David Agnew: Lesotho has the highest lowlands of any nation. We lived at 5200 feet surrounded by mountains. It could snow in any month, but rarely did. On the coldest days the sun was strong enough that by midday it was never really cold, and because of the dry air it was never really hot — in other words the climate was great for comfort, but not for agriculture.
The people were so hungry that they would kill and eat most anything. We had a cat or two that disappeared. Dogs weren’t eaten, but they were few and scrawny.
Mary Agnew: All around the hills were prickly pear cactuses. In the summer months the cactus produces a fruit, the prickly pear, so named due to the hair-like thorns that cover the fruit. The Basotho had a method of picking them without suffering the consequence of the spines getting into the fingers and irritating the skin for days. The spines were nearly microscopic in size, but painful in the fingertips. The prickly pear fruit is a bit like a pomegranate in that it has many little seeds surrounded by sweet juicy fruit. It is constipating if eaten in large quantities, and this was a common complaint during the season of the ripe fruit, again a result of too little else to eat.
Mwana Bermudes: Our volunteers carried out research in agriculture and nutrition with local farmers and families in order to assess their needs. Nutrition surveys were done in order to find out what foods were lacking in their diet. Increasing food production was the first priority. Plenty purchased a tractor with a few basic implements, as well as horse-powered implements, for our agricultural program with the local farmers.
We helped Basotho women establish community vegetable gardens with irrigation systems, and we were happy to see them consequently improving their diet. The community gardens project, where fenced garden plots, seeds, and hand tools were provided for local families to grow vegetables, was a self-help source of fresh foods for over 250 people.
Soybean and maize trials were carried out to establish which varieties were more suitable for those climate and soil conditions. A few local farmers got involved with our program and the word spread quickly around the Quthing Valley.
Near to Motsemocha, twelve farmers and their families planted seven acres of soybeans. Other farmers began growing soybeans throughout the area. The Village Technology Training Center soy dairy purchased surplus soybeans.
Mwana Bermudes: Soy cooking demonstrations run by Rosemary Kotze, Mary Agnew, and Karani Bermudes were successfully performed at several households where local women learned the cooking process. Because of this initial interest, a fully equipped soy dairy was built in Motsemocha with the supervision of Chuck Haren.
Chuck Haren: In the spring of 1984, I went on my first overseas assignment representing Plenty in the nation of Lesotho in Africa. Plenty was working with villagers in Lesotho’s Quthing Valley, helping improve agricultural production, establishing village water systems, designing a rural healthcare project, and introducing soybeans into a diet that lacked sufficient protein.
Plenty Canada Report, Winter 1983: This village-scale dairy is designed to produce 100 liters of soymilk per day. The milk can be sold fresh or curdled and pressed to produce high protein tofu. A by-product of the soymilk-making process is protein-rich soy pulp, which can be mixed into traditional Basotho dishes such as “papa” (cornmeal mush) and “makoenya” (deep-fried dough).
Soy products will be sold and the proceeds will go to support the dairy’s operation. Despite Lesotho’s weak economy, our research has concluded that small, village-scale soy dairies have excellent potential as self-sustaining cottage industries. Besides selling high quality protein products at affordable prices, the dairy creates a market for soybeans grown by local farmers and provides jobs for local people.
The dairy served as a demonstration and training center, where individuals, groups, and organizations can learn about soy dairy operation, nutrition, appropriate technologies, and business management. A number of Basotho women were successfully trained in soyfood production technology.