Mwana Bermudes: The first aim of the program was to establish a Village Technology Training Center as home for the Plenty crew and a base of the project’s community development operations, mainly concentrating in training local people on various skills relevant to their needs. Local villagers named the Center Motsemocha meaning ‘New Village’ in the Sotho language.
Mary Agnew: The people of Lesotho live in rondavels, round huts made of stone plastered with dung and mud, with thatched roofs. They often had no windows, only a door. Often the exterior of the huts would be decorated with darker mud and whitewash in intricate geometric designs. They had no heat but burned dung and scrub brush in an open pit on the floor. The whole family lives in one rondavel, usually sleeping on the hard floor with only a blanket. Many times I went into one of these homes and was completely stunned by how little the people have. The homes were empty, maybe with a chair or two, shelves, tin cups and plates, a metal basin. Some women, but not all, had a flat stone on the floor for grinding mabele, or sorghum, which was the main grain eaten there.
Mwana Bermudes: Motsemocha was mostly built with local materials such as sandstone and thatch grass, bricks, and concrete blocks manufactured by local entrepreneurs.
David Agnew: Our Village Technology Training Center attempted to improve upon their design with a double wall with straw in between for insulation, the stones mortared together, and a cement floor, a window (with glass!), a small coal stove and stovepipe.
Plenty Bulletin, Winter/Spring 1981: Recently people in Lesotho have begun building with concrete blocks and zinc roofing sheets, which are expensive and imply social status. It is cheaper and stronger to build with stone and thatch, and it insulates more efficiently.
Plenty volunteers have been learning stone cutting and building from the experienced Basotho masons who long ago established themselves as stone builders.
Introducing new appropriate technology in the villages has been met with interest and enthusiasm. Lesotho averages over 300 days of good solar exposure per year. We were able to hook up a solar water heater to the Ha Sempe village tap. The people liked the idea of using the sun, and were glad for the water heater during the winter. At a committee meeting one day, when the women were told of the possibility of solar showers, they got up and danced. On the Basotho national holidays, the villagers usually get together on a project. This time they collected stones for the solar shower building, passing them from hand to hand.
Mwana Bermudes: We used appropriate energy as much as possible, including solar electricity to power our building lights, radios, stereos, video and communications equipment.
South African volunteers Sandy Jacobson and Steve Marais built a solar dryer and an oven where we cooked our bread entirely heated by the sun. Solar food dryers provide a method of processing vegetables and fruits for winter storage. After the initial construction costs, there is almost no cost to operate these dryers. Coupled with our vegetable garden and fruit orchard projects, the dryers help to improve nutrition, particularly during winter months, without placing additional demands on scarce local or imported fuels.
Mwana Bermudes: While our crews were busy getting the Center built, we were also writing proposals to several donors, concerning the various basic fields of rural development that we were being requested to get involved with.
Our project grew as financial assistance permitted and more families and individuals volunteered from Canada, United States, Australia, Mozambique, Spain, Argentina, and South Africa. This expansion meant building more accommodation at the Center and this was an opportunity for our Basotho trainees to receive extensive training in building skills.