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The sweet scent of success



MASERU – AFTER receiving M195 000 from a youth empowerment fund, ’Miloane Mokhobo is finally smelling the sweet scent of success.
It has been a long, odious journey of trial and error for the co-founder of Wild Plant Growers, which specialises in production of roses that are used for different purposes such as the manufacture of cosmetics, tea and medicines.

This project is located in Mohale’s Hoek.
Wild Plant Growers was part of four enterprises that benefited from M700 000 that was distributed by Bacha Enterprises, a joint venture by the Lesotho Revenue Authority, Standard Lesotho Bank and Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO).
Mokhobo says after graduating from the National University of Lesotho in Bio-Technology in 2013, he applied for internship in the Department of Co-operatives responsible for nursery plantations and the development and processing of aloe plants.

“That is where my interest in wild plants was born,’’ he says.
While conducting research on wild plants he came into contact with one of the rose processing companies in Mohale’s Hoek.
Mokhobo says he realised that the companies were only into processing but did not plant the roses.
And that is how he developed his niche.
He says he started conducting research before proposing to help the company plant roses. Mokhobo was then offered a one year-internship.
After a year, Mokhobo went back to school and enrolled for a master’s degree with the Pan African University Institute in Basic Science, Technology and Innovation in Nairobi, Kenya, where he took his research to the next level.

He says in 2014, he embarked on a bee-keeping initiative with a colleague, Letlatsa Ramabele. That was his first project and more was to come.
A year later, he developed a new business idea of extracting oil from fruit seeds.
Mokhobo says he had been moving from pillar to post in search of funding before the Bacha Enterprise deal came on board.
His search for funding was not restricted to Lesotho and he even tried his luck with international sponsors like the Tony Elumelu Foundation based in Lagos, Nigeria, and the African Entrepreneurship Award.

“I never gave up but I continued coming up with new projects,’’ he says.
In 2016, he came up with a new idea to process aloe plants into juices and medication and he applied for the Bacha Entrepreneurship Award with no success.
Mokhobo says he took a year’s break from the projects after graduating with a master’s degree in 2017.

“I was tempted to give up because of this long (string of) failure. Even my family lost hope that my projects would ever see any light of the day,” he recalls.
“But the mentorship and inspiration that I have been getting from Dr Timothy Thamae reignited and unlocked the passion which I thought was no longer existing,’’ says Mokhobo.
Mokhobo says he rolled up his sleeves with the new idea of planting and harvesting roses on a large scale and so far, it seems to be paying off.
“In this current project, we plant roses and harvest them for the processing companies,’’ he says.

He says they have gone large scale on planted roses and they are now looking forward to planting the rosehip (’morobei) and aloe vera plants as the project grows.
Mokhobo says they consider the demography and climate in Lesotho when writing their business ideas.

“Lesotho is a mountainous country and the study reveals that only 10 percent of it is arable. As small as it is, people continue building houses in the fields,’’ he says.
“As Wild Plant Growers, we will be able to use the mountains to plant the wild plants which grow well in mountains.
“Considering the climate change, common plants are not able to make it to the harvest period, so wild plants are resistant to Lesotho’s climatic condition,’’ he says.
Mokhobo says the project has a potential to create 100 jobs, including distributors.

He says the only challenge that they are facing is convincing people that wild plants can turn the economy of Lesotho into “gold”.
“Approaching people to plant this wild plant is also a challenge,” says Mokhobo.

Mokhobo says the funding from BEDCO, Standard Lesotho Bank and LRA has eased their financial problems.
He urges the youth not to shy away from trying their hand at entrepreneurship.

“For you to succeed, you should do something which you have a passion for so that you can be able to withstand all the challenges,’’ he says.
He hopes that Wild Plant Growers will become a household entity that is able to employ more people and even offer internships for students.
“We would like to work directly with the community for research, development and marketing,’’ he says.

Refiloe Mpobole

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