When Francis Mande and his wife, Kelebogile, visited Merino, her hometown village in Thaba Nchu, they realised that the community was living in total despair. What shocked Francis the most, was that they were surrounded by vast amounts of land but no one was using it. He says he was then inspired to help the community of Merino to uplift itself and change their hopeless mentality.
It was difficult at first, as they were met with challenges. “The main goal was to implement change, to tell people they could do it themselves, to empower them to not always depend on the government to come through,” says Mande. What saddened him was that the community did not seem to have any knowledge about agriculture, as most of them do not even have a vegetable garden in their huge backyards.
Mande, CEO of Rejanala Farms, and his wife, who works as the executive director, saw the opportunity to improve their livelihood while at the same time contributing positively to their community. Working together with their business partners, Ntoko Moeletsi, who is the CFO, and his wife, Abigail, who is the director of marketing and investments, started planting the seeds on their journey to realising their dreams.
Their biggest challenge has been getting funding for their farm. Rejanala Farms has 63 seasonal workers who are currently working there. The farm workers only work when it’s time for weeding or harvesting. Although they wish for permanent work, they are highly grateful for the opportunity to work. They say since they started working for Rejanala, their lives have changed for the better. They used to live off grants from the government, but thanks to the seasonal work their lifestyle has improved.
Mande says they would be able to do a lot more to help the community of Merino and grow the Thaba Nchu economy with funding. He adds that if all 42 villages surrounding Thaba Nchu started using the vast land surrounding them to improve their lives, not only would the economy in this area boom, but the agriculture sector in the country would also benefit greatly.
The farm currently produces legumes and beans, but Mande says they are looking into expanding their production. They hope to do this with their new essential oils farming project which will be a 5-year development plan. With funding and more training they will be able to hire 150 permanent workers. They also dream big, hoping to have the processing plants based right in Merino. This would help fight unemployment in the area and help develop the rural villages.
Mande says that a lot of research went into the new essential oils project. And with adequate funding the project would not only have a great revenue impact, but it would also ensure that the profits stay within the Merino community.
Potential funders can contact Francis Mande at 073-978-2838 or Kelebogile Mande at 071-486-0065 or send an email to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Seithati Semenokane