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Villagers fight over food

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BEREA – VILLAGERS in Marabeng are up in arms against the Berea district Disaster Management Authority (DMA) for using what they claim is a “wrong criteria” to select beneficiaries for food aid. The DMA is accused of bypassing the Marabeng Chief Seeiso Majara and Local Government Councillor ’Mathabiso Lebea in selecting those who should receive help.
Instead, they say, DMA officials are favouring their friends, relatives and cronies. Marabeng residents who spoke to thepost said the village has now split into two factions between those who support the DMA and those who take sides with the chief and the councillor.

The residents who are against the DMA want the chief and the councillor to intervene to restart the selection process which they say was biased.  Their gripe is that most of the families receiving the aid are already “well off” while “many of us who are really struggling are left out”. Those who were selected were given 10kg rice and M200 per person. This means that a family of five people would get 50kg rice and M1 000 cash.The programme will run for six months, from December last year to May.The villagers complain that the DMA officials told them to form groups to nominate the names of the village’s poor and vulnerable people for food and cash aid. They said the authority did this without involving the chief and the councillor, two people they claim know the families in the village better. They further said DMA officials never visited the nominated people to verify if they were in need of the aid. The villagers also complained that DMA officials never engaged local support groups that look after the sick and the elderly.

They also said the DMA officials could have used the churches because the clergy know their church members well and can easily identify those in desperate need of the aid.
’Mathabo Liphoto, 70, said she was told at a public gathering where DMA officials were managing the selection process that she was not qualified to receive food aid because she was not old enough to receive a government pension. “When the village was registered I had not yet reached 70 years,” Liphoto said, adding: “I ended up leaving because I realised that I was not going to be registered.” She said the DMA officials said they did not need to involve the chief or the local councillor in the selection process.“We have always worked with the chief and the councillor because they are the ones who know everybody in this village and they know our needs as individuals,” Liphoto said. “Sidestepping them was the gravest mistake they did and now their plan, even if it was good, is working against the poor and it is benefitting the rich,” she said.

Liphoto said some villagers whom she knew that they were working and were receiving monthly salaries were called to Teya-Teyaneng (TY) to receive food aid just before Christmas.
“To our shock the very same people, all the people in the list who went to TY to receive food and cash, were called again yesterday (last Wednesday) and they came back with food parcels and cash,” she said. “This government office that manages these donations is not ashamed to call them again despite that there are many poor ones in the village who struggle to put food on the table every day.”The villagers said the DMA had promised that selected beneficiaries would take turns to receive the donations but that has changed because the same people who got food before Christmas have received more food this month. ’Manthati Makobane, 53, said she had asked her sister-in-law to register her name because she had gone to a funeral when the DMA people came.“I had hope that I would be called but I realised that I was not registered,” she said.“The registration was done under the watchful eyes of these people, I was told, and the villagers were told to nominate names of people who are orphans, aged and needy but I was not nominated despite that I am struggling to feed my family,” Makobane said.

“I understand that they view me as not so much in need although I am really in need of food because nobody is employed in my family,” she said.
“However, I am left wondering when I see people who own taxis, working and salaried married couples appearing on the list of the vulnerable and needy who are receiving food parcels and cash.”Makobane said she does not have a field to grow food and her family has no other reliable source of food apart from her small garden.
She said even the government’s poverty reduction programme which provides temporary jobs of roads maintenance or tree planting does not give much help.
In this programme, a worker is paid M1 000 a month but unfortunately one may get employed once after 36 months, which means such one will be employed for just a month in three years.

“No one can depend on fato-fato (poverty reduction temporary employment). It is hurting to see people who do not even need fato-fato jobs because they have jobs that pay them every month but they are getting assistance from the government when we do not get it,” Makobane said.“We see people who own cars and some have built beautiful big houses, which show that they are able to feed themselves, but they are receiving donations,” she said.’Matlaleng Leeto, 67, who has diabetes said she was so desperate for the food aid that she nominated herself after she had spent the whole day trying to get her name on the list. “I was told that I couldn’t nominate myself, I had to wait for someone to nominate me,” Leeto said.“I waited until I gave up and went to my home. Diabetic as I am, I was so hungry that I was even trembling. I had left home having eaten only soft porridge because I did not have enough mealie-meal on that day.”

Leeto said her family of five members depends on her son “who earns so little that we barely survive”.“However, it is painful to see my struggling neighbours not getting this aid but those who can afford to live without these donations are the ones benefitting.”Liphoto said she went to the chief to ask if the registration could be reversed but “the chief told me that he was bluntly told not to be involved”. At least over 23 villagers have since signed a petition asking the authority to reverse the selection. Chief Seeiso Leshoboro Majara told this paper that he was taken aback when his helper reported to him that his office had been instructed not to be involved in selecting the beneficiaries. “We were not involved even in calling for the public gathering. I cannot specifically say who called it but my helpers attended it so that they could hear and see what was happening,” Chief Majara said. “We knew that the DMA would come but we did not know the exact date until they came unexpectedly and I was not present in the village, my helper who is always in the office was there and he told me this disturbing thing.” “I was also told that the councillor was not in attendance, and she later confirmed that she did not know about the public gathering.”The chief said he called the DMA office in Teya-teyaneng after his people complained. “We have to resolve this urgently before the people of Marabeng split and form factions. I don’t want this in my village,” he said.

The councillor, ’Mathabiso Lebea, said she thought it was the chief who had sidestepped her but later learnt that he too knew nothing about the selection. “I went to him asking to see the list of selected people so that I could compare it with the one I had but he did not have it,” Lebea said. “I only learnt from the people that they had been called to TY to receive food but the DMA never said anything to me,” she said. “We also learnt that all councillors in the Kanana ED and the chiefs had been bypassed by the DMA office and we were surprised.” The Berea District Administrator, Motsamai Mokoto who directly supervises the DMA activities in the district, said the procedure is that “the chiefs and councillors are always engaged because they are the ones who know their people better and they know who needs a help and who does not”. “We use the chiefs and councillors to call public gatherings and we confirm the lists with them,” Mokoto said.“It is odd if this procedure was not followed in Marabeng,” he said. Mokoto said even after the gathering of names, the DMA office is duty-bound to visit the nominated people to verify if they are really in need before the list can be finalised. He promised to investigate the matter.

Staff Reporter

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Lesotho’s own brandy

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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

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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

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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?
Nope!

“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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