This National University of Lesotho (NUL) made pot, branded “Pitsa,” looks simple but it is not your normal pot! Because of its numerous uses, it may as well be the pot that marks the start of Lesotho’s industrialisation. “A list of things capable of being professionally made from this pot is endless,” said Mr Setlhare Jane who along with his research team members, Lesia Matlali and ‘Marethabile Jane, have been working on Pitsa for quite some time.

The list includes wine, beer, yogurt, soft drinks, soft sour porridge (motoho), sour milk (mafi), pasteurized milk, soft bread (maqebekoane), dough (hlama e betseng), starter culture (tomoso), malt (‘mela), skin creams, skin lotions, medicinal mixtures, shoe and floor polishes, soaps, green manure, seedlings (sethopo), biogas…well, there is no end.

Plans are under way to make this pot available in the markets under the NUL Innovation Hub. It doesn’t have to be a small pot, it can be big, very big. And it can take any shape to meet your manufacturing needs.

“Many people wonder why we are unable to make a host of many products (like the ones mentioned above) in Lesotho,” Jane said. “The situation is so bad that one big South African company is making “motoho” (our own product) for us.”

“It turns out the secret was in this pot.”

Pitsa is designed to control temperature and that says it all. Temperature control, Jane says, “is the single most important component of numerous manufacturing processes and that fact eludes most people.” Temperature control is an open secret. For instance, “it is estimated that a whopping 50% of the awe-inspiring energy used in the United States is used in temperature control!"

That tells you something.

So how shall Pitsa change Lesotho?

The pot is addressing two issues that are at the heart of poor manufacturing efforts in this country. First, our products are unprofessional (ke tsa maiketsetso) because they are done under uncontrolled circumstances. The same brand of motoho today has a different taste tomorrow because it has now been made under different temperatures (e entsoe ka mollo). Unfortunately, the market hates changing products under one brand.

In manufacturing, the right temperature is not negotiable. Make it lower and your processes slow down or don’t happen. Make it higher and you destroy taste, coluour, texture or functionality. Getting just the right temperature and keeping it there until the process is over works wonders. And, (don’t tell anyone about this) temperature control is the secret of many large professional manufacturing brands.

Second, we fail to mass-produce (re hlahisa ka sono). That is because we have no access to proper and large sized processing equipment. If we do manage to buy that equipment elsewhere, repair becomes just as expensive as buying a new equipment because we have to import technicians who will do the repairs. Maintenance gets impossible. But this machine will be made locally and repaired locally. 

Then we shall allow Pitsa to do its magic. Here is how.

Think about numerous fermented foods of Lesotho that requires Pitsa to get them right and which we should have learned to commercialise long time ago. Most of the “motoho” that Basotho have put in the markets leave a lot to be desired. Actually, they are “leshelesheshele” (soft porridge) disguised as “motoho” because the sour taste is made up by addition of a commercial chemical called citric acid.

“This machine will first help you produce starter cultures (tomoso) first and within the time required for the culture to be okay,” Jane said. “Then it will assist you to ferment “motoho” to a required taste.” As temperature affects taste, it’s up to you to decide on the best taste by setting the right temperature and duration.

Those who have ever tried to make original “motoho” know how cold temperatures wreak havoc in Lesotho’s legendarily cold winter months. That will be a thing of the past.

How do you make “maqebekoane”; one of the freshest and most popular meals in Lesotho? You mix yeast with flour and make dough. Then you “hope” that the dough will rise, should the temperatures be right. “That kind of practice just ain’t work if we are serious about producing “maqebekoane” at large commercial scale,” Jane advised.

Pitsa will not only assist with raising the dough as fast as possible, it will also help you cook the “maqebekoane” by generating the right steam at the right temperature!

The same story can be said about “mafi,” “ting” and “sekhakabolo.” We can make these products if we apply Pitsa in large scale.

Think about more; beer and wine. Pitsa will not only assist you to get the taste of these products nice and intact, it will also help you in the production of the malt (‘mela) fast and reliably.

There is more. Many people just love yogurt. Well, Pitsa can make it too. It can both pasteurize your milk and produce yogurt with speed.

It goes further. Most skin creams and lotions are made in an environment requiring temperatures in which Pitsa operate. Thus, once you have the right ingredients, you can make these out of Pitsa. As we said, the list is endless.