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Sorghum biscuits!



ROMA – THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) community was thrown into commotion last week as the Department of Consumer Science released the crispiest biscuits into the market.
Everyone wanted to get a taste, but there just wasn’t enough for everyone.
“They are not only yummy, they are, in fact, the healthiest biscuits of choice out there,” says a team of incubates developing the biscuits, Palesa Teke, ’Matlotliso Kotsoro and ’Makabelo Pita.
They produce and sell rusks and biscuits from sorghum, and biscuits and cakes from maize in a project that has captivated the entire university community.
If you haven’t eaten them, you’ve missed a lot!

“One advantage of being at NUL during these exciting times of innovation is that you (will want) to get the first taste,” says one elated biscuit enthusiast after purchasing quite a few rusks.
Notice why this project is, indeed, a big deal!  “The products are made from crops that most Basotho grow—maize and sorghum, hence a huge market for Basotho agricultural products is in the making,” Teke says.

The incubation of the biscuits started after NUL, together with the University of Pretoria (UP) and Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Sciences (BUAN) became the “fearsome threesome” after winning nearly M1 million from SANbio-BioFISA Flagship Grant Competition.
So are the products a healthy choice?  Most biscuits are made from wheat.  Yes, when you go out there, it’s wheat, wheat, wheat and wheat! The modern food industry has turned us into “wheat addicts”! Lo and behold! That is about to change!

The maize and sorghum biscuits are wheat-free! And that is a big deal — because here is the truth about wheat.
It is has a substance called gluten to which many people are allergic and results in coeliac disease, whether they know it or not.
But listen to this — sorghum and maize don’t have that problem.

So when you buy those crunchy NUL-made biscuits, you are going a long way into making yourself a healthier person.
Right?  But more importantly, those gluten free snacks are nothing but exceptional in the department of taste.
And here is how one fanatic likes to put it: “Few things on this planet Earth can beat the taste of NUL Sorghum Rusks eaten with NUL made Sebabatso Yogurt.”
Apparently, getting the two in one package can send you into the seventh heaven.

So where did it all begin?
“It started when I saw big news shared on my wall on Facebook,” ’Matlotliso Kotsoro says.  The heading of the news went like, “Why NUL & Company won the SANbio-BioFISA Flagship Grant Competition,” by NUL Research and Innovations.  As former students of Consumer Science, they were happy about the achievements of their passionate teacher, Dr Pulane Nkhabutlane, who was among the winners.  Little did they know that they would be called to be part of this extraordinary project under Dr Nkhabutlane’s supervision.
The next thing these former Consumer Science students received a call from NUL.

“We were asked to come for interviews so they could select the best graduates to incubate,” ’Makabelo Pita says.
“Unfortunately, I was still a student, doing just one course here, but I tried my luck,” she says.
“When I heard I was among those selected to be incubated, I was literally shocked. I didn’t believe I made it!”
The competition went from 23 applicants, to 10 applicants and then it boiled down to the three incubates we have today.
Why did they win?

“It was not so much about whether we were good in academic performance as it was about whether we would be good entrepreneurs,” Teke says.
“Apparently, the judges thought we met that criteria and here we are.”
The early stages weren’t easy though.

While their intention is partly to empower locals by buying sorghum from them, the flour is hard to come by.
So they end up buying commercial flour.  “If we do get the flour at all, it comes in all kinds of varieties and each variety makes different biscuits,” Kotsoro says.
So it took them some time to get the products’ quality right.

“We need local suppliers who will supply only one variety of sorghum for the whole year to maintain quality,” adds Pita.
Their efforts are, apparently, paying off.  “Everyone wants a piece of our biscuits now,” Palesa says with a smile.
“We are amazed by the excitement at the university.”

So you feel like you are missing a lot by being a bit far from NUL? No worries, if you order in bulk, these ladies promise they would take care of you!
Now it’s time to meditate on this.

If you thought maize was for ‘papa’ (hardened porridge) only and sorghum for ‘motoho’ and ‘lesheleshele’ only, it’s time to rethink.
These ladies are slowly and carefully redrawing the boundaries long considered to be fixed and permanent.

Own Correspondent

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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