LIPHAMOLA Dairy Project, a community-based dairy farm has given hope to the country that its local dairy production could come good after securing five percent of the local market share for dairy products.
With Lesotho importing at least 80 percent of the dairy products, the company has managed to achieve this feat in just six months since it started operations.
Liphamola Dairy Project was founded by members of Liphamola Dairy Farmers’ Association in Mokhotlong District.
It currently supplies Letšeng Diamond Mine, Kao Diamond Mine and the community of Mokhotlong with fresh and pasteurised milk. Financially supported through Letšeng Diamonds’ corporate social responsibility and investment (CSRI) programme with funds worth M6 million, the dairy farm was officially opened last Wednesday by Mining Minister, Keketso Sello.
The minister was joined by members of Liphamola Dairy Farmers’ Association, Letšeng’s top management and Lesotho National Dairy Board representatives.
The farmers came together in 2011 to form an association and they began contributing funds in order to buy five dairy cows that have since increased to 16.
They also had to rehabilitate a dumping site to create a farm big enough to accommodate 50 cows.
The dump site rehabilitation was done through the financial support of the United Nations Development Programmes’ Global Environment Facility- Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP Lesotho), which contributed about US$40 000 (approximately M462 000) into the project.
The Vice Chairman of Liphamola Dairy Association, Thabo Moleko, said they were hopeful of increasing their production capacity through increasing their herd from the current 16 cows up to 50 in anticipation of more demand.
He said the implementation of the second phase of Lesotho Highlands Water Project would significantly increase demand for milk.
The farm boasts of a milking parlour which uses milking machines, sterilising equipment, cold storage facility, administration office, holding sheds with mangers and water troughs, transporting vehicles, tractor associated ploughing implements and ploughing fields.
“By 2020 we want this facility to be a reference point in the production of dairy products in the country,” Mr Moleko said.
He further indicated they were also in the process of producing sour milk as they were currently acquiring relevant equipment to be used in the production of sour milk as well as other dairy products.
“Although it is going to be costly for us, we are also looking into packaging our fresh milk for long life.”
Glenn Turner, who spoke on behalf of Letšeng Diamonds, said the support the mine extended into the project is a clear indication that it cares about the host community as indicated in its ‘We Mine, We Care, We Contribute’ slogan.
He said they did not choose which projects to support the people as part of their CSRI programmes, but allow people come up with their own choices which they then sponsor if they believe they are viable.
He also congratulated the operators of the dairy project for the sterling job they have done so early in its operations.
“To be already contributing five percent of the milk requirements of the nation within a few months of opening its doors, I think that is a tremendous achievement to those who operate it. I was very pleased to hear there are plans to expand the operation and assisting other dairy farmers in and around this area and that is what we aim to do,” said.
For his part, Mr Sello said the government cherished it when mines fulfil their social responsibility obligations. He said that would create less conflicts between his ministry and the mine operators.
Most diamond mines in the country also clash with host communities due to failure to fulfil their social responsibility obligations.
“This is a clear indication that if we really are to work together harmoniously, there is only one thing; to implement what is your full obligations as mining companies. It also says that the mining companies should consider the issue of social responsibility. And I must say this is a very good step by Letšeng Mine for us going forward,” Mr Sello said.
He further implored the association to take good care of the project as “opportunities such as these only come but once in a lifetime”.
“When you have received assistance of this magnitude, see to it that you use it to change your lives,” said Mr Sello.
The Chief Executive Officer of Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB), Abiel Mashale, said Lesotho spends about M98 million on importing dairy products annually.
Mr Mashale said this highlighted Lesotho’s low production capacity of dairy products, which needs to be transformed in order to stop capital outflow.
The LNDB is a regulator of the dairy industry. Among its functions, the board prescribes the standards of dairy industry products, grants and withdraws permits of dairy industry products, imposes levies and charges on dairy products. It also monitors quality of dairy products, and promotes and enhances the development of the dairy industry.
Mr Mashale further encouraged the farm operators to venture into producing other dairy by products such as yoghurt and cheese since Lesotho currently has a very limited product range consisting of fresh and sour milk only, which are highly perishable.
He also said it was important for Liphamola dairy farm to move towards production of long life milk, which has a long shelf life.
He advised the management of the project to also consider engaging professionals in the running of the farm so as to ensure its sustainability and avoid conflicts among members.
For his part, the Member of Parliament for Mokhotlong, Tefo Mapesela, who is also Minister of Trade, said it was not the first time that Letšeng came the rescue of Mokhotlong community through its CSI programmes having set up four wool sheds for wool and mohair farmers in the district.
“Since Mokhotlong district is one of the largest producers of wool and mohair, our shearing season used to be prolonged due to shortage of wool sheds in the district, but through the help of Letšeng that problem has been addressed,” Mr Mapesela said.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, Nthabiseng Majara who is the National Coordinator of GEF-SGP Lesotho said they were pleased with the manner in which the project had been conducted to date.
She said the core output of the support her office extends should ensure that the environment is protected and the human life is improved.
“For instance, the polluted liquids which were flowing into the river have since been abated, with the land rehabilitated into a situation where it is once again productive allowing animals to graze on it. And all this towards the improvement of lives. We would like to believe they did really well with the funds we supported them with,” Ms Majara said.