Meet GoGettaz finalist Mochesane Mpali, a pioneer of hydroponic farming in Lesotho

By 2050, the global population is expected to rise to 10 billion and half of this population will be from the African continent according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The demand for food will therefore increase, forcing farmers to produce more to feed this growing population. The effects of climate continue to hit hard affecting food production, this is evident through declining sea water levels, reduced crop yields, extreme weather patterns and decline on livestock productivity.

Land is one of the major factors of production. Unfortunately, human practices such as deforestation, overgrazing and over-cultivation have led to land degradation and loss of biodiversity. In urban areas, inadequate land forces many to shy away from agricultural production; however, one of the GoGettaz Finalists is offering urban dwellers a sigh of relief through alternative methods of farming. 

A 2019 inflation of food prices in Lesotho, a landlocked country inspired Mochesane Mpali, co-founder of Lema Agrivest, to seek solutions on how he could help urban dwellers mitigate soaring food prices; this is how he decided to adopt the idea of hydroponic farming practices.  Lema Agrivest is a hydroponic startup that promotes cultivation ofplants without soil by controlling the amount of nutrients and water the plants and roots receive for maximum yields and produce.

In hydroponic farming, water and nutrients are recycled within the growing channel, reserving the scarce natural resource; cultivation of plants can happen even in drought prone areas because it’s not affected by changing weather patterns. Additionally, it’s more sustainable than conventional farming because it uses 90% less water and  less space; crops mature on time, low carbon footprint and one can use solar energy to power hydroponics.

“Hydroponics exposes students and learners to STEM in multiple ways, first from understanding how sustainable system works to growing plants by calculating correct nutrients and water levels and secondly by using problem-solving skills to discover if there are issues within the plant and make changes and tweaks to help determine what could have gone wrong,” says Mochesane Mpali.

Some of the services offered by Lema Agrivest include: design & installation of hydroponics, training farmers on hydroponics, fruits & vegetables production which they sell directly to restaurants, retail chain stores, and consumers and, the rent to buy model which allows farmers to rent the hydroponic  equipment, plant their produce and thereafter the startup buys all their produce removing the hurdle  of finding markets from their shoulders.

Being the pioneer of hydroponics farming in Lesotho, Mpali has been resilient despite challenges that came along the way. These include creating awareness and changing farmer’s mindset on benefits of hydroponic farming, lack of investor appetite because the idea was still new, challenges of linking the actual business model to the industry and sourcing for local materials to manufacture hydroponics equipment locally as importing them was very expensive.

Lema Agrivest clientele majorly comprises farmers seeking to meet market demand but don’t have enough resources like arable land, labour, water, and would like to scale up their produce and residents who prefer fresh organic produce for consumption and are keen on food traceability.

Today, Lema Agrivest has conducted over 100 hydroponic training sessions for the local community and held over 40 hydroponic presentations in schools to create awareness of hydroponic farming, an initiative that is currently contributing towards combating climate change and food insecurity.

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