Writes Mofana Makakane
Global food security is continuously becoming a serious threat, however with Lesotho’s agricultural sector producing less than 10% of GDP, the country has to devise different programs that shall eventually mitigate many different challenges such as high rate of unemployment. Previously, Lesotho due to being in the belly of the then apartheid South Africa, received a lot of attention, in terms of international donor funding for many different projects.
One of such a project was the Student Enterprise Program (SEP) that was financed by one German Donor Fund. This project was meant to give the students at the Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC), valuable experience in borrowing money, paying the funds back in agreed terms, with interest and maneuverer in the play – ground of free enterprise.
Our findings reveal that most of such projects normally underperform once the international donor agent steps out. It should be probably of paramount importance to disclose that the SEP project is structured to have a very strong balance sheet reflecting accumulated or revolving fund over the years.
From our previous, and lined up interview to be published in future, we observed a number of weaknesses that are of serious concern to the whole idea, however let me introduce this issue’s project.
The history of SEP date 29 years back as previously published. The intention has for a number of times been disclosed as enhancing the Diploma in Agriculture and Home Economics completing students with practical skills. The project is centred on the following areas, being Livestock Feedlot in production of lamb and beef, dairy and horticulture.
Over the years, the poultry has been the star performing sector in SEP in terms of productivity hence profitability. It is very unfortunate that both productivity and profitability are no longer points to boast about due to poor infrastructure that stimulates high and abnormal mortality rate.
“We bought the breed, COB 500 at Letsatsi Farm Feeds and the poultry feeds at ITAU comprising different diets; starter, grower and finisher. We do not purchase the feeds at Makhulo Farm Feeds because they are expensive. Our project is estimated to have four segments, however there were delays in getting loans from the school. We are currently on the third segment. Because of the problems we encountered, we acquired a loss for the two segments. However, we are expecting substantial returns for the third and fourth because we learned from our wrong doings” says Tšepang Phahlang.
Phahlang further added that because of high mortality they did not meet the market requirement and that they only supply catering companies at the moment.
Estimations provided no mortality
Bought 300 chicks for M 2 100.00
Feeds cost over 6 weeks M 8 010.00
Sell at M 60/ chicken (1.822 kg at six weeks)
M 1.00 fee/ chicken for slaughter at the Abattoir and they take heads, lungs and legs.
Workings; 300 x 60 = M 18 000.00
M 18 000.00 – M 10 110.00 = M 7,890.00
M 7890.00 – M 300.00 (Abattoir fee) = M 7,590.00 returns
- Dilapidated structure with no ventilation resulting in asides.
- Sometimes no water.
- Encountered a loss for their first two badges.
- Low temperatures that resulted in death of numerous chicks.
- Delay in acquiring loans from the school
SEP’s central contribution is to fight poverty through instilling entrepreneurship in youth.
According to the National Strategic Development Plan 2012/13 to 2016/17 (NSDP) there are six strategic goals to achieve Lesotho’s National Vision goals and to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. The role of the agricultural sector in improving the economy is recognized in the first strategic objective of the plan to: pursue high, shared and employment-creating economic growth. The NSDP identifies the agricultural sector as one of the main sources of employment, especially in rural areas. It proposes a three-pronged strategy to develop the agricultural sector by:
- Firstly, sustainable commercialization and diversification and the development of integrated value chains;
- Secondly, building effective agricultural support institutions; and,
- Thirdly, improving risk management in the sector and reducing stock theft.