AfriPonics to empower women in agriculture

FamCast News
a month ago

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By Neo Kolane

An agricultural start-up that specializes in hydroponics farming, AfriPonics is a brain child of three young college students who love the African continent.

The young students are Djibril Rushingabinwi from Rwanda, Jordan Mubako from Zimbabwe and Lerato Takana from Lesotho.

The business was born out of reading and frustration that Lesotho has potential to grow its own crops yet 90 percent of them are still imported.

The three young college students at Harvard University, started talking about this company in 2019 which was officially launched and registered last year in August.

What followed was the construction and setting of the farm followed and operations began in November.

The farm is based in Khubetsoana near Unity Primary School.

One of the managing directors Takana explained that what AfriPonics essentially does is instead of growing vegetables using soil, it uses water.

Takana further said that the farm focuses on leafy vegetables because they are sort of the easiest to grow using hydroponics.

He revealed that one easy vegetable the farm started with is leafy lettuce; which has been growing since November 2021.

AfriPonics is selling to both restaurants and retailers, it has sold to one of the big supermarkets although the quantity was low as the business is still growing.

“We also managed to sell once to Enrich although we want to resume that relationship but unfortunately it has only been once. When it comes to restaurants we have sold to Peri-Peri and Ouh Lala. We have also worked with Maluti Fresh Market.

“We have sold to about 90-100 individuals since we started working,” Takana mentioned.

The three young students are currently in talks with big restaurants like Nada, The market as well as people who carter for a recreational centre and one famous hotel with the hope that they can “establish a relationship with them and start selling to them because the kind of lettuce we are currently growing is only sold at a few retail shops.”

That kind of lettuce is only bought from South Africa and not Lesotho; making AfriPonics the only local suppliers of the kind of leafy lettuce, making them try to branch out to everyone who consumes leafy lettuce.

Takana said that soon enough the company will be branching into spinach and other vegetables like rocket and head lettuce

He hinted that AfriPonics will branch into tomatoes and cucumber overtime but “we will ensure that the produce is in abundance.”.

One other top priority of AfriPonics is to empower women in agriculture.

The company has brought in a young Mosotho woman as well to be a shareholder Tiisetso Sefatsane.

“We want to leave the company in the direct hands and management of women and by that we will be removing ourselves from the managing board and become on the advisory board and let the company be run by women.

“Sefatsane is the country managing director, she runs everything from the construction, production and sales,” Takana said.

He revealed that the company has established an internship programme where it recruits young women from the National University of Lesotho (NIUL) who studied agriculture.

But for now it is only focusing on students who are sponsored by Higher Life Foundation although it will expand to work with people who study agriculture at NUL.

It has started the internship with three girls and will expand it to five in the coming year.

The graduate will be hired into the company if they perform well.

“Our businesses instead of being located in the remote areas, we will be located near the towns and operating in small pocket of land in the backyard or a small house.

“That way we minimise cost and boost quality,” he said.

Lerata Takana can be contacted on +266-6241 2068 while Tiisetso Sefatsane can be contacted on +266-5881 8793

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