NUL KICK-STARTS LESOTHO’S FIRST YOGURT FACTORY

The mouth watering yogurt by the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is called Sebabatso (the admirable one). Funded by Metropolitan Lesotho and patiently brewed at the NUL, it may as well mark the start of Lesotho’s industrialization!

NUL scientists have been flirting with the idea of producing yogurt for years! But two years back, that appetite took a serious turn when Mr Moeketsi Ntakatsane, Mrs T’soanelo Molahloe-Lepheane and Mr Lesolomane Motenalapi from the Faculty of Agriculture made a plot.

They would work on a yogurt formula which, when ready for the markets, would take the entire nation for a ride.

While it is true—and many will agree—that Sebabatso’s taste simply has no rival in the local market, it is the efforts that went into its making, and into this factory, that deserve our resounding “wow”!

Examine these efforts and you immediately get stunned by a sheer display of tenacity, passion, and unshakeable faith by those behind them.

“We first worked on this product as student practicals in the Department of Animal Science,” Mr Ntakatsane revealed. “Over time, we started sharing what we had with the NUL community.”

Needless to say, Ntakatsane and friends were not fully prepared for what was to follow! Immediately, the NUL community went into uncontrollable frenzy!

For those of you who followed this page from the beginning, you will remember the headline, “Yogurt Fever Grips NUL.” It turns out the fever would never stop— to this day!

But let’s get things into context. In March 2016, NUL held an earthshaking expo at the Pioneer Mall, the only of its kind. The Sebabatso team joined the more than 180 NUL projects on display there.

As soon as it arrived, the yogurt was over. Finished!

That was the second expo. In the first expo in January 2015, one enthusiastic Mosotho man, consumed by enthusiasm over what he saw, uttered these words which NUL chooses never to forget, “This is the turning point in the history of this country.”

With the advent of Sebabatso and its factory, he might have been just about right! Sebabatso’s presence amongst us points to the same direction.

Back to the story—when it was noted that the yogurt was not enough at the second expo, more bottles were brought from NUL to Maseru and oops!—they were also gone as soon as they arrived!

That was Sebabatso, working its magic charm in broad day light!

“This is not your normal yogurt, it is the very best,” one enthusiastic Sebabatso fan was overheard as saying.

So when the team realized the popularity of Sebabatso—and who knows if it won’t rival coke in popularity one day—it was time to implement another plot.

A mini-factory would do!

The team approached many potential funders and settled with Metropolitan Lesotho.

Metropolitan Lesotho provided close to three quarters of a million for the factory. You got it right! Free three quarters of a million!

NUL can only say three words to you Metropolitan Lesotho, not more, not less, “you are amazing!”

At once, Mr Ntakatsane and his team immediately started what would be one of the most challenging processes of the entire episode, setting up a factory. By the way folks, that is not a walk in the park, it takes time.

“The factory was going to handle milk, one of the most sensitive of the foods, perishable and susceptible to spoilage and easy to contaminate,” Ntakatsane said. “So NUL provided an old building and it had to be redone, and refurbished to suit the new use.”

As that refurbishing continued, the team was already procuring yogurt processing equipment from overseas.

Now, pay more attention to this one. You will like it! As soon as the equipment arrived, NUL, FOKOTHI and independent local scientists and engineers immediately put the Faculty of Agriculture under siege!

They would not break the siege until they had fully studied the equipment and suggested ways not only to reproduce it but also to improve on it! A new equipment design is ready, waiting for funding for implementation trials!

Brilliant! For lack of finer words!

When the factory was ready, NUL would not forget the neighbors—those Roma Dairy Farmers! You see, NUL still has an option to go with it alone from production to processing of the milk.

But Sebabatso project would be more meaningful if it has a direct impact on the lives of people around the Roma valley!

As you can expect, tough negotiations are under way.

Nonetheless, NUL already has its own milk producing cattle. So as we speak, the yogurt factory, manned by two NUL Animal Science graduates is operational, albeit at a lower capacity. We are ready to declare: YOU CAN NOW TASTE SEBABATSO!

And, again, NUL community is now being thrown into another frenzy. Everyone is talking about Sebabatso, virtually everyone! And in a few weeks’ time, the entire Nation will surely catch the same fever.

But beware! As the NUL folks would tell you, "the only bad thing about Sebabatso fever is that it is incurable. You catch it once, it kinda sticks with ya—for good!"