Mpeo grows sheep flock from two to 300


. . . sticks to training to diversify into breeding and meat

Mosa Maoeng

MASERU – Livestock farming is a deeply rooted tradition among Basotho, thriving due to the country’s favourable ecological conditions, particularly the extensive foothills and mountainous areas ideal for such practices. Livestock farming in Lesotho encompasses raising and maintaining animals primarily for meat, and milk, as well as for wool, leather, recreation (riding or racing), and draught power.

’Mafanele Mpeoa, a 37-year-old woman from Ha Mabote, Berea, has turned her passion into a thriving livestock farming business, focusing on breeding Merino sheep, along with pigs. Mpeoa, who partners with her husband in this endeavour, has seen her farm grow significantly since its inception in 2005, when her husband started with just two sheep. She studied Form A to E at Mohale’s Hoek High School and later pursued a culinary arts course at Dona@Balos in Ha Thetsane, Maseru.

Growing up, she always had a passion for farming. During high school, she studied agriculture, although she had no experience in sheep breeding as her family never owned sheep. She later learned about livestock and sheep breeding after getting married after she was inspired by her spouse’s love for them, which eventually led her to also fall in love with livestock farming.

“I never imagined I would have so much interest in them, which often turned my friends off because I would always tell them I was going to buy my livestock food or that I had to bring food to the caretakers in the field, then leave them,” she says. She was selected as the Farmer of the Year at the Lesotho National Small Stock Show held between April 24 and 25 at the Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC) by the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA), earning this recognition for having the best small stocks and being awarded a cheque worth M5,000.

“There is a show held every year by the LNWMGA nationwide that begins at the district level in preparation for the national small stock show, which is usually held at the LAC. “By commencing in districts, I mean small stock farmers from the 10 districts, for instance, Mafeteng farmers compete against each other while other districts do the same. Afterwards, the sheep and goats selected as the best small stock to represent the district would compete in the national small stock show in Maseru,” she explains.

“It is a competition featuring Merino sheep and Angora goats, including lambs and kids with eight incisors. At the end of the show, the farmer with the most points is selected as Farmer of the Year. We began participating in the show in 2010.“In some years, we were selected as Farmer of the Year, while in others years, we were among the top five. This year, I was selected as Farmer of the Year. Sheep breeding was started by my husband in 2005 with just two sheep; that was before we were married. Now we have about 300,” she says.

Mpeoa further emphasises the challenges she encounters, including the high cost of feed and the lack of fields to plant fodder for their livestock. They often use other people’s fields temporarily, but that is also a challenge since these fields are often repurposed for resettlement or sold, leading to dearth of pasturing lands. For sheep feeding, they usually plant feeds, which are cheaper than buying food and only supplement when necessary. However, feeding pigs is more costly, requiring about 136 bags of 50kg maize meal of various pig feeds per month, costing around M44,000.

“We make sure to grow plenty when we get the chance to avoid being stranded for feed. Animals also help reduce boredom while providing a source of income. We breed livestock for selling meat in our butchery, shearing sheep and goats for wool and mohair, and selling breeding stock to other farmers,” she adds. “We breed our livestock for sale. We usually slaughter and take the meat to our butchery for sale. We also shear our sheep and goats and sell the wool and mohair. Additionally, we are breeders, so other farmers come to us when they need to buy rams or ewes,” Mpeoa adds.

Mpeoa is also a member of the African Women Farmers Allies (AWFA), which has been important to her. Through AWFA, she has connected with other women farmers, exchanging support and advice on growing their farming operations and overcoming challenges. With assistance from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), she has participated in training sessions in South Africa (Gauteng) and Mozambique.

The training in Gauteng focused on capacity building for small-scale farmers and animal health, while the one in Mozambique was about food safety. “This is where I learned several important aspects of farming. As a livestock farmer, I learned how to take care of animals by administering the right medications and injections. I also learned that new livestock should be separated from existing ones to avoid the spread of infections.

“For visitors to the farm, it is important to follow safety precautions like wearing gumboots, disposable overalls, and gloves to prevent cross-infection between animals and people. Regarding food safety, it is crucial to always wash hands and to keep raw and cooked meat separately to maintain hygiene,” says Mpeoa.

She advises other farmers, especially women, to work hard and focus on their livestock, ensuring it benefits them and multiplies. She also emphasises the importance of involving children in farming to ensure that their hard work continues after they are gone. Many farmers engaged in livestock farming often gain significantly by selling not only meat but also wool and mohair from their sheep and goats.

According to IFAD, Lesotho’s wool and mohair industry is rich in history and tradition. Since the 1800s, the nation’s sheep have produced high-quality wool, and its Angora goats have produced mohair, a finer fabric with a distinctive shine. Most of these goats and sheep are managed in small herds by rural, small-scale farmers, whose activities form the bedrock of Lesotho’s economy.

Over the years, the industry has developed a well-functioning network connecting local producers in Lesotho with brokers in South Africa. These brokers purchase the raw product, process it, and then sell it. This network also includes support services such as the provision of improved breeds, suitable equipment and supplies like livestock medication, training in livestock and range management, and access to loans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *