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Serving authentic Sesotho meals



MAHOBONG – THABISO Matšoele has been in the food processing industry since 2012. The 42 year old from Ha-Setene, Mahobong, describes his journey in the cutthroat industry as both interesting and an eye opening.

“Each day I go to bed having learned a new lesson pertaining to plants and animal behaviour. I have also learned a great deal on traditional Sesotho delicacies,” said Matšoele, adding that his delight comes from giving his deli customers the best treats.

“Each and every generation in all walks of life has a challenge to address but food security is pinned on every generational challenge as people cannot pursue any other interest if they are not properly fed,” said Matšoele, explaining his passion for the food production industry.

“My story in farming goes back a long way because from an early age I had learned that almost everything we eat came from the soil,” Matšoele said.

“I then had a passion for producing agricultural products as I realised they were the answer to people’s needs.”

Matšoele said initially he was intrigued by the harvest of different vegetables he grew at home. “The yield was enough to cater for the family needs and it prompted me to produce more,” said

Matšoele, who then took backyard farming seriously. Trying his hand at different vegetables, the result was a surplus that he sold. Matšoele said he views food production as a fundamental instrument to alleviate starvation and foster a healthy nation.

He expressed concern that many people are shifting from horticulture and now depend on buying food from the shelves.

“In this modern life, each and every penny should count and one does not have to buy everything to survive,” he said.

Matšoele argued that people need to depend more on commodities that are readily available from the immediate environment to overcome financial burdens. In promoting healthy eating, Matšoele likened organic farming to a sound production measure which is ideal for a good diet. He says organic farming can be undertaken at a “reasonable” cost.

“Plus, the food products we get from the shelves would have been treated with various pesticides and insecticides and we might not know their effects once absorbed into our bodies,” said Matšoele.

“Despite its slower process and standard production, organic farming is the way to go since it is cheaper, safer and healthier,” said Matšoele, who moved from simple backyard farming to operating a “proper” homestead farming business.

Alongside crop production, he began rearing and breeding rabbits, chickens and ducks which he sold to people who also wanted to engage in this business while others bought them for consumption. With proceeds from the farming project, Matšoele later got involved in the business of preparing and selling meals from his farm produce.

He was inspired by the Afrikaner lifestyle in South Africa where they have festivities of dining together in celebration of their harvests and animal production. He travelled extensively for such festivals in a bid to borrow a leaf from the organisers.

“I cherished and adopted their style, and this includes selling meals prepared from one’s agricultural produce. That’s how I established the business of serving cooked meals,” said Matšoele, who named his business Monakeli Farm.

“Here, our dining halls are referred to as metebo and we also try as much as possible to use traditional utensils in preparation and serving of such meals,” Matšoele said.

“We want people to have a feel of indigenous Sesotho home meals once they are here,” he said.

“We have a broader picture of building a farm hub though we are still in the initial phase. At Monakeli Farm, our concept is clear that we need to serve straight from the farm to the table.”

Currently, Monakeli Farm has grown as it has attracted people from all corners of Lesotho. At the moment, the business has managed to employ several people. Two men work as the maintenance and garden ground force. There is a security guard and two women who work as servers. Matšoele and his wife work as the cooks and also supervise the entire operation.

“There is another guy who works as a manager. All in all, the business itself is sustaining the livelihoods of seven people and their families,” said Matšoele.

“What I can assure you is that the rabbit and duck meat we sell here is hundred percent organic. It is from this farm,” he said, stating that they have about 200 ducks and rabbits at the farm.

Besides the meals, Monakeli Farm offers patrons several leisure activities apart from enjoying the serene environs.

“We also cater for picnics, camping, baby showers, farm workshops and benchmarking. We are very discreet about who comes to the farm for we uphold Basotho values at heart,” he said.

“We want to tone down these wild festivities that Basotho seem to be attracted to nowadays. It’s not always ideal to be loud for you to enjoy, sometimes you just have to be cool,” he said.

Children can also come for birthday celebrations or any other decent activities.

“For kids, we have swings and trampolines,” he said. Matšoele is concerned with the miniature level of production among Basotho agricultural producers and their lack of consistency. Their pricing is also another factor of concern.

“The problem with our local producers is they are not dependable as they produce at a small scale and one ends up moving from one supplier to the next in a short space of time,” he lamented.
Also, there is a problem of local farmers inflating prices and charging even more than retailers.

“This is discouraging because as common sense dictates, prices should be lower when the middle man is cut. Buying straight from the farm should be cheaper than when one buys from the retailers,” he said.Monakeli Farm is aiming at boosting its production by liaising with other local producers.

“We are not yet there with the farm- to-table dining concept. We sometimes run short of supplies but that’s our ultimate vision. In collaboration with other farmers, we can accumulate enough food supplies to sustain the business,” he said.

In a country with high unemployment, Matšoele believes that a lot of effort and energy must be concentrated in promoting agriculture as it is an effective tool for poverty alleviation as well as to enhance economic growth.

“The idea of agro-tourism business can foster economic growth in the country as most of the products produced will come straight from our fields. This, in turn, can reduce our import bill while at the same time enhancing economic growth in the country,” said Matšoele.

He urged fellow Basotho to be active in the agriculture business. “It is an investment with good returns and great potential to grow,” he said.

Calvin Motekase

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