Monday, December 08, 2014

Investigating Traditional Basotho Breads


Wheat is expensive and often imported into sub-Saharan African countries, where it is
generally the preferred ingredient in baked or steamed breads. It is often in competition with other more traditional ingredients, such as sorghum and maize.

In 2014 I had the privilege of participating in the thesis defense of another young African woman scholar, Pulane Nkhabutlane, who set out to investigate and document  the culinary practices and consumer preferences regarding traditional Basotho bread. She  sampled villages in 5 rural districts in Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa completely embedded within S. Africa.

(photo from

A consumer science doctoral student at the University of Pretoria, Dr. Nkhabutlane's pioneering doctoral research was, like Rose Omari's, by necessity largely exploratory and descriptive.  There were 3 main phases of her research: 
  • First, to identify and describe the different traditional breads in Lesotho, to investigate the past and present culinary practices related to them, to understand the factors influencing consumers' perceptions and consumption patterns, and to identify how Basotho culture impacts traditional bread acceptance. She considered ingredients, cooking methods, and social and economic variables (e.g., age, gender, and rural-urban differences)
  •  The second phase included a more technical analysis to standardize the recipes, considering regional variation, and to identify the nutritional value (macronutrients, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals) and yields.
  • Finally, to characterize selected traditional Basotho breads. This section included identifying sensory characteristics like texture, volume, and color, and the contributions of wheat, maize and sorghum flour to these. Also, to investigate and determine the contribution of sourdough in the bread doughs (pH and total titratable acidity).
The thesis was another fascinating contribution to filling in the hole in contemporary sub-Saharan African culinary research. It also suggests a number of policy recommendations, such as campaigns to improve nutrition and food security and a greater appreciation of the strengths of the culinary heritage of sub-Saharan Africa. 

It is exciting to observe a new generation of African scholars taking hold of their own research agendas. It also gladdens my heart that there is a generation of African fathers and husbands who are willing to support their wives to enable them to make contributions to the development of their continent, even at a personal cost to themselves. 

The full title of Dr. Nkhabutlane's thesis is: "An Investigation of Basotho Culinary Practices and Consumer Acceptance of Basotho Traditional Bread."

Some of her work has already been published: P. Nkhabutlane, G. E. du Rand, and H. L, de Kock, "Quality characterization of wheat, maize and sorghum steamed breads from Lesotho" Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Volume 94, Issue 10, pages 2104–2117, August 2014.

No comments: