to be approximately $16, 400 with exception of Butha-Buthe and Mafeteng, which are predicted to remain unchanged in terms of production,” the findings read. “The remaining districts are expected to experience minor positive effects, which may attribute to an increase in total suitable area. However, the results should not be interpreted as a strong prediction that annual production of wheat will increase as a result of climate change in these districts,” the findings read.  

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