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Mokhotlong villagers strike it rich



MASERU – COMMUNITIES around the multi-billion Polihali Dam project in Mokhotlong were last week urged to take advantage of business opportunities brought by the venture.

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), which is managing the dam construction on behalf of the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC), is working with communities to start businesses.

The Polihali Dam construction, costing approximately M7.68 billion, is under the Lesotho Highlands Development Project (LHWP), owned by Lesotho and South Africa, to tunnel water to Gauteng.

Water from the Polihali Dam will be channeled to Katse Dam, through gravity before being re-tunneled to South Africa via the ’Muela Hydropower Station in Butha-Buthe generating Lesotho’s electricity on its way.

The construction of Polihali Dam, which will be filled with water collected from the rivers of Senqu, Khubelu, Sehong-hong, Mokhotlong and Moremoholo, is expected to be completed in 2028.
Over 4 000 people who include skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled workers have been recruited for the preliminary works, which logically creates business opportunities in the area.

Communities living around the project area are being informed about the business opportunities that could accrue from the construction of the dam.

’Mathato Mpobo, 37, from Mapholaneng in Mokhotlong, has grasped the opportunity.

Mpobo says she already has a poultry project serving the local community.

“So I heeded the LHDA call to expand my project to serve the market in the project area,” Mpobo says.

“I supply eggs to the contractors working in the project area,” she says.

She says the LHDA organised meetings with them informing them that they should think outside the box and come up with projects that could help them put bread on the table.

She wasted no time and expanded the poultry project with just 100 chickens to supply to the contractors building the road from Mapholaneng to Polihali.

Because her business is booming, she has increased her layers to 1 000.

This, she says, enables her to supply 90 trays of eggs a week to three contractors on the site project.

“One contractor needs 50 trays a week while the other two need 20 trays each,” Mpobo says.

Mpobo says she also sells to individuals in her area.

Asked about the business opportunity to sell her products to those running the school feeding programme in the area, Mpobo says eggs are not part of food cooked for the children at schools in the district.

She says she also sells vegetables to the contractors but her small produce is too low to satisfy the market.

She says her business is going well because she even managed to buy a new car that helps her to easily deliver eggs to her clients.

“The profits are good enough to help me put bread on the table,” Mpobo says, adding that she also offered jobs to three men.

Those men help her to collect eggs and put them in the trays.

She says her husband who works elsewhere also supports her in the business.

Mpobo says she wants to intensify production of vegetables on her plot of land so that she can fully take advantage of the market.

She says the LHDA has since made a promise to supply them with tanks so that they can easily water their plants throughout the year.

The LHDA livestock officer, Reentseng Pebane, says some people around the project area were not even aware that they could benefit from the construction of the dam.

“So far we have trained 35 farmers in piggery, 25 in vegetable production and 27 in poultry,” Pebane says.

Pebane says they train the farmers after grouping them. He says each farmer works from his or her home and they only come together when they go for the market.

Meanwhile, the Polihali Project Manager, Gerard Mokone, says they have asked the local producers to enhance local participation in the business instead of watching people from other areas supplying things.

“To achieve this, we asked the contractors to buy local materials that could be supplied by local businesses,” Mokone says.

He says they have also asked the contractors to hire at least four to five percent of the locals for unskilled labour.

Mokone says they asked the contractors to at least buy 10 percent of the products from the local businesses in the district.

“We are happy because the hardware businesses are benefiting above the 10 percent that we have proposed,” Mokone says.

He says this is done to ensure that Basotho businesses are supported. Now catering, transport services and cleaning services are offered by the locals, he says.

Mokone says 100 percent of the unskilled labour in the project is Basotho.

He says South Africa could bring people to work in the project and be given permits because there is an agreement.

He says the benefit sharing in other areas of the project is between Lesotho and South Africa.

He says the agreement between the two countries shows that jobs will be given to Lesotho, South Africa, SADC and other countries of the world.

Majara Molupe

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