A Bill to protect range resources introduced



MASERU – The recently introduced Range Resources Management Bill of 2021 carries with it a penalty of between M3 000 and M4 000 or imprisonment between three to four for persons found guilty of the unprescribed burning of rangeland. This has been revealed during the introduction of the Bill by public minister, Motlohi Maliehe, speaking on behalf of Minister of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation in Maseru this week. This and other harsher penalties form part of the Bill that is currently under interrogation by parliament.

Maliehe said upon enactment the Bill will among others address issues surrounding protection and rehabilitation of range lands and wet lands and also empower available efforts by the government and development partners to rehabilitate country’s land that has depleted due to climate change and land mismanagement. Maliehe noted that with the Bill, the ministry also aims to among others promote sustainable use of range land resources, conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem.

He said the Bill does not only provides for  protection of  rangelands against unprescribed fires, unsustainable farming, exploitation or illegal harvesting of range resources but also aims to protect and conserve wetlands and provide for monitoring range lands, prevention of ecosystem degradation and land rehabilitation, restoration and reclamation.

The minister remarked the sad reality that the country still uses the outdated Land Husbandry Act of 1969 that will soon be repealed by Range Resources Management Bill 2021 if turned in to an Act. The Bill was made possible by support from the government of Lesotho and International Fund for Agricultural Development and Wool and Mohair Growers Association under wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WMPP).

“Through the legalization of range resources management, the ministry aims to protect and rehabilitate rangelands for production of quality wool and mohair. Among challenges in trying to protect and rehabilitate our environment is absence of Laws that regulate and respond to challenges that people face on daily basis in regard to environment and the changing climate.

The Law that regulates protection and rehabilitation of range lands and wetlands is outdated as it was enacted in 1969. The outdated Act is among the reasons our land is depleting significantly,” he said. “This shows that there is an urgent need for enactment of an Act that will address today and future land challenges.”

Per the draft Bill, a person who herds livestock into protected grazing ranges, wetlands, riparian or developed rangeland areas will be fined an amount of M1 000 or a year’s imprisonment or both. A person trespassing on rangelands, riparian and wetland areas for recreational or entertainment purposes will be fined M10 000 and M20 000 or imprisonment between 10 to 20 years or both.

The Draft further stipulates that a person that carries out unauthorized harvesting or exploitation of range resources for commercial purposes will be liable to pay a fine between M5 000 and M10 000 or imprisonment between five and 10 years while whoever trespasses  livestock upon protected grazing ranges, wetlands areas and developed rangeland areas, constructs unauthorized initiation school, cattle post huts and other unauthorized  structures  on wetland areas and developed rangelands areas commits an offence and shall pay a fine ranging from M50 per cattle for a first time offender  and M100 per cattle for a second time offender per day.

A fine for trespassing upon wetlands and developed range land areas ranges from M100 per cattle per day and M25 per small stock. “A person who trespasses on developed rangeland areas and wetland areas for recreational, entertainment and tourist activities commits an offence. A person who carries out unprescribed burning of rangeland and encroaches on rangeland and wetland areas for settlement and agronomic purposes commits an offence and shall pay a fine,” notes the draft bill.

The draft bill further notes that a person shall not enter, harvest or utilize rangeland resources without prescribed user permits from the authority responsible for range resources management. On his part the Director of Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP), Retšelisitsoe Khoalinyane, outlined WAMPP’s main purpose of the promotion of the capacity and capability of wool and mohair farmers so that they are able to produce quality fabric aligning themselves with challenges brought by climate change.

He said the project is mandated that by the end of the its duration,  it should have increased productivity and returns for wool and mohair farmers  and ensured that they are resilient to climate  change impacts.

“This will be shown by reduction of poverty and food insecurity. To achieve this, we should be able to reduce malnutrition by at least 3.2 to 7 percent. Climate Smart Rangelands Management is one of the three objectives of WMPP.

Research shows that the country started experiencing rangelands degradation back in 1960s and the situation was worsened by recently experienced droughts and heavy rains that swept a lot of soil causing soil erosion,” he added. He indicated that “these we belief are impacts of climate change and together with bad land management causes the country having more dongas, fields losing their productivity that can sustain farmers and rangelands eroding.”

“These and are among the reasons that encouraged the establishment of WMPP project which particularly targets at improving or going against low productivity of the rangelands which results in low production of wool and mohair”, he noted.  In trying to improve livelihoods of wool and mohair farmers across the country and increase production and quality of wool and mohair  the government implemented  Wool and Mohair Promotion (WAMPP) project.

WAMPP is a seven year project jointly financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the OPEC Fund, the Government of Lesotho and the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers’ Association (LNWMGA). It is worth M500 million and was launched in  2016 and will come to an end by 2022. It is aimed at among others enable small holder livestock producers to generate higher income and more sustainable livelihoods.

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