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We need to destigmatise agriculture



Do you realise that there is a high probability that around this time, next year, there might be a new Prime Minister, a new cabinet of ministers and new PS’s, all depending on the outcome of the 2022 general elections. Please note the words, ‘high probability’ and ‘might’. Haai! I don’t want to be charged for sedition. Hona le boy tse tla be li lutse hae lemong se tlang ka keresemese, ka pelo tse bohloko, li lakatsa botona. Hoja la qalella ho lokisa petlele sa Mohlomi Bo-ntate. Le teronko ea Maseru Central. But if there is one thing we all agree on is that the ABC has failed to live up to the promises it made in 2017. It has been an epic flop! It sold dreams and delivered nightmares. Hee ha re’a phoqeha aik’hona! Khot! In summary, the ABC has been a huge disappointment. Now, coming to a more sober conversation, it’s a pity that the year is drawing to an end. I still had a couple more stories to share with our readers but my cut-off date is actually this week. In actual fact, my mother sent me a WhatsApp message to ask me to consider taking a break from writing hobane se ke ingolla litlhapa feela. I actually wanted to share my views on the current scourge of killings after watching a Netflix series named ‘Squid Game’ and please try to watch it if you can. It will bring a fresh perspective on the current pandemic of killings in our Kingdom. However, there’s an interesting observation that I will like to share with you. It has come to my attention that our country is lagging behind its peers in terms of regional business expansion and investment in the SADC area. In fact let me put it this way and stop beating around the bush. I have realised that Zimbabwean entrepreneurs are leading with enterprises invested in Lesotho. They have invested in Lesotho with enterprises such as Econet Wireless, thepost newspaper, Lesotho Times newspaper and Katleho Securities. Botswana has invested in Lesotho with enterprises such as Letshego Financial Services, Sefalana Cash & Carry, IDM and Botho University. eSwatini has invested in Lesana Financial services. Lesotho lona? Have any Lesotho/Basotho entrepreneurs expanded their wings in other parts of the SADC region? If not, why not? I must say, Botswana entrepreneurs are doing quite impressive moves. They also have a company (Choppies) that listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Will we see MGC listing on the JSE anytime soon? MGC seems to be our only hope. Botswana seems to be aggressively investing in Lesotho and Sefalana is growing by leaps and bounds. Hee Batswana ba pele. Rumour has it that they are now firmly in charge of the brewery ha rona ntse re khona. In my view, they might as well run Lesotho. Possibly on a management lease. In any case, I thought I should share a conversation that changed my perspective on a number of issues. There was a conversation between a radio presenter, Faith Mangope, on Power FM, with one university professor but I forgot the name of the institution he was representing. (Try to listen to Power FM on the DSTV audio bouquet, Channel 889, between 12-3pm). The professor told Mongope about the reason why the South African colonialist government resorted to importing labour from neighbouring states such as Lesotho, Mozambique and Botswana to work in the mines and farms. The reasons were that Black South Africans of the time, used to shun the jobs because they found them “cheap” and of no value. E ne e le mesebetsi ea li-Bhari. Secondly, Black South Africans of the time were preoccupied by Mzabalazo (boitseko) / activism for their land and political rights. So, they felt that they had far more pressing matters than working in the mines and agricultural fields (mapolasing). As a result of this, the South African colonialist government and the Afrikaaner-led government, found it necessary to import labour around the Southern African region in states such as Lesotho and as far as Malawi. Malawians were well known for their cooking skills. In fact Lesotho was strategically placed as a labour reserve and Basotho really loved working in the mines. It became a form of initiation for most Basotho men. You were not a real man if you hadn’t worked in the mines (ka chafong) But this historical fact made me think of one of two issues that Lesotho is currently grappling with and that’s rampant youth unemployment. Look, it really doesn’t make sense as to why Lesotho is struggling with unemployment because Basotho have almost everything to generate jobs. Basotho own land and prime land is currently being sold in droves to foreigners (Asians to be specific). An act that is highly regrettable. Lesotho is blessed with an abundance of clean water, fertile soil, clean air, sunny weather throughout the year and a young population. A combination of all these factors tell me that Lesotho should have simply focused on high-value, high-intensity agriculture for the export market. I mean, the world is complaining about food inflation and food is just becoming expensive and unaffordable and this is where Lesotho can fill that niche. But here is an unfortunate part; our youth shun the agriculture sector and want to work in offices. They see jobs in the agricultural sector as meant for rural and uneducated people. But that’s not true at all. Agriculture could be a very lucrative industry and even bigger than the diamond industry of Lesotho combined. It can also employ hundreds of thousands of people in the value chain (supply chain). More especially if we could improve cold chain (refrigerated logistics), processing and storage. We have close examples of thousands of Basotho people that work in farmlands in Ceres, located in the Western Cape, South Africa. Why can’t they do the same back home? The answer is quite simple; because our people want to be hired by a white man and belong to a white-owned company (Ha lekhooa). The problem is that no one wants to take the first step. Our young people want to be hired and earn a salary. They want to belong to a certain institution. They want a sense of belonging. They want pay-slips and uniforms. They want to be paid into bank accounts. That is the reason why agriculture carries a lot of stigma because it looks “cheap and rural”. I mean, our young people want to have jobs they can brag about and jobs which their parents can boast about in the village. “Nna ngoana’ka o sa sebetsa Post Benke”, or “Nna ke sebetsa Letšeng Diamonds.” Hana, what do they say? “Ke sebetsa ka thabeng.” But those are non-issues. We can create better value and people can earn way better salaries. The question we should be asking ourselves is: How do we destigmatise agriculture and make it look like a professional and respectable career prospect? I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year! Keep safe, drive safely and don’t abuse women and children. Above all, remember to pray. ‘Mako Bohloa

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