By Bokang Molelle
ENTREPRENEURS define business as the identification of the need or problem in the community and the provision of a solution to that need in the form of product or service. In agriculture, the ‘need’ is food security, and the solution is food production.
The final draft of Lesotho’s national strategic development plan II highlights key priority areas / sectors for economic development and interestingly, agriculture is one of the top priorities. This is also outlined in the national vision 2020 document for a prosperous Lesotho.
It is my responsibility and yours too as citizens of this country, to individually and collectively implement these plans. The government’s business is only that creating a conducive environment for the efficient and effective operations of the private sector through policies and legislation.
In the past, farming was not so difficult to pursue as it seems to be at present times. Part of the reason may be that the community understood the need for cooperation to ensure success. Farmers mastered the art of oneness, love and cooperation but this is no longer the case in most communities nowadays. People are now self-centered and prefer working in silos. Divisions are partly due to differences in political party affiliations and differences on perspectives of the national development agenda. It then becomes difficult for anyone to cultivate and harvest from a field of 10 acres alone. The result is low food production since many fields are left idle.
Economic emancipation and radical transformation need aggressive citizens showing high level of dedication to trade and commerce. Some of our most pressing needs include the formalisation of informal sector, commercialising agriculture and improving entrepreneurial and problem-solving capabilities of the youth in the private sector.
According to the Lesotho poverty reduction strategy paper of 2012 developed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), agriculture is the main sector with high employment potential in the rural areas.
One of the reasons many people are reluctant to invest in agriculture is the sensitivity of the industry as farmers have no control over the weather / climate which is a critical determinant to the volumes of the yield.
Farming is not so attractive to young entrepreneurs because of its capital-intensive nature. This is because most of these youth would not have had jobs to accumulate the capital to invest. The level of risk inherent in this industry is also what makes financial institutions or private investors less motivated to invest in farming start-ups.
We need an approach that is similar to that of South Africa, Botswana and other countries where farmers are insured against adverse conditions. This would make it easier for our farming ideas to be bankable and ensure that we do not struggle to access finance.
Commercial farmers need to employ climate smart agriculture technologies in an endeavour to see improved yields. This however, comes at high cost and at this moment, we feel obliged to express sincere gratitude and appreciation of the efforts by individual and institutional organisations to extend a helping hand to small-holder farmers. In particular, we pay special tribute to the government through the Ministry of Agriculture as well as its development partners (World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development) as they continue to render unwavering, valuable support to local farmers by financing development projects.
In the end, it is my responsibility and your responsibility as citizens of this country to constantly think of how best to find sustainable solutions for problems faced by small-holder farmers. It is not the responsibility of the government alone or that of a few certain individuals. It is necessary to regularly engage in public-private dialogue on agriculture for farmers to identify their needs and discuss solutions tailored to their specific farm needs.
Skills needed by young entrepreneurs in agribusiness are in the areas of financial literacy, market access, industry awareness, human resource management, product diversity and quality management.
Bokang Molelle is an accountant by profession and an entrepreneur by occupation. He has a farm in Leribe.
He served as the National President for Junior Chamber International (Lesotho Chapter) for 2016 and 2017.
He can be contacted on +266 59797760.