Cultivating a commercial enterprise

Cultivating a commercial enterprise

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

Agriculture has always been my dream but would I survive on it?

While living and working across the border in South Africa, Lehlohonolo would often find himself asking this question.


Tragedy strikes Lehlohonolo

In 2011, Lehlohonolo suffered a major stoke and returned to his home village of Boiketsiso in remote northern Lesotho. As he began to recover it became clear he had a serious limp meaning he wouldn’t be considered for most jobs he had previously held.

With few opportunities to leave his village and head to a big town, Lehlohonolo decided to try farming and answer that question he used to ask himself back in South Africa.

Cultivating a commercial enterprise

Limamarela is born

Initially Lehlohonolo began farming on a small piece of land until he decided to lease larger fields outside his village.

With a greater area to farm, Lehlohonolo teamed up with a few other local farmers and they eventually formed the Limamarela Vegetable Group.


SALP strengthens

In 2017, the Southern Africa Livelihoods Project (SALP) began working across South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland supporting enterprises to increase and commercialise their agricultural production.

Limamarela Vegetable Group was one of those SALP identified as being in need of support and the project began assisting them so they could sustainably increase their production and provide for local customers while also targeting new and larger markets in towns.  

While being market focused is important when commercialising agriculture, another key component for success is comprehensive hands-on training and skills development so group members can run a successful business.


“Before our produce amounted to 2,000, now we are able to produce 6,000 cabbages.”

Lehlohonolo Phatela, Limamarela Vegetable Group

Scaling up means more hands

With SALP’s support, the group began to increase the size of their land by leasing fields belonging to other families in the community.

More fields meant more hands were needed to keep up with the growing workload and the group started to hire day labourers. One young man named Keneuoe seemed especially interested in growing vegetables.


Keneuoe’s commitment

Over time Keneuoe went from working as just a day labourer to becoming a full member of the Vuyeriwani Vegetable Group.

The promotion meant a great deal to Keneuoe who is the main provider for his three younger siblings. While the group is not earning enough profit for the five members to each earn a monthly wage, they always take home fresh vegetables for their families.

Since becoming a full member Keneuoe works with a greater sense of pride and ownership and feels a bigger part of their future.

“My working here started as a small thing but now it is a big deal, so much so that I can see what we can attain as long as I keep working there.”

– Keneuoe Hlomisi, Limamarela Vegetable Group


Developing a strong reputation

The Limamarela Vegetable Group is developing a strong reputation in the local community as a reliable source of fresh, affordable vegetables.

Matholang Mariam lives next door to her elderly aunt Mats’oarelo Chaka in Boiketsiso village. Most days the pair make their way down to the Limamarela Vegetable Group to buy spinach or cabbage for their meals.

“We buy the vegetables from Ntate Teboho and Ntate Lehlohonolo because it is cheap, and because the vegetables are fresh. Also we save money a lot because his farm is such a short distance from us.” – Matholang Mariam, Boiketsiso village

Limamarela Vegetable Group is also becoming a regular casual employer in the community. Over the past season the group has hired 18 people from the community as day labourers.

Knowing that they’re contributing economically to their own community where unemployment is high fills the group with pride.


New horizons with new markets

The Limamarela Vegetable Group is located in a remote and difficult to reach corner of northern Lesotho. The distance from towns has been more of a challenge, as the costs involved in hiring a truck to transport their produce the 2.5-hour drive to the district capital are significant.

However, as the group’s production continues to grow steadily each season, there may soon enough be the opportunity to consider selling across the border in South Africa where there is a much bigger market. SALP project manager Ermias Temiru sees such potential for SALP groups, including the Limamarela Vegetable Group:

There is a vast untapped potential of agriculture markets across the region. There is access by road, by air among these three countries, cross border agriculture marketing is one of the bigger potential, which someone really can exploit to the extent that they can move from small scale agriculture to large scale agriculture.” – Ermias Tamiru

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