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U motenya!

I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Monday, July 20, 2015


It is harvest season in the village. Every evening, wagons full of maize or cornstalks are pulled into the village by cows. In my village, the maize is harvested as part of the block scheme. This means that each family in a block or group sends at least one person to the fields each day. The group works together, harvesting field by field, sharing effort, wagons, tools, and livestock.

The staple Basotho crops are maize and sorghum, followed by beans and peas. The legumes were harvested months ago in autumn. Last month, villagers harvested their sorghum, cutting the tops of each plant then beating or driving over them to separate the sorghum from its stalk.

My family's sorghum drying.
After maize, sorghum is the second largest part of the Basotho diet. It is ground and used to make porridges known as lesheleshele or motoho. Lesheleshele (ley-shell-ee-shell-ee) is referred to as the sweet porridge whereas motoho (mow-tow-hoe) is known as the sour porridge. Making motoho reminds me of making sourdough bread as it has a starter and ferments for a day before being cooked. Many Basotho still add sugar to the finished product although I like the slightly tangy taste. Sorghum is also used to make joala (jwall-ah), a Basotho homebrew.

My brother removing kernels from the cobs by grinding it
against a rock.
The maize is harvested well into the winter, after the stalks have dried completely. This is because it will be removed from the cobs and stored as whole kernels. Like the sorghum, it is then ground before being cooked as papa. As long as the maize is completely dry, people do not need to worry about it rotting. They then, as needed, bring a sack or bucketful to the “sawmill” or gristmill in the next village to have it ground into powder. 

During harvest season, people love to take whole kernels and roast them over an open fire. These crunchy treats taste similar to popcorn, but this corn never pops open into a fluffy treat. Thankfully, they open just enough to keep from being painful to chew!

The maize from the smaller of my family's two fields.


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