Friday, March 13, 2015

Mokete ea Temo

Or, Agriculture Party...

In the late 1980s, my village started an irrigated agricultural scheme. Instead of each villager working alone to grow crops to feed their families and then maybe a bit extra to sell, they combined their efforts. Not only do they share the work and successes, but they now buy their seed in bulk, sell in bulk to shopkeepers as far away as Maseru and Mokhotlong, and as a group own a few pieces of farm machinery making their efforts more efficient.

While much of the money goes back into the scheme and to the families owning and working the fields, some is also used to support school fees and supplies for orphans and vulnerable children in the community. Recently, Letseng Diamond Mines agreed to give greenhouses and fencing to the scheme to help it continue to grow. These are currently being erected at the scheme's farm building.

This agricultural scheme and our current maize (corn) crop is so successful, that the local Ministry of Agriculture sponsored a mokete or party to both celebrate their accomplishments and record their activities to share with other communities.

Blending in with the maize in my Seshoeshoe.
As a result, I found myself donning my Seshoeshoe (se-shway-shway) dress and prepping for a party early one Wednesday morning. I was being blessed with a ride from the village to the fields where their party was to happen; thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture and the women who were responsible for cooking the food for the party being my neighbors. I had been told we would leave at 8 since the ceremony would begin at 9.

By 9:30, I began to worry that maybe I had been forgotten despite knowing the Basotho propensity for lateness and having not heard a car in my area (We are really far removed from the main village roads so car sounds are noticeable). I grabbed my stuff and headed over to my neighbors, relieved to find they were still cooking.

We hung out, snacked, sang, and chatted for two hours while they finished cooking. Finally it was late enough even they wondered where the car was. A few phone calls later and the Ministry truck was on its way. We piled in and as we drove out of the village with a truck full of excited women, they shrieked and blew whistles so everyone would know we were headed to party.

The ceremony started almost as soon as we arrived, because I was special enough to arrive with the fifteen women that were the party. We opened the traditional way; with a song and prayer. Then, we were brought on a tour of some of the fields with stops to discuss the seeds used, planting and weeding times, and other aspects to the growth of the crops. Throughout, a man from the Ministry videotaped the speeches, questions, and answers. 

When we returned to the tent, we sat through over an hour of speeches celebrating the work of various individuals, the group as a whole, and the like. Much of it I understood, although bits were in terminology far exceeding my vocabulary. There were breaks for song, as they are a critical part of any celebration. 



After the ceremony, we enjoyed nyekoe and motoho. Nyekoe (Ni-eck-way) is a local dish made of beans and sorghum. Extras that can be included are meat, vegetables, and various seasonings. I love it! Motoho is like the sourdough bread of sorghum porridge. It is another local favorite of mine.

It was a lovely party. I enjoyed being with so many of the energetic people from my village throughout the day.  

Follow up to this is available at Mokete ea Temo: Celebrity Style.

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You should choose as your life's work whatever feels the most like play.
-Harvey Oxenhorn