17.11.2008

Mosutlhwane Days are Back Again

Is it possible to produce rice in a desert country with a semi-arid climate where there are no paddles? The Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) is working hard to promote its own 'made in Botswana' rice as a substitute for the current stock which is becoming more and more expensive. This will not be a rice project around the Okavango swamps. A long time ago, the agrarian society of Botswana discovered a method of getting rice from sorghum.

Traditionally, the white sorghum granules were enjoyed with milk, while in other cultures more ingredients were added to make the meal tasty. Over time, the sorghum rice known as mosutlhwane disappeared in some Tswana cultures as the traditional method of preparing it faded. But BAMB is determined to tap on this indigenous knowledge and reintroduce the sorghum rice as a substitute for rice. Today the BAMB miller in Pilane is producing the traditional rice in 5kg bags, and already the feedback is overwhelming, according to BAMB spokesperson, Boipuso Nyatshane. He reports that their stock of the sorghum rice is usually bought out within days of arrival, especially at their Gaborone shop which sells to the public.

Nyatshane says although it would appear like Batswana did not experiment much with sorghum rice in the past, today's tests at BAMB have shown that the Botswana rice can actually be enjoyed with stew and salads just like people do with modern rice. "Those who know the sorgum rice or mosutlhwane from the olden days do not see it as appetising because they can only imagine mixing it with milk, but the sorghum rice can be eaten with other relishes as well and those who have experimented, love it so much," Nyatswane said.

The BAMB is working on a marketing strategy to promote the sorghum rice as a substitute for rice which has become more costly lately with the world food price jumping to an all time high over the last two years. The 5kg bag of sorghum rice today costs P27.07 in Gaborone and the surrounding areas, while the price may rise slightly in other places due to transportation costs. Compare this price with P60 that people pay for the 5kg bag of rice in Gaborone, and the sorghum rice comes out tops.

Nyatshane says her organisation can only promote and market the sorghum rice as an alternative staple food, but they cannot produce enough to feed the whole nation. That is partly because BAMB's miller in Pilane is so limited it can only produce 200 of the 5kg bags in a week. The BAMB spokesperson says the idea is to get the local millers to tap on this initiative and produce the rice in bulk, either for export or for the local population. "We are continuing to market it. Our wish is to see the millers tapping on this knowledge one day," she says.
The National Food Technology and Research Centre in Kanye is currently working with BAMB to determine nutritional analysis of the sorghum rice. (Mmegi/The Reporter)

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