Forking out a living with spoons
A craving for pap was the unlikely catalyst for Obeile Lentswe’s business.
The 33-year-old Dukwi native crafts and sells wooden spoons of all shapes and sizes.
With his products dangling from his slender shoulder and a cheery smile fixed firmly on his eager young face, the father-of-two has become a common sight on the streets of Ghetto since his relocation from Nata in February.
Popping into The Voice’s Francistown office in hopes of a quick sale last Friday, Lentswe was disappointed as he found only broke journalists.
We did, however, offer to cover his story – an offer he gladly accepted.
Explaining exactly how his hustle started, Lentswe said he was cooking pap but was missing a vital utensil.
“When the water boiled I realised I did not have the wooden stirring spoon. Quickly I took a knife and got in the bush, cut a moretwa tree, as I knew it is good to make spoons. I sat down and designed the spoon I needed for cooking, put it in the sun for some minutes to dry, and luckily I had a wire to make the stirring part and my pap was cooked!”
When visiting friends were quick to praise his handiwork, Lentswe realised there was a demand for his spoons and started making them for sale.
Earlier this year, he headed for the big city in search of his fortune.
“I toured the bushes here and I found most of the moretwa, mophane, and modumela trees at Gerald Estates bushes. I use mophane and modumela to make serving spoons. Because I saved enough from selling and was tired of salvaging for wires and using a knife to make holes and scrubbing, I bought materials from a hardware store,” the energetic youth told Voice Money.
“I bought sandpaper to smoothen and remove unwanted material from my spoons. A drilling machine was also bought to replace the knife from making holes. I also purchased safety goggles so when I drill the splinters do not poke my eyes. Thanks to Covid-19 as I noticed that when I am wearing a mask I do not inhale dust from the wood when smothering,” he continued, adding he has since replaced the axe with a saw for cutting down trees.
His prices range from P10 to P120 depending on size and he expects to walk away with at least P70 a day. It is not the fortune he dreamed of but it is a start.
Indeed, although he admits there is still a long way to go, Lentswe has big aspirations for his small enterprise.
“In the coming years, I plan to make all types of spoons and maybe open a factory to do my business. Now I operate from home in Block One. My profits are determined by my movement, the more I move around the better the profit. Some people want to order to resell from me but they do not want to pay much. So for now I do not have people ordering in bulk,” said the smooth-talking spoon maker.
Both danger and boredom lurk at Lentswe’s workplace.
“The bushes where I harvest my woods are not safe. There are many snakes there and I have to tread carefully. It is also tedious to go inside the dense bushes,” he stated.
Finishing with a word of encouragement for struggling citizens, the cheery carpenter said, “We are in the Covid era and life is tough so one has to look for something to be able to put food on the table. The flexibility that comes with self-employment gives so much freedom.”
Leaving with a cheerful goodbye and a last unsuccessful attempt at securing a sale, Lentswe heads back onto the streets of Francistown to continue the never-ending search for customers.