Baking a better future

Baking a better future

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The Southern Africa Livelihoods Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

In the quiet hours of the early morning, all action in Ha Paramente village originates from the Thusanang Mokhali Bakery. The smell of fresh bread, the voices of ladies talking, and a faint glow flickers through the windows of the small blue-walled building, all signs the day’s baking has begun.

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Inside the home turned bakery are the four members of the Thusanang Mokhali Bakery group. They are busy kneading, oiling baking trays and dotting them with fleshy balls of white dough while simultaneously removing freshly baked rolls from the oven.

The Thusanang Mokhali Bakery is located in the mountains of Lesotho’s northern Makhunoane region. Over the past year, their bread has become a household name in the area and it’s known for being fresh, exceedingly tasty and well priced.


Tabitha

Tabitha Mamopei is one of the bakery’s two senior group members; she is also a local pastor and a caring grandmother.

After years of working in South Africa and sending money home to support her children and parents, Tabitha finally retired and moved home to Ha Paramente.

Once home, Tabitha was shocked by the challenges she saw facing her community, especially the limited opportunities for young people, so she began to consider how she could help her community.


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I remembered that I knew how to knead and to cook bread because I used to work at a bakery. Now I understood that with the people here we can do that.

– Tabitha, bakery founder

 

Eager to start working within her community to create employment opportunities, Tabitha, alongside another grandmother, named Mahlakametsa, began baking bread and the first steps of the Thusanang Mokhali bakery were born.

Initially the pair would bake bread in an earth-dug fire pit. The technique was tiring, demanded a lot of firewood and had a high rate of inconsistently cooked or burnt bread. Despite the challenges they persevered.

 


Baking a better future


Building a bakery

With the support of a previous World Vision Australia project, the pair received crucial baking equipment, namely a baking oven, and were able to transition from baking outside in the earth-dug fire pit to indoors.

Once they began using their new equipment and refining their recipe, they also began to expand their production and attract new team members.



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Southern Africa Livelihoods Project builds on foundation

Tsepo Motsamai works with World Vision in Lesotho and he is a passionate community development practitioner. Tsepo worked with the bakery group during the previous project and has overseen the Southern Africa Livelihoods Project (SALP) work to assist groups in commercialising and scaling up their production.


Before, the focus was mainly about ensuring that households on a day to day basis, they have enough food to eat. They're able to complete the basics such as taking children to school. Now with this project, the focus is actually scaling these projects up to a point where they now begin not only to help direct participants, but also go beyond to actually help the entire community.

– Tsepo Motsamai, SALP Coordinator
 

Tsepo understood that for the bakery to succeed long-term the group needed to cultivate an emphasis on business and accounting as much as on baking bread.

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The young baker, Kananelo

Tabitha and Mahlakametsa never missed an early morning in the bakery and then in early 2018 two new group members, including a 20-year-old named Kananelo Matela, joined the founders.

Kananelo lives with her grandmother in a small home in the village. She is a kind young woman who speaks softly but listens intently. For a number of years Kananelo has been the primary caregiver for her elderly grandma while she simultaneously studied at school. Then in 2017 Kananelo graduated from high school and while she had always dreamt of continuing her studies at university, limited money at home meant it was never a possibility for her to pursue her dreams.

While never forgetting her dream to study at university but also needing to earn income for herself and her grandma, one day Kananelo plucked up the courage to ask Tabitha if she could have a job.

It didn’t take Tabitha long to make up her mind and soon the bakery group was joined by a new and its youngest member.


Shop owner, Makatleho Khabele

As the bakery group began growing their membership and their production, they also began to think more like a business.

One day, Tabitha approached Makatleho Khabele who runs a bustling one-stop shop alongside a busy road in a neighbouring village. Tabitha brought her a handful of loaves and a few dozen fresh buns to see if Makatleho might be interested in stocking the group’s bread.

“It was my intention to see whether it would sell faster than the one I already had or what. But I saw that it flew off the shelves. The sample they had given to me actually sold out very quickly.” –Makatleho Khabele

The group then had a major daily customer confirmed and they organised for a local man to drive the bread to the shop each morning on his way to work in the district hospital.



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Baking for the future

As the group’s production continues to grow, Tsepo keeps in close contact with them, always looking to understand how he can best support them. Tsepo and SALP recognise that success is a gradual process and the journey of transitioning from an initial subsistence initiative to a commercially viable bakery business will have its challenges.

Kananelo remains hopeful that the bakery might be the springboard she needs to ensure she can one day continue her studies at university. Kananelo has her sights set, “I would love to do nursing.”


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See more stories of how World Vision is growing livelihoods in Southern Africa.