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Makoae’s milk and money project



MASERU – THE inability of Lesotho to utilise its abundant resources for productivity has left the economy stagnant. The dairy industry is a classic example.
Studies by the National University of Lesotho (NUL) researchers, Tšepiso Rantšo and Moipone Makhobotloane, reveal that the supply of milk to the local dairy industry is not sustainable due to the small number of farmers participating in dairy farming.

This has affected the dairy industry’s capacity to produce a variety of dairy products for the domestic market. As a result, the local market is flooded with milk products imported from South Africa.

Nonetheless, despite the challenges faced by the local economy, Ntšiuoa Makoae is one of the Basotho entrepreneurs who have fought against all odds to revive the dairy industry.
Makoae is the founder of Boreleli Yoghurt Company.

The company produces several flavours of yoghurts, cocktail drinks which contain milk, drinking yoghurts and pasteurised milk.
The 34-year-old from Quthing is a graduate teacher from the National University of Lesotho.

However, a six months entrepreneurship course which was offered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) dramatically changed the course of her profession.

Makoae says in 2015 she was introduced to an entrepreneurship course which was organised by UNESCO.
She explains that part of the training involved being requested to determine Lesotho’s resources which were being underutilised. She says since she grew up in the mountainous side of Lesotho, the production of milk and its usage played in her mind.

“Farmers who have dairy animals produce more milk, however, they end up feeding the milk to other animals since they consider it abundant,” Makoae says.

During that time, she says she knew there were a number of products which could be produced from milk.
However, the bigger question was how it would be processed.

She says she then used her skills to research and mixed it up with a little bit of kitchen work.

“That was when I started producing yoghurt and cocktail drinks,” she said.

Makoae explains that after venturing into the dairy business, she realised that most dairy products were imported. She says she found out that Lesotho accounts for a smaller percentage in the market.

Makoae mentions that in her endeavor her mission was to at least capture 40 percent of the market share.
Despite the market realisation and some assistance from several people on how to produce standard milk products, Makoae says the journey was not a walk in the park.

However, she says the business managed to exceed M1 million of sales in a year from around M200 000 annually. She explains that she managed to increase her production capacity from 15 litres to 170 litres per day. She says the profits managed to exceed 60 percent compared to when the business was starting.

Makoae explains that she started the business alone. However, she has now been able to hire four permanent workers and two temporary workers.
She explains that she also has a temporary biotech expert, animal scientist, as well as an incubator who performs the bookkeeping work.

She says she has also increased the number of her milk suppliers from one farmer to around six farmers.

Although accessing the market in Lesotho has been mentioned as one of the hiccups to business growth, she says she has managed to penetrate several markets. She mentions that she is now supplying three guest houses, five supermarkets and 16 shops.

Makoae was also fortunate to acquire a M400 000 grant from the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project 2 (SADP2) to expand her business.
She says the condition for the funding requires each entrepreneur to contribute M150 000 on what SADP has granted. She explains that this is going to assist her to increase her capacity from 170 to 600 litres per day.

She says the grant is going to enable her to spread her products into all the districts of Lesotho. She says she will then be in a position to create over 10 permanent jobs and hire a permanent biotech expert.

Makoae says several institutions, such as the Lioness of Africa, have recognised her achievements. The organisation recently invited her as a guest speaker at a function.

“My journey is now a motivation to more people,” she says.

She says she has since added new products into her business, including drinking yoghurt and sour milk.

Makoae says meeting international standards in Lesotho has been a challenge since “we do not have (a body that regulates such standards) in the country”. She explains that this hinders her business from penetrating into more markets outside the country.

Milk is a sensitive product and “we do not have the right machinery to test it” in the country.
However, the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) has promised to do the testing for local dairy producers.

She says the other challenge is getting raw materials such as packaging bottles which are imported from South Africa.
Makoae urges upcoming entrepreneurs to focus on their goals.

She explains that the secret to her success is drawing her goals and working hard to achieve them in her business.
She mentions that the journey of successful entrepreneurs is measured through her failures and the ability to rise again from the dust.

She says it has not been easy to get to where she is now.
It has not been a straight path and at times she had to stop producing milk as she battled to keep the business afloat.

However, she says the passion to succeed kept driving her forward.
She encourages entrepreneurs to build networks and learn from others so that they can do better.

Lesotho’s production of milk was reported at a level of 173 333 tonnes by Knoema report 2020.

Refiloe Mpobole

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