Taking mabele to the next level

Taking mabele to the next level

ROMA – It turns out Basotho have a long love affair with sorghum (mabele).
Yet the company being incubated at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is taking the taste of mabele to the next level.
Last week, the company, Healthily Baked Pty Ltd, launched mabele products — biscuits, rusks and muffins — which are ready to hit the local shelves.
Education Minister Mokhele Moletsane graced the launch.

So did the NUL Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nqosa Mahao, who is steadily taking NUL innovation to heights never seen before.
This launch was organised and funded by the Department of Science and Technology.
The products are branded “Bohlale”.

In the English language you would say these are “smart” products that are being produced from climate smart crops.
In this episode, we unveil the story of Bohlale products and why they will soon shake the biscuit market foundations in Lesotho and abroad.
It began with Dr Pulane Nkhabutlane, a healthy food enthusiast whose love for developing indigenous food products has no equal.
“In our investigations, we found that Basotho have long loved mabele,” she said.

Yes, many of the Basotho dishes were traditionally based on mabele.
Think about motoho, bohobe, leshele-shele, mocha-hlama, thinya-u-fafohe and the rest.
“In the past, you would never separate mabele from Basotho dishes and Basotho dishes from mabele,” she added.
The two were intertwined.

But she noted something tricky. Traditional mabele products were not dynamic.
They neither changed with time nor do they now provide convenience to cope with a busy modern lifestyle.
A scientist at heart, she quietly went into the lab and silently developed a repertoire of traditional recipes with improved taste and nutrition.
“Mabele products particularly captivated the masses in our first NUL Expo in 2015,” she said.

She was pleasantly surprised and came back from the expo more than determined to work on the products.
Then came SANBio/BioFISA competition and NUL along with the University of Pretoria and the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Sciences scooped the award—M1 million along with it.

It was more than a shot in the arm.
Through professional selection criteria, three young bright entrepreneurs (Palesa Teke, ’Makabelo Pita and ’Matlotliso Kotsoro) were selected. They later registered a company — Healthily Baked (Pty) Ltd—to produce Bohlale Products.
After a lengthy process in which the trio developed and standardized the mouth-watering food, the products were tested for sale at the NUL.

By coincidence, Bohlale products’ sale at the school coincided with the returning of NUL students at the beginning of the new academic year.
Many of them without their government food allowances, found the mabele products not only low cost and tasty but also filling.
They experienced, perhaps, the greatest release since NUL’s Sebabatso yogurt.
E ne e le ua mpona ka u bona!

That frenzy, Dr Nkhabutlane said, is now being brought to your doorsteps.
Listen, Bohlale products are coming your way!
As some point during the launch, Minister Moletsane spoke: “Every week, in our cabinet meetings, we are given water and biscuits which we eat as we go through our marathon meetings.”

The foreign made biscuits, he said, might not even be healthy.
Then he uttered a quotable word of wisdom.

“Imagine how nice it is, that we will one day, in our cabinet meetings, eat the snacks that are not only healthy but were made right here in Lesotho!”
His view is shared by many in the Mountain Kingdom.

The days when we shall be fed by anyone and everyone except ourselves shall soon come to an end.
We shall feed ourselves healthy food, and Bohlale is the starting point.
“First our products are gluten free,” Dr Nkhabutlane said.
Go and check what gluten can do for you—it is no good.

Bohlale is high in fibre—guess what, most biscuits you find in the market have had their fibre stripped off, leaving a near-dead conglomerate, half of which keeps you alive and another half of which keeps your doctor alive.
They remove fibre in a desperate attempt to improve “taste.”
“In our case, you get both health and taste, all in one package,” said Dr Nkhabutlane.
Bohlale products have high concentration of nutrition, in fact the biscuits come packed with pumpkin seeds, pumpkins, carrots, nuts, dried peaches, and raisins.

Plus you will hardly bump across sorghum biscuits out there.
Bohlale is the only sorghumy— otherwise it’s all wheaty out there!
By this point, the curios minds in your midst are asking, how did the products get the name Bohlale?

“We used to call them “smart” foods— that is until our partner from the University of Pretoria, Prof Riëtte (H L) de Kock, in a short meeting with Healthily Baked entrepreneurs while attending a workshop at BICSA, ironically asked this simple question: “What is “smart” in Sesotho?”
“Bohlale,” we responded.

Then she replied, “Maybe you could call them Bohlale Products!”
“We were humbled,” said Dr Nkhabutlane, “hence we gave them the name Bohlale — it will be our brand to time indefinite!”

Own Correspondent


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