MASERU – About 22 schools in five districts across the country have received maize meal, beans and vegetable seeds to cushion them against the devastating impact of Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to the Rural Self-help Development Agency (RSDA). When schools began to shut down last year in adherence to declared Covid-19 health and safety measures and laid out restrictions to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, several children faced acute food shortage.
These are the children who are vulnerable because their families are economically challenged, and they could only afford a proper meal while at school. Such families live below the poverty line because of the plummeting economic conditions exacerbated by the Covid- 19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc globally.
RSDA director ’Mampho Thulo said they were compelled by this state of affairs to come to the rescue of such families by providing them with beans that have been bought from their districts. “We approached an organised farmers’ forum in their respective districts to buy the beans from them,” Thulo said. This project was carried out in the five districts of Thaba-Tseka, Qacha’s Nek, Mokhotlong, Botha-Bothe and Quthing.
After buying the beans, Thulo said they packaged and then distributed them to the vulnerable children so that they could save them from starvation. “We did this working together with schools, District Agricultural Officers and education officers to distribute the beans and the seeds to the vulnerable pupils,” she said. RSDA has extended its helping hand to 22 schools with 3 081 children from the biting hunger.
Thulo continued that her organisation has coughed spent than half a million Maluti for the purchase of the donations, comprising 24.5 metric tonnes of beans from the farmers in the said districts. Primarily, their focus was to buy NUA 45 (lebete) beans because of their high nutritious value, but NUA 45 ran out of stock and they had no option but to buy the available beans, namely; pinto and sugar beans from the farmers’ stock.
This initiative was made a success with the financial support from the Denmark Lesotho Network. Thulo said they are hoping that the beneficiaries would be able to sow the donated seeds so that they could have the vegetables to fight hunger. “This is our contribution during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said, adding the project was also promoting lebete beans as they want Basotho to plant them in large quantities because of their high nutritious value.
Such beans also take just 90 days in the soil before maturing. “They are fast maturing but with high yields,” Thulo said, adding that the beans are rich in iron and zinc. She said this bean species could be an effective in counteracting the impact of climate change. Thabang Joel, a farmer from Butha-Buthe said the initiative by the RSDA has helped them a lot because they were stuck with their beans.
“Our beans had no market but the RSDA saved us,” he said, adding that this has motivated the farmers who had big stocks of beans in their homes. Another farmer, ’Mathabo Tsepa from Qacha’s Nek said they were stuck with beans in their homes without a market. She said the RSDA came to their rescue because their beans could have ended up spoiling without a market.