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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Greenhouse Greatness

Despite the drought I recently wrote about, there is one area that my community’s agriculture is still succeeding.

In the 1980's, the community banded together to start what is known in Lesotho as an agricultural scheme. The chief found funding to get drip irrigation supplies and to build a large cistern.

Since then, a number of the community fields are worked as a group. The fields are still independently owned, however, unlike those used for staple crops like maize, these are planted as part of the community’s efforts. The produce is then sold throughout Lesotho. Buyers include some of the largest grocery chains in Lesotho and South Africa. Much of the proceeds go to improving the scheme and helping with school fees for those who need it, however, the field owners and the villagers working also earn a little bit. Additionally, villagers from all over the area come to the fields for u-pick produce at incredibly low pricing.

Women planting cabbage seeds.
Sometime in the last thirty years, funding also came through for a metal barn-type structure. In the last year, another funding source came through. Letseng Diamond Mines in Mokhotlong funded the construction of three greenhouses. They were completed only a few months ago and thankfully have not been damaged in the recent dust storms (I have seen some that were completely shredded, leaving only the metal frames intact).

The other day I was able to visit the scheme on a day when everyone was busy working. My friend and neighbor, ‘M’e ‘Maseqhobi (Ma-say-‘click-obi), took me to see the inside of the greenhouses. Two of them are currently housing tomato plants in abundance. They plants are as tall as I am and the tomatoes are the largest I have seen in Lesotho. They are not even beginning to turn red yet, so they will be huge by the time we begin harvesting in a month. ‘M’e ‘Maseqhobi promised to let me know when the tomato harvest begins so I can head down to pick my own. I did not want to stun her by begging to buy some green tomatoes for making fried green tomatoes, as looking at all those green tomatoes was making me drool a bit.

The third greenhouse is the seedling house for the crops being planted in the fields. On Monday, they were planting cabbage. Because men and women’s work is clearly defined in Lesotho, even in farming, the women were planting the seeds while the men carried the flats to the greenhouse. Once in the greenhouse, the flats are placed on frames to make caring for them easier. The tomato greenhouses have drip irrigation while the seedlings are watered by a man wearing a water backpack.

We may not be growing our staple crops yet, but at least there is still something happening at the fields.

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