Writes; Tshepo Heqoa
Mohair is one of the most versatile textile fibres produced in Lesotho. Many of its characteristics are similar to those of wool, except that wool lacks the microscopic scales that make mohair so itchy thus making wool more suitable to be used in many garment applications. The lone curly beauty of mohair has however created a very serious demand for other products that include the military uniform fibre, providing both value and strength to final products.
In 2013, a research student from the University of Free State conducted a research project on the ‘Analysis of trade structure and pattern of wool and mohair export of Lesotho.’ It showed that Lesotho’s production of mohair increased in the period of 1990 to 2009 by 25 percent as compared to the other leading fibre producing countries such as the United States of America which declined by 93.2 percent and South Africa that declined by 74.3 percent. The market share of Lesotho in the production of mohair increased from 7.3 percent in 2000 to 14.3 percent in 2009 and this has made Lesotho the second largest producer of mohair in the world. The United States of America is just behind Lesotho in terms of production and the latter is the biggest competitor with South Africa in the mohair industry.
Much diligence, competiveness and self-drive are seen in the wool and mohair production throughout the country. Many have gone to the extent of even nicknaming it- The Diamond Fibre. Multitudes are enthusiastic about the industry for the reason that lives are being changed as a result of it. For instance it also contributes 4.8% to the Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product compared to the agricultural crops that contribute 1.9%.
Bulane Lenkoane from Mankoaneng, Ha Sehapa is a leading Mohair producer in Lesotho. He was crowned position one with regard to high quality production of mohair at the Lesotho wool and mohair national show this year. While his love for Angoras came slowly without notice he aspires to assist other farmers to attain the same quality and more.
Their angora keeping and breeding was a business initially started by his father in the year 1974 at the time Bulane was deployed at a certain mine in South Africa. His father being in the retirement years at that time, bought an angora buck from the Ministry of Agriculture with the hope of improving their mohair production and livestock quality. To Bulane, this was a new breed all together, new to his eyes, though thrilling by way of appearance.
In as much as the buck had stayed a stamp of excitement to his heart, most of its descendant progeny hardly resembled it in appearance. The ewes used were indigenous and therefore many of the first generation kids largely revealed the physical appearance of their mothers, while very few exhibited the distinctive looks of the buck. Suffice to mention that the kids were strikingly beautiful in their infrequent cases of success. A false education on breeding had been propelled by the locals that for the buck to perform optimally well it must solely mate the indigenous breeds hence why many of its offspring hardly resembled it. Bulane could do nothing against the conviction of his father because they belonged to him after all.
By this time, his father encountered problems of paying his shepherds, so as a means of backing Bulane would send a small sum money monthly. Overwhelmed by his son’s charitable assistance, Lenkoane confessed that ever since he bore children it was his first to receive money from one. Lenkoane had eleven children, (six girls and five boys); Bulane being the seventh.
For this reason Lenkoane started buying some indigenous goats for Bulane with some of the money he was given by him. He bought another buck of the angora breed and continued to breed as before. Bulane realised that the problem was in the lack of education. The Ministry of Agriculture officers had not taught the farmers on how to do their breeding a success.
“In the early 1980s I had approximately ten goats. Their mohair was well renowned, and the quality thereof overwhelmed many with admiration but sadly received less money when compared to other mohair growers due to contaminations,” Bulane Lenkoane said to ‘The Silo’ crew.
In 1992, the patriarch died but Bulane had started beforehand to change the way of breeding the flock his father had bought him. By this time he was in his early thirties and decided to separate from the flock of his father. His brother took over the legacy but many died due to carelessness. Bulane bought his own buck that was when his goats began to improve. He had left the mines in 1985 therefore he attempted by hook or by crook to make the angora business a success.
In the local shows, his goats would rise to the top. Without any formal education on the husbandry of his stock the challenges met were inadequate dietary formulas, and little knowledge in the use of medication.
In the year 1993 he became a member of the wool and mohair association while in 2004 his children challenged him to participate in the Lesotho wool and mohair association annual shows. Previously, the district of Qacha’s Nek hardly scored even a single point on these shows but Bulane on his first came with one point – giving him a third position in the mohair category. Year after year he continued to participate, scoring three points in the second year, giving him a first position. Qacha’s Nek was still rated the tenth generally in agriculture.
Beating the famous Semela Malefane in 2012 and 2013 gave him much zeal. In 2014, 2015, and 2016 Semela took the lead but in 2017 Bulane took over again. He had learned the secret of his failure in taking the first class position in those progressive years. Semela did his breeding earlier than everyone else, and his feeding program was excellent.
The majority of Bulane’s goats are angoras and a lot of the offspring are fine, highly impressive in physic and fibre. Eddie Prinsloo, a South African merino breeder two years ago bought an angora buck from Bulane Lenkoane in Qacha’s Nek show making it the first export in small-stock records. Much of the Lesotho’s constructive competition have put our country on the world stage where nations are watching with an inexpressible interest the heights we are relentlessly attaining year after year.