Mabele Lumela!

(MENAFN- The Post)

ROMA – The National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub business, Bohlale, just got M500 000 funding.

“This funding was given to us by the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio),” said 'Matokelo Nthejane who is leading the business.

Bohlale makes and sells a host of sorghum and wheat products including sorghum biscuits, muesli, rusks and many more.

It has also created jobs for ten women from around the Roma valley. A few years ago, two good things that would lay the foundation for this massive funding happened.

SANBio, which is a Southern African organisation providing funding in biosciences, made a call for proposals. Dr Pulane Nkhabutlane, a NUL expert in foods, applied and won.

She was developing food products based on sorghum. Back home, Metropolitan Lesotho was making a similar move.

It gave the NUL Innovation Hub a whopping M1 million to sponsor selected entrepreneurship projects. Dr Nkhabutlane's sorghum products also got funded. These two funds made a difference.

“I had just completed my degree in Consumer Sciences when I got a call from Dr Nkhabutlabe,” Nthejane said.

“She wanted to work with me in the development of sorghum food products.”

She said she picked the offer almost immediately and that was it.

As they developed food products and tested the market, they experienced ups and downs like any business but they were growing.

Then something like lightning struck. It was Covid-19.

“The resulting lock-downs and restrictions in movements were too much for our business,” Nthejane said.

“Not only did we have a lot of our raw materials get spoiled, we later lost many of our customers. Some of them never came back.”

Just when they were scratching their heads, something was brewing well beyond the borders of the Mountain Kingdom. SANBio was planning another round of funding.

This time, it wanted to assist businesses that were hit hard by Covid-19 to recover. Having succeeded in the first trial, Dr Nkhabutlane and the team made another bet.

They submitted an application and got half a million maloti funding. Once again, SANBio had found them worthy of another funding among the many businesses that applied.

Needless to say, it was a shot in the arm — a much needed relief. Here are the possible reasons SANBio keeps pumping money into the Roma Valley.

“We have hired exclusively young women,” Nthejane said.

Before the funding, they had hired five ladies from around the Roma valley. Now the number has doubled to ten.

That is no small number in a country where job creation is a tough nut to crack. Youth and women are at the receiving end of the unemployment crisis.

“What we are happy about is that we don't only hire women, all of them are from around the university.”

Another reason could be that their sorghum products line-up is unique. Sorghum products such as rusks and biscuits are rare, not only in Lesotho but around the world.

But sorghum is a superfood, a kind of product best known for its health properties including good nutrition, high fibre and absence of gluten.
Sorghum plants are also known to be good in resisting droughts which are now a common thing in Lesotho.

“More importantly, we buy our sorghum and other ingredients from local farmers,” she said.

Specifically, they might have received the second round of funding from the same body on the basis of their resilience.

If it's difficult to be a business anywhere at all, it is super-difficult to be a business in Lesotho where it looks as if everything is designed to make you fail.

However, the conducive environment created by the NUL Innovation Hub has made it possible for businesses to survive all kinds of challenges that normally drive an average business to the ground.

That resilience cannot go unnoticed by funders who want to create a difference. The money has already been put to good use.

“We have already increased our equipment and the output of the products we sell,” she said.

More employees have been hired. More sensory tests have been made.

“We have even been assisted by the Lesotho military at the Makoanyane Barracks in the sensory analysis of the biscuits.”

She said the University of Pretoria Laboratories have also tested a variety of their food products and some of the results obtained have just been presented in an academic conference in Finland last month.

Maybe it's time to repeat Basotho's famous slogan,“mabele lumela!”

Own Correspondent


The Post

Legal Disclaimer:
MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.