The general manager of Botswana Craft, Nicola Hart, says that despite this year’s drought, preparations for this year’s Letlhafula Festival are still on track.
“We have a group of farmers local who have always supplied us and there has been no indication that they would not be able to do so this year,” she says.
As a result of unfavourable climatic conditions, Botswana experienced severe crop failure this year. To mitigate such situation, the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board has had to import 1800 metric tonnes of sorghum from Australia.
In its 12th year, the Botswana premier harvest-home festival, which will take place on May 26 at Botswana Craft in Gaborone, showcases the best of traditional food and music. Although most of the suppliers are in places near Gaborone like Mochudi, some other food items have to be sourced from far away areas. Mophane worms come from the north, mahupu from Kgalagadi and Hart says that someone in Maun has promised to supply them with tswii. Last year, the festival introduced motsentsela – wild berries. Hart describes this fruit as “very nice.” A motsentsela tree has been planted at the Botswana Craft premises along the Western Bypass and until three weeks ago, was yielding fruit that staff enjoyed. The roots of the tree are used to dye baskets.
Last year’s fare had another fruit from Zimbabwe, mausa, that didn’t make Hart’s tastebuds as happy as did motsentsela. While these imports add colour (literally) and variety to food items on offer, Hart stresses the importance of keeping Letlhafula food as local as possible because the festival is meant to showcase the best of Botswana’s culture and its main patrons (Batswana) prefer it that way. On the other hand, local delicacies keep being added on to the menu and Hart says that this year, ox tongue will make its debut.
The festival is held in May which is when the harvest-home occurs in Botswana’s farming communities. However, it has become apparent that climate change is messing up farmers’ timetable and this may necessitate the readjusting of the festival. While she concedes this point, Hart points out that such adjustment may not be necessary.
“People know that Letlhafula is held in May and they are still getting enough variety of food to make the festival a worthwhile experience,” she says.
Some of those people are international tourists from as far afield as the United States. Hart says that last year, they had a group of Americans who came especially for Letlhafula. Locally, the enthusiasm is such that as early as January people were calling Botswana Craft asking when the festival would be held.