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For the love of the land

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For the love of the land

Usually the thought of farming conjures up images of dirty boots, greasy hands and a lot of sweat.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, according to former Voice staffer, Amanda Masire, 41.

In fact, the one time Advertising exec is living proof of that.

As the Francistowner rightly notes, the value chain is huge and there is much more to the industry than just turning soil upside down and throwing seeds under it!

After teaching English for a decade she grew tired of the day-to-day monotony and could no longer handle the new breed of students.

Fate also played its hand in the direction of Masire’s life when she lost her mother.

An only child, the sole support she had crumbled when her marriage failed leading to divorce.

It was a tough time but when she looks back it guided her to a life of service, religion, tranquility and farming.

In this interview with Archie Mokoka, Masire, now Chief Executive Officer of her own company, Greenhouse Technologies, talks about succeeding in a traditionally man’s vocation and helping new age farmers thrive.

Q. What is Amanda Masire all about?

A. I’m a simple girl from Francistown, a business lady and a mother of two children, 16 and 20. I’m also a Muslim.

Q. Getting straight to it, what exactly does Greenhouse Technologies do?

A. We are a production training demonstration farm and a consultancy firm that helps Batswana get grants and subsidies that need specialised skills.

I have actually just mimicked the structure of Ministry of Agriculture, Crop Production as a private sector.

We do business plans, go out to install as per our plan and hold your hand until the end of your first cycle.

We also help you to list with shops such as Choppies, Ms Veg and teach you how to sell to BAMB as well as the horticultural market in general.

We further help with dry land farming by promoting correct farming practices.

Our soils have become too acidic due to overuse of fertilizer, acid rains and climate change so we are now working to help our partners to correct their soil to reduce the acidity.

We are also the leading lime suppliers in the country and as our motto states, ‘we make sure the farmer succeeds’.

Just like law firms and clinics we have files and all that for farmers.

We will need your field certificate, your soil test results, water test results; we talk to you and diagnose your needs and come up with solutions.

For the love of the land
WOMAN OF ACTION: Masire

Q. But first you were a teacher right?

A. The first place I worked was at The Voice and I got lucky to work closely with the owners, Donald Moore and the late Beata Kasale.

That prepared my mind for the future somehow because I was just an 18-year-old out of school invited by my former teacher Mrs. Moore – Mr. Moore’s wife – because I loved English.

How could you not love English if you were taught by Mrs. Moore? I actually ended up teaching English.

Mrs. Moore took a liking to me because I was a teacher’s pet always at her service and reading during literature classes!

She felt my energy shouldn’t go to waste while I was waiting for my results.

I was meant to be a freelance reporter because I was very good with English.

Actually that’s the only subject I passed well because being an only child I was very playful!

Mr. Moore, however, saw something else in me and introduced me to advertising.

When I arrived at The Voice I received a warm welcome from Kasale who knew me from Orapa and had worked with my mom.

That made me comfortable and I felt at home.

I began to see that anything was possible and that I was called for something great.

Q. Interesting. So how then did you end up in farming?

A. My mom and dad bought a farm on the way to Woodlands Lodge next to the Crocodile farm and my mom quit her job to go and start poultry and a garden.

That’s when I took an interest in farming but after national service I went to study to be an English teacher and got a diploma in secondary education.

I started this company about nine years ago after I lost my mom and my marriage.

I knew I wasn’t going to do anything that didn’t fulfill me anymore. After 10 years I was tired of the monotony of teaching and I needed to get into business.

When I read the National Development Plans and the Budget Speech of that year it suggested to me it was people in Agriculture that were expected to receive money from the bank.

I remember scratching my head and thinking, ‘hey, but I love my skin and I’m so young and my kids go to school in Gaborone.

Does it mean I can only get help if I am a farmer?’

Then something hit me and said, ‘hold on.

Who helps these farmers? Why are people not using this money which comes back every year?’

For the love of the land
FROM THE CLASSROOM TO THE FIELDS: Masire

Q. So you decided to help farmers?

A. I used to think Batswana are lazy and all that but I have changed my mind.

Knowledge is power.

They just lack somebody like me to hold their hands and turn them into a professional set-up and that’s what we do.

I was part of the public sector development with BNPC where I developed a horticulture kit or ‘horticulture in a box’ which is all the essentials needed to make the farmers succeed.

I protected my intellectual rights.

Those were some of the advantages I had in moving faster.

The kit was intended for the youth having noticed they were coming in every day asking the same questions over and over.

I figured out what their needs were and came up with a solution for them.

Q. How did you turn that into business?

A. Poverty Eradication saw me launch the kit on Btv and went on to adopt it for their cluster gardens and one thing led to another.

That was my first break.

I then got into a partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture on this very plot to do a production training and demonstration farm.

This is a conditional plot whereby I have to do a production training and demonstration farm.

After they realised they were giving out all these grants and subsidies but they were failing and it boiled down to lack of know how.

Q. Would you say things are better with you in the picture?

A. People pay P300 to come here and we train the.

But what I pride myself with is the number of people we’ve helped get ISPAAD [Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development].

We’ve helped so many of them I’ve lost count. We’ve built shade net structures, green houses, net houses, open field drip irrigation and sprinklers just to name a few.

I was named Launch Lioness 2019 by Stanbic Bank Botswana, they also sponsored me to go out to do my projects and have them documented on Btv.

We have a series of six videos on Btv of various things we’ve done under the ISPAAD programme that was sponsored by Stanbic because farming is the future.

Everybody wants to be a part of this. That’s another advantage I have.

There’s a lot of urban rural migration. We’re tired of the city.

Everybody wants to go to their farm and live in peace, be aware of what they are eating.

That’s why we promote integrated farming.

We all know that with water comes fish so we sell fish farming packages.

Likewise, with pollen comes bees.

When you do crop production you have pollen and you can then do bees to have honey.

Right now on my farm I have grown a lot of chillies because I’m going to make organic pesticide just to reduce trace elements on the food because we need to lead by example.

Sustainable Development Goals is the language everybody is talking.

Q. How does an English teacher succeed in farming?

A. I pride myself in the fact that I have three people who are more educated than me working for me.

Through my hard work I have gotten recognition and opportunities such as conversations with people like [Richard] Branson.

He says take care of your employees and they will take care of your stuff.

They are actually the people that run this organisation and I hope one day I will be able to sell to them because they are formidable.

Because of this team I’ve been able to sell things like three hectares, centre pivot sprinklers, drip irrigation.

I repair green houses and tunnels for LEA – big things that my teaching diploma wouldn’t quite have pulled off!

Q. Would you say farming helped you cope with the loss of your mom and marriage?

A. Yes, farming was definitely therapeutic.

I have changed. It might have been maturity or change of religion but half of the credit goes to being a farmer.

It’s such a noble, satisfying and very calming thing to do and I wish people could do it and find the peace that came with it for me.

Q. How did the children handle these losses?

A. They were too young when mom passed on.

As for the divorce we made sure they understand that they were not divorcing and besides we are the best co-parents in the world!

I feel lucky that my ex-husband, who got the house, lives with the children.

Q. Let’s talk about your conversion to Islam. How did that happen?

A. I feel like Allah chose me to become a Muslim.

I fell in love with the religion in many ways.

We went on holiday in Dubai and I was so wowed by the religion.

I remember saying to my family – we were still a family then – look how Arabs love their God and we put ours to shame.

My son also used to play cricket for Botswana and I used to spend a lot of time around Muslim women and loved their composure and demeanor; how organised they were and the things they spoke about.

But what really won me over was realising that Mary the mother of Jesus was a Muslim.

Q. How do you unwind?

A. The farm is my escape.

It’s like a holiday.

Imagine nature, Tati River and clean air.

I’ve done my bit of partying and as they say, life begins at 40.

Since I turned 40 I have started rediscovering myself and I’m not as excited about hotel rooms as I used to be!

Q. Do you do any charity?

A. Charity is part of Islam but it’s just between me and God so I will not share with you!

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Bring back drugs operation

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Bring back drugs operation

Dear Lesetedi

Compliments for the New Year to you and your batman, Boots.

Shaya was one of the country’s happiest citizens when you launched your nationwide crusade on drugs.

My only concern is that you may have stopped it prematurely.

Take a look at operation Kgomo-Khumo, which made a big impact as seen by the shortage of meat in butcheries.

So go back and re-introduce the drug operation and this time make sure you camp at Phase 2 in Gaborone.

That place is a haven for drugs! While you’re at it, you could also consider a makeshift camp at Partial.

In case you hit walls, holla at Shaya as I have an interest in seeing a drug-free Botswana in 2020 and beyond.

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Renewed hope for the youth

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Renewed hope for the youth

He is one of the youngest Ministers in the country’s history.

However, at the age of 36, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, McDonald Chilliboy Rakgare already boasts a rich political background.

From his days as the University of Botswana (UB) School Representative Council (SRC) President, to his vocal time as the Botswana Congress Party Youth League (BCPYL) President before joining the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Rakgare is well travelled in the world of politics.

The charismatic politician also has an insider’s understanding of the media, having worked for Yarona FM and Duma FM.

Ten years after it started, Rakgare’s political career reached new heights at last year’s general election, where he received 6, 350 of the 11, 116 votes casts to claim Mogoditshane constituency from the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

This week, Rakgare, in his capacity as a Minister, visited The Voice newsroom for a tete a tete with reporter SHARON MATHALA about the vision he has for the youth.

Mindful that some responsibilities will be lifted off his large Ministry with the introduction of two new Ministries, after exchanging pleasantries he shares…

Q. How would you summarise your political journey?

A. My political career kicked off when I was still a UB student back in 2009 and I subsequently joined the BNF.

I later resigned from BNF to BDP after a few differences.

With the BDP I believed in the leadership then of Rre Motswaledi, Ntuane and others.

I was with the youth committee and I differed on many occasions with the then President Ian Khama so I left.

Khama wanted to destroy our country and we now have our country back with President Mokgweetsi Masisi!

I then joined BCP, which was well organised.

I was with the BCP for six years and it really shaped me into the politician I am today.

Q. But why then leave the BCP? Did the party’s decision to join forces with the umbrella have anything to do with it?

A. In 2014 we differed with the UDC on principle as the BCP. Subsequent to that was the report of Rre Motswaledi and the UDC still failed.

Some things are internal but the UDC is not organised, its leader is not organised!

I had a serious problem because should Batswana vote for us we would have a problem of leadership.

Q. How would you describe the leadership skills of President Masisi?

A. Masisi has a love for the country. He is an intelligent man.

The BDP needed someone to appreciate the work of the elders and veterans.

The democrats are happy. They have renewed hope for the party. He runs the party with consultations and inclusion.

Q. Taking you back to when your win was announced for the parliamentary seat of Mogoditshane constituency. What was going through your mind?

A. Some said I did not show emotion. What was going through my mind was how I was going to take the constituency forward and the people who voted for me, how I will fulfill my promise and change their lives.

I knew I would win; the team had done its homework.

The people liked President Masisi, even from the Kgotla meetings one could see.

Q. But one can never be too sure in politics, what made you so confident of victory?

A. We went into the election with six incumbent councillors who had done pretty well.

But also our party manifesto spoke volumes towards the transformation Batswana and the people of Mogoditshane yearned for.

Q. Moving on, you were eventually appointed a Minister. Did you expect such an appointment?

A. I never expected it! It came as a surprise to me despite the background I have in sports and issues that affect the youth.

When I received the call and was summoned in to be told, the first thing I did was ask the President if I had heard him properly and he gave me a piece of paper to sign against my name.

I thought the President would go with someone more experienced but he knew what he wanted, and I guess that was me!

Q. You are taking over a position once held by heavyweights such as Tshekedi Khama and Thapelo Olopeng. Did that not shake you a bit?

A. Not at all, Rre Olopeng did his part but there are ways in which I look at things.

What we will do going forward is not about me.

I have an able team which I am confident will steer this ship forward.

Q. What is your vision for the Sports sector?

A. What we will do is give young people a platform.

Our youngsters are doing very well in different sporting codes.

The issue is to give them the right tools, the money.

We will resource our sporting codes; we will build the facilities and introduce sports and coaching at primary level.

If we want to compete with international stars we need to give our stars a fair chance.

Q. And as for the Arts?

A. We have young people who are creative and innovative.

We will support them fully.

We will capacitate them to create wealth and facilitate the process.

It is still a bit too early for me to go into detail but we do have a plan going forward – let’s have this conversation again in six months.

Q. Any international events planned for Botswana to host? I know the Forbes Under 30 Summit is coming to town in April, apart from that?

A. We have two in the pipeline.

I would not want to reveal which – we already have teams on the ground working around those.

I can assure you, they will be a first for Botswana!

Q. Sounds intriguing! How do you intend to address issues of alcohol and drug abuse amongst the youth?

A. About 60 percent of our population is made up of the youth and more than half of them are unemployed.

This you are likely to get as a government.

We as a government need to seriously introspect and come up with job opportunities for our youth but that is a long-term solution.

For now government will build a Rehabilitation Centre as well as be more visible in schools with campaigns and mentorship programmes.

Q. Is that not what the alcohol levy was for? Why is it taking such a long time to deal with this phenomenon?

A. That was the intention to have and build Rehab and Rehabilitation Centres with it, but that has not happened.

Q. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

A. I would tell him he can be anything he wants.

You can be anything you want in life. Just focus.

Take every day as it comes – look at me, I am a full Minister!

Q. What can you say to the youth who abuse social media and in turn bully others?

A. I stand here as a Minister and I really don’t know what can be done.

I log onto social media everyday and it’s disheartening what I see.

I think its starts really from home.

We should start having the conversation with our kids at home around the use of social media.

Q. Do you still play football?

A. Of course! Yes I do, very much so.

I am a really good midfielder, I might add.

These days, however, they play me up front.

You should come watch one of the games.

Q. Apart from ministerial duties and scoring goals, what else do you get up to?

A. I spend time with family because honestly I hardly have any spare time.

I leave early for work and come back really late.

Q. Thanks God It’s Friday, what will you be up to this coming Friday?

A. I will be addressing a Kgotla meeting in Mogoditshane.

Q. Any parting words?

A. Well I will just say corruption has no place in the current administration.

The rot in Government is huge, people went all out to destroy our country and steal from us.

We are going to have an investigation.

There is something in the works which will assist us with this.

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Celeb edition with Casper the Dj

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Celeb edition with Casper the DJ

Having enjoyed a stellar 2019, establishing himself as an ever-present on the entertainment scene, Casper the DJ has high hopes for the new year. The trendy 24-year-old music man joins an exclusive club by becoming the first CELEB EDITION of the year.

Briefly summarise your music career for us?

My birth name is KgosiTshiamoSabone.

I started Disc Jockeying in 2011 when I was doing Form 4.

It’s been a nine-year rollercoaster, having featured on a number of big musical festivals along the years.

I dropped a six-song project two years ago‘Strings Attached’ which is still available on all digital platforms.

What inspired you to venture into Deejaying?

Mostly my love for music.

It was amazing to know how many people I could make happy by pressing buttons and merging two songs into one!

If music didn’t work out, what career would you have gone for?

Accounting. Numbers are probably my next favourite thing after music.

Would you ever post a nude picture of yourself on social media to promote new music?

I’ve done a few controversial things but I’d never go that far!

What can fans look out for from you this year?

A lot! My team and I are working on my ‘One Man Show’ set for 28 Feb. We are trying to sell the best eight hours from a solo act you will see in a while! I’m working on new music as well, for now I can confirm at least one single for the year 2020.

You are known for your fashion sense. What is the most expensive item of clothing you own?

It’s definitely a pair of shoes.

If you could choose one superpower what would it be?

Reading minds. I’m a curious guy.

I’m always interested in knowing what other people are thinking.

What’s your favorite action movie?

I am really not a movie person.

Who is your local celebrity crush?

MsGeeKays.

Have you ever been arrested or had a run in with the law?

Does almost arrested count? Jokes!

I have had a run in with them though – it was for a car accident in 2018.

Five things people don’t know about you?

  1. I’m loud,I’m always talking
  2. I love my sleep
  3. I’m short so it amazes people that my shoe size is size seven
  4. I have this fantasy of being buff!
  5. I’m not too good at replying people over the phone – I’m a horrible texter

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