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Phori pledges to sort out cooperatives



MASERU – SMALL Businesses Minister Chalane Phori says he wants to promote cooperatives to help fight unemployment in Lesotho.
Speaking at the Youth Cooperatives Forum on Monday, Phori said he was concerned by the stagnation in the cooperatives sector.
He said he also wants to see that cooperatives are run on a sustainable basis.

Phori said his task right now is to find out why cooperatives collapse, and then come up with a remedy.
He said a recent study by a local researcher, Joseph Mothusi, indicates that there were 247 cooperatives in 2007 but the number had fallen to 174 in 2016.
The minister said despite the dwindling number of active cooperatives between 2007 and 2016, “they contributed significantly to the livelihoods of Basotho who treated them as their income generating projects”.

‘‘And these projects have to be managed professionally,’’ Phori said.
He said ‘‘cooperatives are critical in reducing hunger and creating job opportunities’’.
‘‘Members benefit by sharing resources generated by the cooperatives,’’ he said.
Phori said his plan is to see cooperatives being promoted at high and tertiary school levels.

\“This will in turn help the country to find out the level of unemployment among Lesotho youths and instil a love of cooperatives even before the students graduate,” he said.
‘‘This will enable production and usage of local and indigenous resources to avoid dependence on imports.’’

The Commissioner of Co-operatives, ’Maphamoli Lekoetje, told thepost that “the Youth Cooperatives Forum is aimed at promoting youth employment through cooperative enterprises”.
Lekoetje said youth cooperatives are targeted at creating a platform for youths to capacitate on governance and best management practices.
There are 55 youth cooperatives countrywide and 12 of them are based in primary, high and tertiary schools while 43 are community based.

‘‘We believe investing in youths at an early age will encourage them as co-operators to engage in sustainable adult cooperatives in future,” Lekoetje said.
“We are trying to avoid creating weak cooperatives which lack effectiveness and efficiency because their adult members joined them (when they were old),’’ she said.
She said the forum sought to provide participants with knowledge on business matters such as “quality standards, value adding and even learning about other cooperatives so as to create informed entrepreneurs”.

‘‘Most cooperatives established in the community are formed by graduates and are able to create jobs and provide services,’’ she said.
The Secretary General of the Lesotho Youth Cooperatives Alliance (LYCA), Thabang Mothibeli, said the LYCA was established in 2012 “with the motive to wipe out the long perceived saying that cooperatives are for old people”.

‘‘We are here to portray to the whole nation and our sister countries (Botswana and Swaziland), that cooperatives are also meant for youths,’’ Mothibeli said.
Botswana and Swaziland were represented at the forum. Mothibeli Mahlelehlele, a member of the Teachers’ Cooperatives and mentor of John-Mount High School Cooperative Society in Nazareth, said the school’s cooperative specialises in bee-keeping.

‘‘Boxes to store these bees were a main problem but that didn’t stop us, we sought out help from various sponsors and fortunately the Blue Cross Society supported us,” Mahlelehlele said.
“However, we still need flowers to attract bees. Finding a box is a very huge achievement. Very soon we are going to reap the benefits of what we conserved,’’ he said.
A 13-year-old student, Phole Shale, a member of the Koalabata Agricultural Cooperative Society (KAC), said they are planning to plant fruit trees and grow vegetables in December.
KAC is based at Rasetimela High School in Sekamaneng.

It is engaged in commercial farming and with the sole purpose of reducing poverty.
It was formed in March this year.  ‘‘I enrolled in it because when I grow up, I want to be a successful businessman who will not depend on anyone for a job but rather create jobs for others,’’ Shale said.

A member of the Rise and Shine Cooperative Society, Mpho Thulo, 22, said they plant vegetables seasonally and engage in animal husbandry (chicken breeding and pig farming).
Rise and Shine is a cooperative society at Mohale’s High School. The main aim is to help the poor with school fees, stationery, food and cosmetics.
Thulo said the major challenges they encountered were that of ‘‘eggs disappearing and that forced us to stop the chicken project until we buy cages that will help us to keep them safe”.
“Also using money for school fees hindered our project from growing hence it led to its closure,’’ she said.

Thulo also said that sometimes, members quit after falling pregnant or move to other districts with their parents.
‘‘Dealing with such temporary membership causes problems for the cooperative,” she said.
“This has affected the quality of leadership,” she said.  Thulo said the cooperative lends money to those who are unable to pay their school fees”.
‘‘However, if we don’t have enough money, we consult our mentor, Thabang Phaila, for assistance and he seeks help from outside,” she said.

’Mapule Motsopa

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