Writes: ‘Makarabo Matšumunyane
Agriculture has been known to be one of the most challenging sectors due to a number of reasons including the unpredictable climate, weather, lack of skills and shortage of market channels. Nonetheless, it is one of the sectors that bear the great weight of our country’s economy. Over and above, it is known to be a male-dominated discipline and is perceived by most women as a male career. It is therefore deemed to be beyond their capabilities. Experience has taught me that agriculture must be for all, men, women and children because it is the way of life.
As we celebrate Women’s month, The Silo took the opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and the important role that women of all races and religions have played and continue to play in Lesotho. We also believe that women should let the achievements of those who went before them inspire them to unlock their own strength and motivate them to make a difference in their families, their community or their country like Evangelist ‘Malehlohonolo Tefo of Lesotho Evangelical Church In Southern Africa (LECSA). She is a small-scale farmer in the region of Morija and she keeps a vegetable garden, poultry and is also involved in fruit-tree planting.
Evangelist ’Malehlohonolo Tefo said she has always had interest in farming and prefers to keep a vegetable garden where she can always get fresh and delicious vegetables whenever she needs them for family consumption. Her shopping list comprise of red meat, condiments and other household grocery, since her garden usually supplies most of the food she puts on her table.
Furthermore, she said that as an endeavor to develop herself in agriculture and to generate an extra income she found a partner then they started a fruit-tree plantation in 2017 in order to sell to the Department of Forestry as they heard that sometimes they buy trees from locals. The project was negatively affected due to drought and grafting failed for most trees. On the other hand, Mrs. Mpho Maile the lady who initially encouraged her to start the project suggested that due to a lot of big trees in that region, fruit trees do not usually survive since competition for resources such as nutrients, light and water is high, but they are yet to research and get a better understanding of the mechanisms that underlie resource competition. This led to them trying again in the next season and she says it is still her hope that the trees will grow well, so far they have not had any sales.
Regardless of the challenges and the stumbling blocks that they experienced, she says they will keep on trying to make the project a success and to seek more market channels. Furthermore, Mrs Tefo said her advice to all women in this hunger-stricken generation is to at least keep a vegetable garden, no matter how small it is, it makes a notable difference. Growing vegetables for one’s own family helps save money that one would spend if they were to buy them from the market and it also adds value to the family budget.
She explained that her second love in farming is poultry. Like with any other business it started very well but faced market challenges as a result ended up selling them informally to the community. Her customers used to buy on credit and delayed payments to a point where she was unable to sustain the business financially as a result went out of business. However, she said she loves agriculture and still keeps poultry for meat production. Being a stern believer she is determined to continue to explore different avenues and learn to from other recognised female farmers to succeed.
“My message to Basotho particularly in this afflicted period of COVID-19 is that everyone should take care of themselves because the pandemic is real and many have succumbed to it. My special message to women as we celebrate Women’s month, is that we should apply an extra effort in helping men and children with our God-given capabilities. I ask for God to continue to empower all women and enable us to perform our roles and duties as expected. Above all, I encourage all women to pray and lay all matters before God because He has a cure for every condition“.