Lesotho’s economy relies on agriculture, with about 45% of employment in the country depending on it, and almost all rural households with access to land are involved in some form of vegetable or fruit production. To improve the landlocked country’s limited economic prospects, supporting rural small farmers is a must.
That support can range from the provision of needed equipment, like Mama Kotoane’s greenhouses and hail nets, to the development of infrastructure so as to meet export standards, to improving marketing and branding.
Mama Kotoane grows red cabbage, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and more on a small plot of land in Berea district in Lesotho. The 56-year-old started growing such things in 2007, having put most of her efforts before that into the raising of pigs and chickens.
Today she has her brand Piggery & Green, gesturing to where she started and where she is now, cultivating a host of vegetables and supplying local supermarkets, schools, and restaurants. But she also has bigger plans. “I am thinking to build something unique. I want to produce throughout the year,” she said, referencing her current seasonal harvesting. She also has a plan to sell farming equipment like tillers, considering the lack thereof in her neighborhood.
What Mama Kotoane grows has shifted over the years, with a major change happening when she received greenhouses and hail netting as part of international support projects for agriculturalists in the country, including through a partnership between the government and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).
“I remember in 2012 I lost a lot of money. I expected a lot from my watermelon harvest but due to climate change, I lost it. I didn’t give up, and then I was introduced to protected farming,” she said.
“I got the first greenhouse in 2018 and my life changed,” she added. Mama Kotoane was able to increase her yields and try growing new items, including mushrooms, spinach, and lettuce. Her second two greenhouses came via the World Bank, and she now has three employees and a delivery car.
She is continually trialing other products, from okra to cucumbers, and looking to make her own farming process easier and more efficient. “I focus on horticulture because I love it,” she said.
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