Mahao launches youth empowerment initiative
LAW and Justice Minister, Professor Nqosa Mahao, has officially launched a youth empowerment programme to address high unemployment and end the country’s heavy reliance on food imports.
Dubbed the Boitjaro Self Reliance Youth Development Initiative, the project targets youths within the Koro-Koro constituency where Prof Mahao hails from. The project has already trained 220 youths on the use of readily available local resources to produce different products ranging from foods, cosmetics and medicinal drugs since it started in October 2019.
The programme was officially launched on Friday in Mahlabatheng, Koro-Koro in the presence of ministers, Keketso Sello (Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing); Thabo Sophonea (Finance); ‘Mamoipone Senauoane (Police and Public Safety) and Lesotho PostBank (LPB) managing director, Molefi Leqhaoe.
Youths from different zones in the Koro-Koro constituency have been receiving training to make different products. Some of the products were on display during the launch.
These included jams and atchar made by Mokema youths; fruit juices produced by St Joseph youths; dairy products produced by Motloheloa youths and cosmetics produced by Khitione youths.
Sekete youths are producing sauces and vinegar; Ramokotjo youths are making lanolin products; Ngoatonyane youths are producing grains and coffee; Leqhetsoana youths are making cosmetics; Qhomane youths are producing soups and medicines while those from Mazenod are processing meat.
Prof Mahao told guests at the launch that the initiative is aimed at addressing the country’s heavy reliance on food imports as well as the high unemployment.
The Bureau of Statistics says the unemployment rate stands at 25, 3 percent. However, the figure is believed to be much higher.
So, serious is the unemployment situation in the country that in November youths took to the streets to compel the government to address the problem. The police however, dispersed the youths with teargas and rubber bullets. Some youths were arrested while others were beaten by the police.
Prof Mahao said due to joblessness, male youths were often forced to engage in the dangerous illegal mining operations in South Africa where they risked being killed. He said their female counterparts were coerced into human trafficking to make a living.
By relying on imports, Lesotho suffers from capital flight and is effectively exporting jobs that should otherwise be happening within the country to address unemployment, he said.
“After observing these challenges, we decided to bring youths from around the constituency together and train them on how to survive using locally available natural resources to make a living.
“We have trained 220 youths from eleven zones within the constituency. So, let us work to achieve our vision to make Boitajro a national programme that will reach the rest of the country.
“I therefore invite other constituencies to emulate this initiative so that their youths can also be assisted to make use of the abundant natural resources around them to earn a living.
“This will end dependence on government employment, which is responsible for the country’s political instability. It is therefore time for private sector-led initiatives.”
He said the country is also blessed with an abundance of natural resources such as rocks that can be used to manufacture cement to improve the lives of its citizens.
Joalane Mohale, one of the youth trainers, bemoaned the lack of standardisation of local products which inhibits their products from breaking onto the formal market.
For his part, Mr Leqhaoe said the Lesotho PostBank was prepared to help solve challenges faced by community empowerment projects like Boitjaro.
Mr Sello said his ministry would contribute by training youths on how to operate as cooperatives.