Boriba agro-processing pioneers since the struggles of Basotho Cannery are daring Lesothoâ€™s food production challenges.
They are re-introducing a commercial farming culture that nurtured most Basotho living in Lesotho.
According to NtÅ¡ekhe Tlaba, eating peaches out of season was something his family enjoyed.
â€œPreserving food was instilled in my upbringing and that influenced my current line of work. My mother used to can all sorts of food when in season and when out of season, we always gloated at food availability on abundance.â€
Tlaba said the culture was reinforced by his education in Home Economics and Nutrition which highlighted food preservation as a key activity in promoting nutrition and food security.
â€œAfter completing my studies, I realised that food preservation is not only beneficial at the household level but can actually be an economic activity which sustains income and creates employment, and since then I have been producing commercially at a moderate scale.
â€œI went further to train people and share the knowledge that was helping my household and now has enabled me to do business,â€ he said noting as a product of the Lesotho Agricultural College, he was proud to be part of those whose mandate is to produce and teach others how to produce and eat nutritious food.
â€œI started using Facebook to spread the gospel of food preservation and processing for commercial purposes and household use, and our biggest achievement in this journey is the variety of products we sell under the brand, Boriba, including the famous Chilli Sauce. We have other new products including garlic, a variety of Jams and Asparagus that we are introducing to the market.â€
Tlaba stressed that while production is pivotal in their business, their highlight achievement is the training sessions they hold to impart their knowledge to others.
â€œIt is not always easy for people to share skills that make up the core of oneâ€™s business, but with us, the more people are introduced to food preservation the more successful we feel.â€
The nutritionist highlighted that preserving food is a necessity and a practice that needs investing in.
â€œâ€¦not just individual people. The government needs to have a specific program towards food preservation to address food insecurity among other challenges.
â€œAgro-processing is an economic territory not yet tapped into and explored in Lesotho. It was piloted with Basotho Cannery which later collapsed leaving a huge gap. The sector opens up an opportunity for mass production and this remains a challenge for Basotho to look at this and maximise their agricultural activities, especially now with vast investment in the agriculture sector, more so because running an agro-processing business, there is a high demand for produce,â€ he said noting to get it right and have a successful agro-processing industry more investment needs to be directed towards high production.
He emphasised that the sector cannot exist on its saying, â€œIt maximised production and that is where anyone who looks to explore it needs to heavily invest in production, and this includes the governmentâ€™s efforts when speaking about growing the agri-business in general,â€ Tlaba said.
He noted that for their business to survive, they work with local farmers who produce.
â€œWe usually face capacity challenges which hinder our productivity. Like now, we are going to have to import chilli for our chilli sauce. Most of Basotho producing chillies only plough in summer and stop when the winter season arrives, so when we speak about maximised production, we know its negative and positive impacts.â€
My passion for food was not enough to sustain my livelihood. I needed to explore a sustainable journey that will bring income and create employment, that way my business automatically because of an answer to the crippling unemployment rate of the country.
I didnâ€™t only end up employing people in my business but the knowledge I used to regularly and freely share on my Facebook platform was an avenue to monetise and commercialise, and the knowledge was more in-depth with practical lessons.
Tlaba said most of their products are market ready, more so because their business model is of a shared value in terms of skills.
â€œWe have been training people for over three years. At first, we offered online trainings until there was a need for physical and thus far we have trained a lot of people.â€
He indicated that their biggest challenge is Basothoâ€™s acceptance to pay for knowledge and information.
â€œA lot of people still feel entitled to receive free information as they did with agricultural officers and inspectors, and when we stress payment, they feel exploited, not realising that while the inspectors were paid by the government, we are a private entity thus our operations are different,â€ he explained.
He revealed that with their agro-processing business, their challenges are common monetary challenges facing agricultural businesses in Lesotho.
â€œAccess to financing is our biggest enemy. We donâ€™t have enough machinery to produce on a large scale, however, at the moment we are doing what we can to build this product. We are a group of passionate people and regardless of lack of access to money, we have started the journey and always tell ourselves that the money will find us journeying on.â€
Tlaba told Seahlolo that seeing varied challenges from production, financing as well innovation, Boriba moved to invest in food production, prioritising crops they primarily need for their commercial products.
â€œWe have a vegetables and fruits farm in Leribe which will allow us to save costs when we produce our processed and preserved products. Because of the scale of the farm, we run out of crops and have to buy from other local farmers.â€
He cheered the governmentâ€™s policy which has prioritised agricultural development.
â€œWe are just hoping for implementation of the policy direction. With political will, the policy direction is exactly what the country needs,â€ he said.
â€œThe policy direction is allowing young and upcoming farmers to mass produce, and Lesotho is still very unique in that we still produce fairly organic produce with minimal use of genetically modified seeds and other things.
â€œAs a nation, we need to prioritise maximum production but still preserve our organic production,â€ he advised, adding that those with access to land without passion, look towards collaboration.
â€œLand is a resource that can help generate income and for agriculture to thrive we need to collaborate and win together,â€ he said.