Herat-to-heart with local UN endorsed climate change expert


Adopting resilience thinking within climate adaptation projects and policies encourages a shift from short-term, incremental, project-focused and reactive approaches towards a kind of planning that is long-term, transformative, holistic and forward-looking. Thus, adaptation and resilience are complementary, working in conjunction with each other when it comes to responding to the impacts of climate change; and being an emergency in Lesotho, it needs to be treated as such. Lesotho is hands on addressing issues of climate change and ensuring that her people adapt and become resilient to the impacts of climate change. To ensure that correct and up to date climate change information is successfully disseminated to communities so that they are able to make informed decisions, experts in climate change are a need, hence Public Eye reporter MATHATISI SEBUSI (PE) spoke to a local climate change expert recently endorsed by the UN THELETSA MPHOLLE (TM) to talk about himself, his career, his UN endorsement and climate change in general.

PE: Theletsa Mpholle, who is he, and what makes him tick?

TM: Theletsa Mpholle is a humble, hardworking and reliable individual. Very eager to learn and embrace the learning curve of enlightenment. What makes him tick is to see progress in any area of interest.

PE: What are your memories growing up, those that you would say impacted on your outlook towards life?

TM: Well, I have always loved to be around positive people and those that are really making new strides and opening whole new world of possibilities. I used to watch my late father Dr Lekopa Joseph Mpholle, reading and working hard even on weekends.

I wanted to be like him and have determination towards life and love my family. Family is my biggest priority because I saw how my dad acted for good of the family. Coming from a catholic praying family has really kept my balance on life.

PE: What was your most favorite moment or experience in your life journey?

TM: Best moment was when I was chosen to attend the climate change, GHG inventory meeting for African Region in Mahe, Seychelles, that when I saw results of hard work manifested. It was my first experience in an aeroplane to a foreign country to learn and engage with other fellow Africans.

Second experience also in 2018 was When I was accepted into review training to be a United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, and only 25 people in the world were accepted for such a training in that year. It was heart-warming to be youngest and probably the first one in Lesotho.

PE: Let’s talk environment and climate change, have you always been passionate about them and what do they mean to you?

TM: I have always been passionate about science and technology. I was always on the forefront on conserving the environment. My passion was in science when I was in my high school days at Lesotho High school were I won 1st price at district and 2nd prize at a national science and mathematics fair for making a handmade camera producing a black and white image.

I love more chemistry than geography because for me Geography was easy so I wanted more challenge. Soon after completing my degree in Chemical Technology from National University of Lesotho, in 2017, following year I joined Lesotho Meteorological Services as a project assistant, this is where my interest and passion grew in climate change issues.For me climate change means life and death, for me it is a global emergency and we have to act now.

PE: You have recently been endorsed as a climate change expert by the UN, please tell us about this endorsement, how it came about and what it means?

TM: I learned from Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) that exposed me to different courses, of which I attained certificate of proficiency in climate change from Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (2 certifications that I got), also got certification for expertise in climate change for enhanced transparency framework of the Paris Agreement, and I am one of the 50 in world who first undergone such a training from United Nations Staff College.

LMS has played a good role in my growth and I would like to thank the LMS team immensely. Just as my contract with Lesotho Meteorological Services was to end in March 2022, I applied for a consultancy opportunity as a climate change expert in a German consulting firm called HEAT international Gmbh, so since the project is under UNDP climate promise that seeks to assist Lesotho to update its Nationally Determined Contribution, UNDP has to review and accept one to be a local climate change expert, and so they validated that to be true.

The Second Validation came from UN WFP, when an international policy evaluation firm contracted by WFP called ADE (Belgium-based private policy evaluation firm) to engage a local senior policy evaluator, in the same way my CV was send to UN WFP for review and they validated me as a local expert in Climate Change.

It means that I am a recognized Climate change expert that can provide information pertaining to climate change and policy in Lesotho. Although it is not restrictive to Lesotho but my skills can be used anywhere in the world.

PE: Now that you are a climate change expert, what does your work entail?

TM: Most of my work entails, support for capacity building initiative on climate change to different institutions from government to NGOs and CSOs, support institutions seeking to review their document and policies. Evaluation of different project progress. Also giving the best possible knowledge regarding climate change. Advice on mitigation options and adaptation interventions among a few.

PE: What motivated you to take the climate change and environmental route?

TM: I saw an opportunity in climate change as a new field of study. For me it was trying something new that could bring positive impact to the people with knowledge gained. Climate change experts are in high demand since we are experiencing the effects and impacts of climate change so my interest grew as to be part of the solution and not the problem.

PE: Lesotho has for years been capacitating its people on climate change to ensure that they are resilient and adapt to climate change impacts, however impacts still out ways efforts, what could be the cause of this and how can the country tackle climate change issues for high impact?

TM: Unfortunately impacts come at different frequencies and we are not in control of the atmosphere as there are many variables that are happening such as difference in temperature, wind direction, varying rainfall patterns etc.

My advice would be that we learn to live with climate change by increasing our resilience and adaptive capacity to absorb any shock that may come as a result of extreme weather events. We need to sanitize our people about climate change and also engage with behavioural experts in the country to chip in so that we can change our behaviours about it.Further collaborations and understanding is needed to merge indigenous knowledge with current scientific data. We have to work together to find solutions.

PE: Climate change stakeholders have been complaining that non collaboration between stake holders is the reason the country is not making desired impacts. They say people have lost interest in climate change topics due to hearing the same thing from different stakeholders. What do you say about this, do you think collaboration will help the country achieve more in terms of climate change capacitation and resilience?

TM: Collaboration will help the country to achieve more, since climate change affects us all. We have to find ways to collaborate and work together. The time of silo working has expired. We have different institutions and development partners that have the skills to impart different levels of knowledge, in essence ‘re le batho re’a hlokana’.

PE: What do you think is the best and interesting way to capacitate people, especially youth, about climate change?

TM: My opinion is to engage more people in climate change projects and initiatives, that is encourage them to part in them. For me the best learning is to be part of the process as you learn. They could also pick climate change related course in their professional education journey because we need more climate change experts in Lesotho. Young people become the change only when they are engaged.

PE: Now let’s talk of Mpholle the climate change expert, what are your ambitions in this area, what do you aim to achieve in terms to helping the country address the effects of climate change?

TM: My biggest skills entail being able to pass difficult science information and break it down into information that can be chowed by the receiver. I hope to one day be an international reviewer, be an international and local trainer in climate change and perhaps one day be a university lecturer in the field of climate change.First I must equip myself with the knowledge so that I can pour out my knowledge cup to others.

PE: How would you rate the country’s efforts towards addressing climate change issues, do you think the country is doing enough or it should try hard?

TM: The country is doing all it can to combat climate change in terms of trainings, providing courses and capacitating the community. However, I still believe that Lesotho needs more funding to support climate change initiatives. So there is room for improvement hence we need to try even more harder as we are the 14th most vulnerable country in the world yet in terms of trying to access climate finance we range in the top 100s.

PE: Are there any areas you think the country should focus most on?

TM: We should be in line with national priorities and focus more on climate change adaptation interventions and capacity building initiatives should be up-scaled. One important area is on behavioural change.

PE: What contributions can you say you personally made towards capacitating Basotho on climate change?

TM: I have been part of the team that developed climate change adaptation manual for schools, been part of team that update the second edition climate change tool-kit for teachers, I have also contributed in the 4th Greenhouse Gas Inventory report for Lesotho and some chapters of national documents pertaining to climate change. I have also been part of team of trainers on climate change to journalist, editors, teachers, herd boys and the community at large.

PE: What are some of the achievements that you pride yourself in?

TM: I have just recently registered my consultancy firm called MPHOLLE CONSULTANCY, that seeks to provide consultancy services in the climate change sphere. Also, being a young person working with UN agencies has really been a dream come true.

PE: And the challenges in your line of work?

TM: Explaining climate change issues to people is a challenge, sometimes it takes long to team up and create a climate change document, sometimes people resist hearing anything about climate change. More work needs to be done to spread the message about climate change, we have to learn from Covid-19 and HIV campaigns and also do climate change campaigns.

PE: Can you say Basotho are informed on the issues of climate change, why?

TM: Basotho are really informed because in some villages the chiefs even follow climate change information from local radio stations, TV and print media. Another example is that herd-boys also understand issues of climate change and how they affect them and their livestock and crops.

PE: Where did you go to school and what skills can you say help you daily in your line of work to ensure that you offer your services at your very best?

TM: I went school at NUL for my Bsc in Chemical Technology, then Greenhouse gas management institute, African Development Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa United Nations Staff College and United Nation Environmental Programme. More capacity I got from Lesotho Meteorological Services.Understanding issues of climate change more has helped in my line of work. Knowledge without understanding is dead.

PE: Please tell us about your background, what kind of a child were you when growing up and what career route did you want to take?

TM: I wanted to take the engineering route or become a medical doctor when I was growing up. I have always been an active child who was always curious.

PE: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

TM: I would like to see myself being a director in an organization that prioritises climate change issues/environment or perhaps leading a role in development of climate interventions that will benefit the people.

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