THE NUL GRADUATE MAKES HIS MARK IN CROP FARMING

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This year, he harvested 77 boxes of tomatoes which he grew on 81 square metres of land. For him, it was an idea of what he could achieve if he kept trying. Above all, it was a light at the end of the tunnel, after months of hard—very hard—lessons. His name is Montši Montši, a former Crop Science student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

He is the fouder of Monts’i AgriVest, a farming business that focuses on production of fruits and vegetables.

In a period of two years, after finishing school, he has experimented with all kinds of crops to see which ones have high demand in the fresh produce market. These include tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, butternuts, sweet corn (maize), english rape giant, spinach, onions and others.

“This year has been exceptionally good for me, after months of hard luck,” Montši said. “I have produced good harvest and the demand is so high that my produce is already running out. But I am now confident that I can grow on even larger areas and produce even more crops,” said a now self-assured Montši, who quit trying to find a formal job after one attempt.

He redirected his focus to his original plan; to enter into crop farming; the plan he drew well before he left the gates of NUL.

As a child, Montši lived in a single parent home after his father passed away in 2006. Worse still, “my mom had to work in South Africa and I was left with my younger brother.” Although she sent them money on a monthly basis, “I had to supplement that with growing crops and rearing free roaming chicken.” He was in high school then. “I also tried selling some of my produce although I wasn’t successful then.”

He later found himself at the NUL where he “specifically enjoyed practical experiments at the NUL farm.” However if he learned any lessons there, it was that “it is one thing to have all the theory about farming, it is quite another to try to put that theory into practice.”

In real life, he said, “there are so many things that can go wrong—and which will go wrong—some way beyond your control.” Still, he credits NUL for his full understanding of crop production, plant pests and diseases, plant physiology, plant-environment relations and setting a farming project.

He said venturing into agricultural business has given him powerful lessons some of which he, unfortunately, learned the hard way.

Here are a few:

“Spend each single day with your crops,” is the first of his lessons.

He once had his crops overwhelmed by insects and diseases because he was not watching. He woke up one day and found his crops squeezed by pests! That was after “I borrowed M500” from his generous friend to buy seedlings and produce these crops. He was left, in his own words, “broke and broken.”

“So keep watching those crops,” he emphasised, “because if you don’t, you may be in for a surprise.” If you have to be away, never be away from them for more than two days.

“Protect your crops from hail if you can,” he said, as he drops another free lesson for young budding agricultural entrepreneurs.

One day he was floored when he found all his cabbage flattened by hail. He had just grown 4200 heads of cabbage and it was growing so well. Some of it recovered, only to be battered by a desease called black rot. Out of 4200 heads of cabbage, he only managed to supply 38 heads to his former high school!

It was unbelievable!

So, when you can, he suggested, “have shade nets and high tunnels above your plants.”

The last lesson? Keep at “toe-to-toe” with the drought.

Once in time, his winter harvest was nearly wiped out by a rainless winter, “I grew fresh garden peas, in a rainless winter.” It only survived because it was the drought resistant variety although it was not as good as he wanted.He learned other lessons too.

Use animal manure in your soil to improve your soil structure so that your soil will hold more water and—this one is interesting—practise mulching.

Mulching is when you cover the soil with dead plants to prevent moisture from escaping. So Don’t throw away those dead plants or give them to animals, he advised. They can work wonders.

Okay, those were the technical lessons he learned. Are there other lessons?

You bet!

School prepares you for 50% of the problem, he said. The other 50%, you have to figure it out yourself, in real life. “In the real world, things don’t always go in straight lines or the way you planned,” he left the lasting message.

So here are his parting words to you, the young up-and-coming agricultural entrepreneurs.

“Don’t give up!”

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