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MASERU – WHEN ’Mateboho Lydia Seboka and her husband finally received a response from the bank, the message was blunt: We do not finance building projects of that nature!

She was devastated.

But instead of sitting down and mourning, ’Mateboho and her husband decided to proceed with their dream of building a state-of-the-art clinic in Maseru that would provide world-class services to Basotho.

They were charting into what was entirely virgin territory.

After being sent from pillar to post at the banks, the Sebokas finally decided to start building in May 2013.

Two years after work began an impressive structure housing a maternity ward, a pharmacy and antenatal clinic was put in place.

“When God closes the other door, he opens another! We saw that we really did not need the loan from the bank to complete the project because God provided,” she says.

The Bathopele Clinic in Motimposo provides yet another vivid reminder of what happens when you have a dream and are focused to fulfil it.

Although she had a dream, ’Mateboho was never sure whether they would succeed in completing the project without a bank loan.

So every day as the structure went up, she would have anxious moments. When anxiety began to eat her up, she says she found true comfort from her husband who urged her to “continue to believe” in the dream!

“It was quite a very difmateboho-lydia-seboka-1ficult decision to take because we always wondered, ‘What if we fail?’ But by God’s grace, we began and by the grace of God we completed the project.”

For ’Mateboho the seeds of her new clinic were planted almost 10 years ago when she began operating a small clinic, Bathopele Clinic, in her backyard in Motimposo in 2006.

She says the clinic’s motto was driven by her desire to put “people first”.

“To me patients come first, they are my priority,” she says.

With its excellent services and attention to detail Bathopele Clinic became a household name in Maseru with antenatal ladies flocking to the clinic for medical help.

“We provided quality work and the people said they were satisfied with our services. However because the clinic was in our yard it soon became clear that it was becoming too small,” she says.

Some of her patients would also tell her they were concerned because she would take care of them from the beginning of their pregnancy and when they were about to deliver they would not know where to go.

“That got me concerned. Labour is a tough experience. You need someone you know with whom you would have travelled on this road together,” she says.

“It was at that moment that I began planning to build a facility that would care for mothers who would want to deliver their babies.”

’Mateboho says even when she was still a young girl in Ha-Mokhehle village in Teya-teyaneng she was driven by a singular thought: that she would grow up to be a nurse.

“I guess it was a calling right from a young age,” she says.

While other girls her age would go through school without knowing what career path they would choose, ’Mateboho says she was determined to be a nurse.

And so when she completed her Cambridge Overseas School Certificate in 1984, she joined the Maluti Adventist School of Nursing.

She completed her Diploma in General Nursing in 1988 and enrolled for a Diploma in Midwifery the following year.

“The training for nurses then was quite tough and when you completed you could stand on your own,” she says.

’Mateboho however says the quality of nurses coming out of training colleges has deteriorated over the years largely because the classes have become too big.

“The intake has become too high resulting in more theory and less practicals. For example, when I was at Maluti the class was not more than 20 students but now most of the nursing colleges take up to 100 students per class or even more.”

When the students are finally sent on attachment, “nobody follows them up”. The result is that the graduates from nursing colleges “need a lot of mentoring” when they get their first jobs.

She also says some of the nursing students “are doing nursing not because it is in their heart but merely as a job”.

“Yet nursing needs somebody with a passion and love for the people.”

Over the last 26 years she has been practising, ’Mateboho has been in the thick of battle as Lesotho fought pandemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

She remembers vividly how she and her fellow colleagues were sent into panic mode when, for the first time, they had to deal with a patient they suspected was HIV positive in the early 1990s.

“We were quite afraid because we did not have much knowledge about HIV/AIDS then.”

When she looks back 26 years after those early days, ’Mateboho cannot but marvel at the tremendous gains Lesotho has scored in the fight against the pandemic.

Lesotho, which lies at the epicenter of the HIV pandemic, has the third highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, according to international aid agencies. A third of the country’s 1.8 million people are also HIV positive.

Despite those dire statistics, Lesotho has over the years taken giant steps in fighting the pandemic.

“Lesotho has done its best in communicating and making people aware of HIV/AIDS and how it is spread. They are also aware that they have to know their status,” she says.

She says she would also give Lesotho a 95 percent pass-mark “on the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission” programme.

The government’s programme to roll out free ARVs to patients is yet another plus for Lesotho, she says.

“We have done extremely well on that even though there is still room to improve,” she says.

However, while Lesotho has done well in providing free ARVs in government clinics and hospitals, institutions such as her clinic are not covered under the scheme.

After testing for HIV the clinic refers the patients to government clinics for further management, a situation she says is making some patients default on their programme to take their medication.

’Mateboho was born on March 25, 1968 to a father who was a migrant worker in Welkom, South Africa, and a mother who was a peasant farmer in Ha-Mokhehle in Teya-teyaneng.

While the family was struggling financially, her parents did everything within their power to ensure all their children – three boys and two girls – went to school.

“They spent all their income on our education,” she says.

The lessons she learnt from a young age appear to be finally paying some dividends.

She says in life, one must have “passion and determination if you are to achieve what you want”.

’Mateboho says all that she has achieved could not have been possible “without the support of my husband”.

Quick Facts:

  • Born March 25, 1968
  • Began school at Mokhehle Primary School in 1974
  • Completed COSC at St Agnes in 1984
  • Completed Diploma in Nursing at Maluti Adventist School of Nursing in 1988
  • Completed Diploma in Midwifery in 1989
  • Served as a nurse at Maluti Adventist Hospital in the maternity department from 1990 to 1995
  • Worked as a nurse at Maluti Health Centre in Maseru from 1996 to 2002
  • Enrolled at University of Free State; graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Primary Health Care, Community Health Nursing and Nursing Management in 2005
  • Began operating Bathopele Clinic in 2006

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Lesotho’s own brandy



ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.

Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.

Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.

The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.

His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.

As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.

“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.

“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.

Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!

One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!

“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?

He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.

He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.

Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.

He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.

He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.

But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.

However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.

“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.

Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.

“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

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Ready-to-cook vegetables



ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

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