Plowing Forward Under Cover: Profiling Mrs Matiti Trish Kabi and Alosang Enterprise

Alosang Enterprises

As part of the activities related to the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme, SANBio is profiling female bioscientists and bioentrepreneurs working in the innovation space.

Alosang Enterprise is a Basotho-owned farm that grows quality vegetables and is a main supplier to major supermarkets, hotels and restaurants in Lesotho. Registered in 1999, the farm is situated at Sekamaneng in the Berea district and has its fields used for crop cultivation in Sehlabeng and other holdings in the outskirts of Maseru.

The company is now recognized for its high quality agricultural products, known for their freshness and taste. Its vegetables range from eggplant, chilli, green beans, butternut, beetroot, lettuce, tomato and pepper to mushrooms. For the upcoming season, the farm will be adding cauliflower, broccoli and other vegetables to their production list.

Sharing her farming journey, the company’s cofounding director, Mrs Matiti Trish Kabi, who is supported by her husband Moshebi Kabi in this business, said their first vegetables were planted in October 2013 after they moved away from egg production.

The enterprise is authorized to give bar-coding services and its vegetables are processed and packaged at the farm. According to Mrs Kabi, Alosang currently has 50 employees and takes additional short-term staff depending on seasonal operational requirements. For most of their vegetables, the farm produces its seedlings except for tomato and pepper. “Those are our most profitable crops and we get them from professionals in those areas,” she said.

Their fields, located at different places, are divided into field 1A, 1B, field 2, field 3, field 4, field 5, field 6, field 7, and field 8. Acreage of these fields combined is estimated at 10 hectares. Every plot on their fields is connected by drip pipes to a tank which draws water from the boreholes. All the technical work, according to Mrs Kabi, is done by her husband who also tills the fields with his own tractor.

In March 2016, Alosang Enterprise was visited by World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevêdo as one of the success stories of the body’s sponsored initiative, the Enhanced Integrated Framework. Some of their greenhouses have been donated by the WTO through the government.

Kabi partnered with her husband after they both dropped their lucrative jobs in South Africa. The duo then ventured into commercial farming and has never been employed thereafter. “We are people that could be a little bit crazy because we do everything we want. For instance, we knew nothing about mushrooms but became their biggest grower locally in the last season with 5400 sprouts produced,” Mrs Kabi remarked.

“At the beginning, we had no background in agriculture and with understanding that we could not run this business without proper skills, we sought knowledge and received couching, mentorship and trainings. My first degree was in economics and accounting and my partner started with electrical engineering. He then went for business administration and we both have done Master’s degrees in business leadership,” she continued.

Mrs Kabi however said more of their farming knowledge was amassed through personal research and study tours, all done from 2013: “I just came back from China, where I went to learn about their protected farming – but the point is, when we started, we knew nothing and could not even differentiate between tomato varieties.”

The Alosang farming business has not been all that easy as its founders started producing eggs in 1999 from 5000 layers, supplying Shoprite outlets, Fairways and the Lesotho Sun hotel. The project ran for a decade until it was thwarted by an influx of eggs imported illegally by some of the businesses in Lesotho from South Africa.

According to Kabi, these developments forced them to end the poultry plant and explore other opportunities. She said her husband had already developed an interest in horticulture and started doing research on protected farming. “Further inspiration came from a local expo on agriculture that we attended in September 2013, where businesses were sharing information about protected farming, mainly greenhouses and shade nets,” she said.

By that time, her partner had already started to scout and get into buying some greenhouses and that is when she herself began to have a very keen interest in this type of farming. Mrs Kabi further remarked: “Protected farming is also not so dependent on climatic conditions, and you can better shield crops from severe sun compared to open field farming.”

Mrs Kabi also revealed that they are aiming at producing fruits in the near future: “We are working on seedling infrastructure which will soon be completed.” This will be done on field 8, a mother block divided into quadrants for orchard of different fruits which include apples and peaches: “I just learned the mother block method recently but I have already started putting the method into force. “We are also going to do agro processing and a lot of frozen vegetables which will start to be processed very soon. We believe we can do anything with God on our side. We don’t have any limits.”

Approximately 330 000 peach seedlings are being planted to be sold to the Ministry of Forestry and to feed the orchard.