FARMERS’ TALK; FINDING PURPOSE AND LIFE IN AGRICULTURE WITH AGRICULTURE ACTIVIST THABISO MATS’OELE
Agriculture remains one of the strong pillars of Lesotho’s economy. A four-degree holder, Mr. Thabiso Mats’oele (42) shares his views and his journey into agriculture. Mats’oele’s agri-prenuership journey dates back in 2012, when he took the step to seize alcohol indulgence and rehabilitate himself with agriculture.
Initially, the humble Mahobong High School English teacher, started with what he calls ‘agricultural activism’. He wanted to encourage and raise awareness to youth that there are hidden treasures in this noble career. He erected the “illustrate/demo” at his farm which was aimed to prove that he is indeed not talking parables about finding life and purpose in agriculture. He defines his farm neither commercial nor subsistence. Few years back, it had 700 free range poultry (Boscheveld and Potchefstroom Koekoek). His demo farm then yielded him whooping M40 000.00 after rearing period.
The initiative then advanced to organizing agricultural tour to Botswana which, among others, the aim was to see how farmers in Botswana do it, and to seek motivation from successful farmers in Botswana. It was after this very trip when he decided to form the association called Young Lesotho Farmers Association. The main goal of forming the association was to provide conducive environment for farmers to help each other, forming interactive platform where farmers can know and motivate each other. Few months later, the association was registered to operate legally.
Despite the notable success and achievement of the association, the internal disputes rocked the association. Mr. Mats’oele emphasized that he felt like the association was no more in line with its initial mandate of agricultural activism. The looming of the disputes within the organization saw a new babe bred called Lesotho Progressive Farmers. More similar to Young Lesotho Farmers Association, Lesotho Progressive Farmers is a consortium where farmers also meet through what is called “Lipitso” to share ideas in farming, and challenges faced by every farmer as well as mitigation measures. The awards were then introduced last year, to most successful and influential agricultural profiles. The awards formed part of success the agro-patriotic Mats’oele always dreamt of.
Unlike Y.L.F.A, the Lesotho Progressive Farmers does not have committee but rather run by its willing members. This new babe hosted a very successful agricultural expo at Mokema in Maseru district. With escalating number of farmers producing, it is necessary for farmers to know proper marketing skills. To accomplish this, Lesotho Progressive Farmers is planning a trip to Durban. This is where members are going to learn by experimenting. Among others, this is where farmers will learn and see how products are packaged, and more importantly, the significance of packaging in marketing.
While emphasizing on packaging, he highlighted that packaging and branding gives willing customer every information about the product on the shelves. He further added that it is packaging which and branding of the product which actually captures customer’s attention.
He outlined that lack of information in farmers is a rocking obstacle to progress of farmers. Farmers lack knowledges on proper management practices, sourcing reliable and profitable market. The Leribe born farmer and agricultural activist also talked hard on greediness of emerging farmers. He outlined that most farmers tend focus more on how much money they are going to get instead of means and procedures of getting it. He further added that the low levels of production by local farmers darkens the chances of farmers to embark into big markets.
On acquiring financial assistance, Mr. Mats’oele thinks that every financial institution must have agro-financing wing or department where people who are already in the production can get external assistance for expanding their business.
“People should not take farmers to halls for workshops. There must be small farms which are made where people will experiment what they are being taught. Ntate, What I can say to other people out there, there is a lot of money in farming. If my four degrees, B.A. Philosophy, B.A. Humanities, P.G.D.E (Post Graduate Diploma in Education) and M.A. in Leadership cannot give me even a close share to what farming gave me, that means farming is the mine, ke morafo Ntate, so why not embrace and do it?” He concluded.