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Tackling poverty with homemade beetroot beer

TRUE FIGHTER: Mookho Taleng holding a certificate

Nov. 6, 2020 4 min read

4 min read

MAFETENG – Growing up, Mookho Taleng did not have a good education to help her secure a better paying job today, because her parents could not afford to send her to school. But the single mother of four could not sit back and watch her offspring starve just because she could not get professional employment under the pretext of her poor educational background.

Faced with this sink or swim situation never mind the direction of the tide, she rolled up her sleeves and did something that her peers rarely do – selling homemade beer.

But Mrs. Taleng, 32, uses her own special ingredient that other women who brew traditional beer do not utilize – beetroot. Strange as it might sound but her unique brew draws scores of patrons who cannot get enough of her reddish drink.

Her drinking-hole has become so popular in her home village of Thaba-Morena that the anecdotes of her distinct brew have spread to surrounding areas.

Narrating how she came up with the idea of her unusual kind of beverage, this determined entrepreneur says she sat down and thought outside the box. Actually, all she did was to venture into uncharted territories in a bid to escape rural poverty that forced her to quit school at an early age. “I did not want my own children to suffer a similar fate as mine, so I thought long and hard before coming up with the idea of brewing beetroot beer,” she says.

From her childhood, Mrs. Taleng was aware that locally available fruits such as oranges, apples, and bananas can produce beer. Mrs. Taleng was amongst the 20 women who were recently assisted by Gender Links Lesotho under a program called “Sunrise Entrepreneurs’ to start their own businesses.

Since beetroot is built like those fruits she decided to give it a try and the results are evident for everyone to see. The program only equips women with the skills to run their businesses successfully. So she has finally found her niche in homemade brew using this vegetable that is famous for preparing salads.

It is meant to assist the women and girls who have among others been financially abused by their husbands, to start their own businesses and run them profitably. “People always get fascinated by my beer’s reddish color and everyone wants to have a sip which is later followed by several gulps,”

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she laughs, adding that she invariably makes the beverage available for her patrons. A number of her competitors have tried unsuccessfully to emulate her drink. ’Manteboheleng Mabetha, Gender Links’ Country Manager says the association has been assisting disadvantaged women to get their feet on the ground since 2014.

“We are happy because we see a lot of change,” Mrs. Mabetha says, adding she is painfully aware that if families have little money to survive, women usually get abused. Paseka Ramokoatsi, an independent business consultant says it is important for the entrepreneurs to account even for a cent when doing business.

He says the business people should be as careful as possible to account for the smallest amounts for the items they use to run their businesses.“If all expenses to run a business are accumulated, it would be easy to see the profit made and also to see if the business is growing,” Mr. Ramokoatsi says. 

Mrs. Taleng says when her own business started to grow, she diversified her stock. . “I now also sell beer from the Maluti Mountain Brewery,” she says. But her major challenge is that she does not own a freezer to keep her beer chilled to the satisfaction of her supportive customers.

This, however, does not make her lose too much sleep because she keeps her stock in a neighbor’s gas freezer. There is no electricity in Thabana-Morena and that makes life difficult for budding businesswomen like Mrs. Taleng. But because she is a versatile entrepreneur, she also prepares and sells fat cakes, along with sheep feet and heads to the locals and travelers alike.

“Through the profits I make, I can keep my family well-fed and send my children to school, while saving some cash for rainy days,” she proudly notes. Her next biggest project is to build an appropriate shack where she will operate from and buy a proper fridge for her drinks.

She believes things will turn out better if she has her own freezer. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), about 57.1 percent of Lesotho’s two million population lives below the national poverty line.

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