Writes: Koena Pelea
A gentleman who turned his passion into a profession. Mr Tšepo Massa also known as Black Boer, a name inspired by his work. Massa chose “BLACK BOER because he believes that everything that a Boer can achieve he can also achieve as far as crop production is concerned. We grow up with dreams and expectations and as life gets harder some of us get tired along the way and give up on our dreams and take the easy way out”, as for he let passion lead him to succeed in life.
”I grew up in Lithabaneng, in my family nor my village I cannot recall anyone who loved crop production to say. Even though I was encouraged by them in a way, my love for agriculture also came naturally. I went to Lithabaneng L.E.C primary school and there I was given formal training in agriculture. Over the years my Agriculture teacher noticed my desire and has always supported me. I used to practice all things at home learned in class and I succeed. I later went to Lesotho high school and was disappointed to learn that agricultural subjects were not offered at all, my love for plant production never died instead it grew stronger. I would rush home from school to check on my plants and when they matured I would sell to individuals especially tomato and onion, after high school I definitely knew that I wanted to pursue Agriculture especially plant production, then I enrolled with the National University of Lesotho N.U.L and did BSc. Agriculture and graduated in 2016’.
As soon as Massa completed his studies he didn’t bother looking for a job instead he focused on planting crops now as a professional and as people noticed his production many wanted to learn from him. When he realized that most of the time the people came while he was busy taking care of his plants he decided to charge a small fee for the services he offered to deter them from coming back instead they they came back in numbers. Since he is passionate about plant production this increased his interest and made him happy to see that Basotho do care about plant production and it also taught him that even though there are a lot of Basotho who love farming they do not know much about plant protection.
Then he created a group on Facebook called “Crop Production, Protection and Marketing” and “Black Boer Veggies & Plant Protection” which he uses to post information about plant protection but it was not enough as others still needed on site demonstration. He then started a consultancy to give expert advice. The demand increased, as others now needed motivation and guidance. He then decided to register more people as clients who paid a subscription. The subscription qualified them to get access, on information they needed for different plants and helped them to produce healthy crops step by step from market analysis, seed selection up to harvest, while some groups pay a nominal fee for consultation. Despite the solutions he came up with more and more challenges kept popping up that needed his attention. As we know plants do get sick, he decided to open a ‘PLANT CLINIC’ where the goal was to focus on the well-being of plants and to tackle the disease with knowledge and the expertise he has.
He stated that the most common pathogens in Lesotho are mainly caused by BACTERIA and FUNGI, on plants like squash, butternut and other cucurbits (mekopu) the most common diseases are powdery mildew, a white powdery growth on the upper surfaces of leaves and stem, mainly caused by fungi which forms in dry weather, in high relative humidity and downy mildew. These disease’s are also caused by fungus and emergence favoured by moist conditions. Solanaceous crops like tomato, potatoes are susceptible to septoria leaf, early blight and bacterial peptasin most of this diseases are soil born. The best way to avoid these diseases is that farmers shut space their crops so that air can pass. For plants like tomato always sanitize your equipment in order to avoid passing bacteria from the infected to the uninfected plant. In Lesotho it is in rare cases that you find a viral infection and to find any sort of infection in leafy vegetables.
When asked the challenges associated with his profession he said. ‘’I do have challenges but I turn them into opportunities. I love them, they help me grow, but the big challenge is seeing a lot of people wanting knowledge and it makes him sad that as a country we have not reached the stage where such information is readily available. It seems like the country has been experiencing this for a long time. As far as I know I am the only independent person, among the few if any, now working with plant health and production, my vision is to see the plant clinic well established, most importantly having passionate experts working there full-time offering different services concerning plant protection and having a hall to hold seminars”.
“To the youth I cannot encourage them to venture into Agriculture or try to force them to love it because I believe we are born with different talents but all I can say is that they should follow their dreams with passion. At the end of the day we need each other, remember that “HARD WORK FOREVER PAYS”.
It is not about how much education you have or how much you can actually write a CV or complain about other people getting jobs through connections but it is about what you are doing about the knowledge you have, follow your dreams with passion even if nobody believes in you now, work hard with passion it will definitely pay off at the end. It is time we start going to school to gain knowledge that will guide us and help us to achieve our dreams not to wait for the Government to employ us. The time is now! The time to start to create employment that adds value not only to us but also to the country, whatever we do with passion is definitely bound to succeed.