BEDCO dishes out M300 000 to young farmers



MASERU – Agribusiness continues to accelerate in the country as many Basotho have entered the sector to make a living. As a result, many stakeholders in the country continue to support these emerging Basotho entrepreneurs in various ways to groom and promote their businesses. The Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) is among many of the institutions lending a helping hand in the promotion of young Basotho-owned businesses. BEDCO has, through its Youth Development Project, collaborated with Sekhametsi Investment Consortium and the Lesotho Post Bank to provide access to finance and business skills support to youth-owned agribusinesses.

Particular focus has been placed on producers and aggregators in the value chain of horticulture products. It is through the project that three qualifying businesses have been awarded a share of the M300 000 revolving fund, divided equally among them. The three businesses selected were Qhalakheng Evergreen Farms, Happy C&J Village Farm and Our Urban Farms, which were each awarded M100 000. Speaking at the event, BEDCO acting CEO, Tšepang Tlali, highlighted that the Smart Youth Fund (SYF) is one of several business plan competition initiatives under BEDCO’s Youth Development Programme that seeks to redress unemployment among the youth and aims to nurture a crop of entrepreneurs who can inspire change and prosperity by becoming job creators instead of job seekers.

He added that the project not only targeted youth between the ages of 18 and 35, but all businesses that showed an interest in supporting young Basotho in terms of job creation or business support to youth owned agribusinesses.

“Access to finance indeed remains a major challenge for many entrepreneurs in Lesotho. However, I firmly believe that through strategic partnerships of this nature between a public and private sector and banking sector, a lot more can be done to change this narrative.

“I wish to encourage all the beneficiaries to remain committed to their obligations that will be agreed upon with the bank as it will play a crucial role in ensuring that this project will not just remain a pilot but can impact more businesses in the coming years,” he said. On the other hand, BEDCO Youth Development Project manager, ’Majobere Mofolo, said they mainly want to achieve many things under the project including to assist in creating jobs, and contribute positively to the economic development of the country to mention a few.

She added that BEDCO focuses on issues such as access to finance as well as incubation services.

“After the access to finance stream, our beneficiaries usually go under the incubation programme that usually assists beneficiaries to run sustainable businesses. The Smart Youth Fund seeks to assist beneficiaries with access to finance initiatives. The money is not a grant but the beneficiaries will pay it back to give others the opportunity to also have their businesses financed.

“Through the fund, the mandate is to accelerate businesses that already exist and are registered and to contribute towards unemployment as well as the economy of the country.

“BEDCO plays a huge role towards the project where it is implementing, administering and managing the project,” she said. Mofolo highlighted how they went about the competition, saying they had issued calls for applications which were then passed through the evaluation process and they took a site visit to the businesses to ensure that they do exist and onto the final stage where they chose the three winners.

Moreover, in an interview with Public Eye recipient and owner and managing director of Happy C&J Village Farm, Bokang Petje, said he specialises in both primary and secondary farming saying peppers, tomatoes and lettuce are his primary farming products whereas cabbages, butternuts and potatoes are his secondary products.

He added that he has been farming and earning a living through it for eight years now and he has five employees. Petje said he sees farming as a way of creating jobs for many other young Basotho who are interested in farming, adding that with the fund that he has been awarded by BEDCO he is going to employ three more Basotho immediately. He concluded that although things do go well his main challenge is lack of chemical resources and fertilisers (supplements).

Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism Deputy Principal Secretary, ’Mabasia Lepota, acknowledged that BEDCO has been championing the development of the private sector through the numerous programmes that they have successfully implemented over the past few years, especially for the youth of this country.

She noted that BEDCO is doing a wonderful job by providing the private sector as well as the public sector with an opportunity to contribute to the economic growth of its partnerships with various stakeholders within the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) ecosystem. BEDCO’s mandate is to promote the establishment and growth of Basotho-owned enterprises and it is through initiatives such as the Smart Youth Fund that they believe that the mandate can be achieved.

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