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The stinking corner of Maseru



MASERU – PANIC hit the Tšosane area recently when Maseru’s only legal dumpsite caught fire. But that was just the fear of quick destruction.
Residents who live within walking distance of the dumpsite feel they are being killed slowly and softly. There is only one legal dumpsite in Maseru, known as Tšosane dumpsite. The site is just 10 metres from some homes in the village. .
“Only God has been keeping us alive,” said ‘Mamoeketsi Tjamela.
She said she arrived in the area in 1992. And her health has been at risk for decades.
“We don’t understand how we still manage to survive with the contaminated air we breathe daily,” Tjamela said.
From drinking waste-contaminated water to choking in smoke on an almost daily basis, residents here always fear for the worst and the fire that recently engulfed the landfill was a reminder of the grave conditions they have endured for years.

Motimposo MP, Thabang Mafojane, said on the day of the fire, they worried that gases from the dumpsite could cause the fire to engulf nearby houses.
“We tried dousing the flames with buckets without any success until the municipality officials came with a tanker,” Mafojane said. “That’s when we were able to extinguish the fire.”
Future consequences of living next to the dumpsite are dire.
Apart from residents risking diseases such as cancer, babies could be born with deformities in future due to hazardous gases that people are being forced to inhale now, said a top health ministry official.
“Such a problem leads to chronic diseases such as cancer and reproductive health problem leading to babies born with disabilities,” said Thekiso Mokitimi, the Ministry of Health’s Pollution Manager.
“No screening of residents has been conducted to date but like I said, the possible health impacts are largely chronic and can manifest years after the closure of the dumpsite,” he said.

The dumpsite is situated within the catchment area of the Maqalika reservoir.
Water, particularly storm water runoff during the rainy season, flows freely into the dam.
The Maseru City Council (MCC)’s plans to relocate the landfill from Ha-Tšosane to Tšoeneng in Rothe have failed several times since 2001.
Since 2006 every budget speech in parliament has promised to fund the closure of the landfill but action has been zero.
Spokeswoman of the MCC, ’Makatleho Mosala, said plans are still afoot to relocate the landfill although she didn’t give say when and how much that would cost.
She hinted that it could be a long wait for the desperate residents when she stated that the municipality does not have money to build a solid waste management plant as well as buy consumables needed to make the new site suitable for waste.

“The MCC just cannot tell when it will be fully done because with the project of this magnitude, there are some studies that need to be carried out,” said Mosala, also noting that part of the work has been done.
She added: “We are working towards moving the dumpsite to Tšoeneng where we have already conducted some studies, having part of the waste moving there and trying to meet the needs that were revealed by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, a study which is mandatory to be done before any major project,” she said.
Mosala said the Environmental Impact Assessment is “a very long process”, which requires “a big budget”.
“Before moving to Tšoeneng there are community needs that have to be met such as water taps which we did in this financial year,” Mosala says.
“The implementation is done in phases, the sludge from Ha-Tikoe (a new industrial area) is already dumped at Tšoeneng so the waste will be moved bit by bit depending on the budget until it is all done.”

While the MCC takes its time to relocate the landfill, Tšosane residents said they cannot endure the environmental nightmare any longer.
“We have complained for years about this dump but no one has ever listened to us,” Mamello Maliba, a resident who lives just 10 metres from the landfill, said.
She has been here since 1996 and, at first, the signs were not that bad.
Then, what has now become a massive threat to their health was just a big gully caused by quarry mining.
“At first, we knew that only fabrics from the factories and waste from offices in Maseru were being used as a way to fill up the gully,” she said.
“The trash was burned. We complained about that and it stopped. Years later it is now our worst nightmare.”
“The smell, the flies, the filth surrounding their village is unbearable,” Maliba.

Hopes that the problem would be fixed briefly soared when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane visited a month ago. But then, nothing has changed since the visit.
“It (Thabane’s visit) was just a show. We are sure that nothing will change,” she said, adding that residents suspect that corruption is at play hence the delays in shutting down the dumpsite.
“It will not be soon because we know someone is gaining a whole lot from this site,” she said.
For now, residents will have to contend with an ever-present risk to their health.
Mokitimi, the Ministry of Health’s Pollution Manager, said no studies have been conducted to assess the extent to which the dumpsite could have affected local residents.
But there is ample research that shows that people who live near dumpsites are at great risk.
According to a 2016 Oxford University research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, “health is at risk for those who live within five kilometres of a landfill site”.
Researchers in Italy showed that a strong connection exists between Hydrogen Sulphide (used as a surrogate for all pollutants co-emitted from the landfills) and deaths caused by lung cancer, as well as deaths from respiratory diseases.
This was especially prominent in children.

Respiratory symptoms were detected among residents living close to waste sites.
These were linked to inhalation exposure to endotoxin, microorganisms, and aerosols from waste collection and land filling.
Waste disposal workers and other employees in these landfill facilities are at a greater risk, the study says.
It says exposure to improperly handled wastes can cause skin irritations, blood infections, respiratory problems, growth problems, and even reproductive issues.
It also says mosquitoes and rats are known to live and breed in sewage areas, and both are known to carry life-threatening diseases.

Mosquitoes breed in cans and tires that collect water, and can carry diseases such as malaria and dengue.
Rats find food and shelter in landfills and sewage, and they can carry diseases such as leptospirosis and salmonellosis.
Moreover, moisture production from waste is a breeding ground for mould.
Mould is a bacteria that has the ability to spread and grow given the appropriate conditions, such as moisture production from appliances and food scraps.
A 2019 study in Thohoyandou in South Africa’s Limpopo Province stated that the residents living closer to landfill sites face higher health and environmental risks than those living far away from landfill sites.
Landfills “should be located far away from residential houses and institutions to avoid certain health and environmental related risks,” the study recommended.
It is not only residents who are at risk.

More than 200 people eke out a living from scrounging at the Tšosane landfill and sorting garbage for sale at recycling companies in Maseru.
Its dirty and dangerous job they do without protective clothing.
“Most of the workers in that landfill are not even people from here. They come from Thaba-Tseka and other rural districts with other people promising them jobs only to end up here,” said Maliba, the resident whose house is close to the landfill.
Even residents living in the capital city some distance away from the landfill are far from being safe, according to studies.

According to a 2008 study titled ‘Technology for Waste Management Infrastructure’, some streams in this area flow freely into the Maqalika reservoir.
“Literature shows that the Tšosane dumpsite poses a health hazard to the whole Maseru community, especially to the consumers of water derived for domestic consumption from the Maqalika reservoir as a result of the dumpsite’s location,” the report noted.
Moeletsi Khoanyane, the Principal Health Inspector in the Ministry of Health, said water from a dam near the dump site could be contaminated by leachate, which contains poisonous substances.
“Leachate is very harmful to anyone in contact with it,” he said.
“The young girls and boys are at risk because they like swimming in the nearest dams.”

In 2001, an appraisal report was prepared of a solid waste management project in Lesotho.
The report included a condition that funds should be availed for the closure of the Tšosane dumpsite before the “Solid Waste Management Project” proposed through the Danish Corporation for Environment and Development (DANCED) could start.
It also said there should be funds available for the establishment of a new landfill for Maseru.
The “Maseru Waste Management Principles” talks about the importance of addressing economic and social added-value of waste management in terms of job creation and income generation.
It says the primary focus should be on the promotion and implementation of the 3R principles (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) as part of key solutions to addressing integrated solid waste management (ISWM) challenges in Lesotho”.
Until that happens the people Tšosane will have to live with the foul smell and the chocking fumes that come from the dumpsite.
No wonder they say the dumpsite is killing them softly.

Rose Moremoholo & ’Mamakhooa Rapolaki


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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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