MA­HAO SHOW­CASES FARM­ING

His fu­ture in the Le­sotho De­fence Force might not be cer­tain, but the same can­not be said of Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao's thriv­ing farm­ing en­ter­prise in Mokema.

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

Far from the madding crowd of schem­ing politi­cians and gun-sling­ing col­leagues, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao looks any­thing but the vi­cious Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) Com­man­der who had to be ex­iled from his home­land for more than three months to en­sure peace pre­vailed in the runup to the king­dom’s 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

Lt Gen Ma­hao speaks of a sim­ple life among his neigh­bours in Mokema, and how he would tend his fa­ther’s live­stock as a young­ster and live off the land the way his very own an­ces­tors had done un­til the ad­vent of colo­nial rule.

He would later ob­tain a Bach­e­lor of Laws de­gree from the Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Le­sotho (NUL), and more qual­i­fi­ca­tions both at home and abroad, cul­mi­nat­ing in his em­ploy­ment with the LDF in Novem­ber 1996.

an avid taek­wondo prac­ti­tioner, Lt Gen Ma­hao (47), re­flects on his early years in the LDF and his el­e­va­tion to Com­man­der in au­gust 2014 — a pro­mo­tion which was part of a chain of events which not only prompted a gen­eral elec­tion two years early but also brought Le­sotho to the brink of civil war.

Sud­denly, Lt Gen Ma­hao found him­self at odds with some of his col­leagues in the LDF due to the pro­mo­tion, while politi­cians also used the ac­ri­mony to fur­ther their own self­ish in­ter­ests.

af­ter a South­ern african Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (Sadc)-bro­kered deal re­sulted in his de­par­ture from Le­sotho last Novem­ber along­side his nemesis, Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice Com­mis­sioner Khothatso Tšooana, to al­low for peace­ful polls and the restora­tion of cor­dial re­la­tions be­tween the po­lice and army, Lt Gen Ma­hao and his fel­low se­cu­rity chiefs re­turned from their leave of ab­sence last week.

While he has not been of­fi­cially in­formed of his fu­ture role in the LDF since there is now a new gov­ern­ment in power, which al­legedly has its own can­di­date for the LDF com­mand, Lt Gen Ma­hao ap­pears to be thriv­ing in his new­found ‘free­dom’ as he has re­turned to his roots in Mokema to pur­sue agri­cul­ture — his “ob­ses­sion” from the time he re­alised the “real” value of land when still a very young boy tend­ing his par­ents’ live­stock.

along­side his wife, and three sons, Lt Gen Ma­hao has since em­barked on a com­mer­cial agri­cul­tural en­ter­prise at Sea­sonal Har­vest Farm, which is about 34 kilo­me­tres from Maseru.

With im­mense sup­port from his com­mu­nity and the chief of Mokema Ha Le­bakae, the LDF com­man­der is now run­ning a promis­ing, if not al­ready flour­ish­ing mixed-agri­cul­ture ini­tia­tive.

With its slo­gan ‘Farm­ing is the way to go’, Lt Gen Ma­hao looks con­tent as he sur­veys the bags of pota­toes, sorghum, maize, and live­stock feed ready for the mar­ket, as well as his im­pres­sive chicken and rab­bit projects.

Farm­ing im­ple­ments in the shed con­firm an op­er­a­tion that could in­deed, trans­late into the se­ri­ous agribusi­ness Lt Gen Ma­hao says he wishes to have es­tab­lished by 2017.

“I can’t imag­ine life with­out farm­ing, as it is not a hobby to me but an ob­ses­sion,” Lt Gen Ma­hao said as he took the Le­sotho

Times crew on a tour of his farm mea­sur­ing close to 15 acres.

I can’t imag­ine life with­out farm­ing, as it is not a hobby to me but an ob­ses­sion . . . I was born here in Mokema and grew up herd­ing my par­ents’ live­stock. I was ini­tially tempted to in­vest in real es­tate, and buy houses to rent out, but my ob­ses­sion with farm­ing got the bet­ter of me, and I de­cided to in­vest here among my peo­ple

“I was born here in Mokema and grew up herd­ing my par­ents live­stock. I was ini­tially tempted to in­vest in real es­tate, and buy houses to rent out, but my ob­ses­sion with farm­ing got the bet­ter of me, and I de­cided to in­vest here among my peo­ple.

“So in 2006, I started farm­ing maize, sun­flower and sorghum on 10 acres of this land and would sell the pro­duce to peo­ple around Ha Le­bakae and Koal­a­bata, where I am cur­rently stay­ing with my fam­ily.

“How­ever, last year, I de­cided to go largescale and ex­pand the mar­ket, and also started pro­duc­ing live­stock feed, for my own use be­cause now I have a pig­gery project, in which I fo­cus on breed­ing and pork pro­duc­tion.

“I am also into poul­try pro­duc­tion, and sell eggs to my lo­cal com­mu­nity as well as busi­nesses. I col­lect plus or mi­nus 600 eggs a day, and I in­tend to ex­pand the project. But to min­imise costs, I have to en­gage in live­stock-feed pro­duc­tion, and I am also into potato-farm­ing. As for the cat­tle busi­ness, I am just start­ing but in­tend to make it big by the tar­get date of 2017. I also have rab­bits and tra­di­tional chick­ens, and will soon be es­tab­lish­ing a bee-keep­ing project as I am also hop­ing to go into honey-pro­duc­tion big time,” he said.

Lt Gen Ma­hao said dur­ing his sus­pen­sion from the LDF last year while he faced a court mar­tial for “be­hav­ing in a man­ner un­be­com­ing of an army of­fi­cer”, he planted 200 peach trees as he ex­panded his en­ter­prise.

“The bot­tom line is I would want this farm to be pro­duc­tive all-year-round, be it in sum­mer or win­ter.”

To en­hance his busi­ness, Lt Gen Ma­hao said he pur­chased plough­ing, pes­ti­cides-pray­ing, har­vest­ing, milling, and pack­ag­ing ma­chin­ery.

“I just wanted to make my farm­ing eas­ier when I bought this farm­ing equip­ment, but now I am also let­ting it to my fel­low vil­lagers around Mokema and also in Roma,” he added.

Re­it­er­at­ing his am­bi­tion to be­come a “very se­ri­ous com­mer­cial farmer”, Lt Gen Ma­hao said: “Ac­tu­ally, I want this farm to turn into a very se­ri­ous agroin­dus­try where I would be pro­duc­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing at a very large scale.

“Ev­ery­thing should be hap­pen­ing here; the farm­ing, pack­ag­ing, ev­ery­thing. Right now, I have four full­time em­ploy­ees, and also have many sea­sonal work­ers, which I be­lieve is help­ing al­le­vi­ate poverty in my com­mu­nity.

“But like I said, I have big plans for this place, and luck­ily, I was blessed to have a wife who has also taken to farm­ing so much that even when I am not around, like when I was in ex­ile re­cently, she was tak­ing care of ev­ery­thing.”

Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao and some of the projects at his farm.

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