By: Tjonane Matla
Given all challenges facing Lesotho, the only hope the country has for securing its food security is by relying on private sector participation. Unfortunately to a certain extent, even in situations where political party manifestos impress the voters, when the same political parties become governments, excuses and bottlenecks become the order of the day. Such governments tend to rely on civil service expertise and ignore their party intelligentsia.
At the age of 45, Mr. Tšeliso Lebentlele a Civil Servant by then, retired from the Lesotho Government in 1984. According to Lebentlele – A Motor Mechanic, who trained at Mashenene Campus at the Lerotholi Polytechnic, and then proceeded to the United Kingdom where he studied Farm Machinery at Stow College of Engineering in Glasgow Scotland.
Lebentlele left the civil service immediately after he realized that there were no opportunities of self-growth. He was the Workshop Manager at the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Co-operatives and Marketing. Although he is not comfortable with voicing out confrontational opinions, his resignation was after 18 years of Lesotho’s independence of which many including him claim that the British left Lesotho’s Public Service Performance in acceptable conditions or rather high standards by conventional standards.
Therefore we conclude that his main reasons might be centered on lack of discipline and order amongst the civil service.
In February 1986, just few days after the 20th of January Coup d’etat, Lebentlele left for the United States of America where he had made his own arrangements for apprenticeship with a private farm by the name of TN & W Irrigation in Manito Illinois. The farm was owned by Gnile Talnott and it was specializing in supply and maintenance of irrigation equipment like center pivots and production of different crops from grains to vegetables.
It was in the United States where the patriotic Lebentlele accumulated a lot of skills in agriculture, the skills that he is currently and has over the years transferred to many of our people.
In the United States, Lebentlele had the opportunity to enhance his farm machinery – mechanics skills, of which he had access to some of the machines which were more than 30 years of age, but still operating. It has been 26 years since the American lessons were acquired, but Lebentlele still practices good maintenance to his machinery, which enhances the asset life span.
Although Mr. Tšeliso Lebentlele believes he still lacks certain important farming skills, his approaches to agricultural practices supersede those of ordinary farmers. He is a self-motivated veteran with a clear vision and abilities to transfer his skills to the next generations. He is a man who cannot only be an advisor to the government in small-holder agricultural development matters, but a preferred mentor by many of the young stars who have a keen interest in agriculture.
- Lebentlele came back from the United States in October 1986.
- He then ventured in to an agricultural project in Thaba-Bosiu, where he was regularly paid a visit by many – including his American contact base.
- In the US, Lebentlele interacted with different farmers, including young farmers who were between the ages of 8 and 12 years that is where his mentorship vision germinated.
- Lebentlele, at the age of 74 years believes so much in the capabilities of our youth, but is worried that the two biggest challenges to Lesotho’s agriculture are a lack of suitable financial and insurance packages specifically designed for farmers and lack of skills.
- If there is anything which troubled Lebentlele over the years is nothing but rampant theft of agricultural equipment from the fields.
Apart from the vegetable venture, Lebentlele is a well-known small-scale farmer in Maseru who supplies small farmers with vegetable seedlings.