Am I Going to Live on Papa in Lesotho?


“Papa” the main dish served with every meal in Lesotho. Photo credit Beth Spencer, Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho. Click on photo.

I’m getting prepared for my 27 months in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, in southern Africa, and it looks like I’m going to live on Papa in Lesotho. Papa even has its own special wooden utensil for mixing.
Papa, seems to be the main starch eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s bland, so you can add milk for breakfast or vegetables for dinner.
“At the heart of the Basotho diet is a corn-based food called papa. Papa is served almost every lunch and dinner. Papa le moroho (cooked greens), papa le nama (meat), papa le lebese (milk), papa le linaoa (beans), papa le beet root, paper le lihoete (carrots), papa le mahe (eggs); the possibilities are endless. This is because papa is a classic starch. It is a mildly flavored, completely unseasoned base to every meal.” — Beth Spencer.
My author friend Lauri Kubuitsile from Botswana, introduced me to Rethabile from Lesotho, who now lives in Paris. He then informed me about a chef from Lesotho and her cookbook. Here is a BBC video on Chef Ska Mirriam Motteane, and her goal to teach women to become chefs in Lesotho.
The Mountain Kingdom Cover_

Click on cover to see on Amazon

I’m also reading Greg’s fascinating memoir, The Mountain Schooland learning about what to expect as a primary education teacher in Lesotho. I’m so excited to meet him for lunch tomorrow in San Diego. Greg lived in Lesotho as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and as I’ve connected with other Peace Corps Volunteers and shall be asking him to answer all of our questions about his life as a primary education teacher in the Mountain Kingdom. I’m already learning about what to expect.
I hope there is more to eat in Lesotho than Papa, and Moroho.
Moroho consists of greens: spinach, cabbage, collard greens etc.  I shall have to bring some seeds to plant my own vegetables.

Click on photo to go to website.

I wonder where I shall get my protein from? Eggs? They have beef, mutton and chicken, but Papa, seems to form the main part of the dish.
Anyway, I’m getting more and more excited about this life change, and hopefully the Peace Corps won’t turn me down at the last minute for some medical reason. I’ve uploaded all my medical and dental exams to their portal, which is quite time-consuming.
If you have any suggestions as to what to bring or to plant, please let me know.

Comments (12)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. ladyfi says:

    How exciting! I’m sure you will find other food to eat, although you will no doubt be tired of papa by the end. I lived on rice for three years – and no coffee!!! – in China.
    ladyfi recently posted..Sunset boulevardMy Profile

  2. Lineo says:

    I find the title of this article very condescending to say the least. I can’t even bring myself to read the content. As a Mosotho who grew up in a modest budget, let me assure you that If you can cook, you can live on anything you like. You don’t have to eat papa if it is not to your liking. There are shops you know. I am sure you wouldn’t worry about eating frogs if you were visiting France or Fish and Chip in UK.

  3. Sonia Marsh says:


    My apologies if you found this condescending. Of course that was not my intention. I’ve never tried papa, and quite frankly, I was excited to see that I could eat it for breakfast and add milk and sugar to it, as I’m used to oatmeal.
    Please understand that I’ve never lived in Lesotho, although I did live in Nigeria as a child for 6 years, so I’m researching blogs and books, and would be happy to get more information from you about life and food in Lesotho if you have suggestions..
    Sonia Marsh recently posted..Am I Going to Live on Papa in Lesotho?My Profile

  4. Laku Loro says:

    I worked as a teacher in rural Lesotho and believe me, u will be amazed at the food variety especially soul food on Sundays. The rural shops have spaghetti, rice and u can bake the local bread. As for proteins, the village women breed broilers and pigs. So stop worrying about pap and start thinking of how to keep warm come winter

  5. You’re going to Lesotho! How exciting. A good thing that you’re researching food. A shame that someone was turned off by the title. He/she should have read on and seen what it was about. Also, appreciate that for readers like me, all this is very new and interesting. Lesotho is not comparable to France or its capital Maseru to Paris in population, size, history, or geographical location, but it will be fascinating to learn first-hand about it.

  6. Kath says:

    I’ve lived in lesotho my whole life. Once again it is sad to see an obviously well educated person such as yourself decide to not only ask a question such as this but to publish it too..You have undoubtedly done your research on the country and know that there are large brand supermarkets and shops to buy a wide variety of food-western and otherwise.

    I do not understand the choice you have made to portray to your readers,many who will not know any better, a stereotypical & narrow perspective of “living in Africa”. It truly is rather disappointing particularly as you are on a 2year stint to ‘help’ the country-which I do applaud you for-howeer this will NOT help open people’s eyes and minds to what there is available in Africa But shall merely perpetuate the idea that Living in Africa is living in the bush.
    Anyhow, the answer is no you shall not live on papa and no you do not have to bring seeds to plant as surprisingly enough they too are available in Lesotho.

    I hope you enjoy the country-it’s beautiful as are its people. Khotso.Pula. Nala.

    • Sonia Marsh says:


      I am glad to hear from you. It’s nice to learn from everyone, and as I said before, I’ve lived in Nigeria, and have a love of learning about new cultures and foods. Sorry my post is causing anger, I am only stating what I’ve read on other blogs, and heard from other Peace Corps volunteers I’ve spoken with. I also have no idea as a PCV where I shall be living in Lesotho, but some locations are very rural, so many PCVs bring their on seeds.

      I’m happy this post has stimulated some lively conversations, and one day, I shall be able to write about my location, and my own experiences.

      BTW I’m sure you’ve heard of SEO, which is one reason why the title is what it is.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Sonia Marsh recently posted..Am I Going to Live on Papa in Lesotho?My Profile

  7. Hi Sonia,

    I’m glad that you’re getting other viewpoints on what to expect in Lesotho.

    As Americans (even African Americans who have never been to Africa) we are all too quick to believe and embrace stereotypes without realizing that what we hear or read is one-sided and sometimes intentionally designed to perpetuate myths that Africans are wild, primitive, and subsisting on limited resources. (There is even a disturbing body of myths and stereotypes about African Americans born right here in the USA that causes fear and can lead to the violence that makes the news daily.)

    I know you didn’t intend to be condescending, so I know you welcome the expanded viewpoints from Africans who speak from experience and correct the warped view we’ve been given. This ensures that not only will you have a positive impact on your students, but that your African experience will have a enlightened impact on you.
    Flora Morris Brown recently posted..7 Surprising Reasons to Connect with Other WritersMy Profile

    • Sonia Marsh says:

      Hi Flora,

      So true.

      There are myths about everyone, including the French, that they use perfume to cover up the fact that they don’t bathe. I’ve heard that one for years, or the fact that they don’t have modern toilets in Paris.

      So unfortunately, some people decide not to travel to certain parts of the world, based on stupidities.

      I’m all for a global outlook, as you know Flora.
      Sonia Marsh recently posted..Am I Going to Live on Papa in Lesotho?My Profile

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge