MASERU – Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Special Goodwill Ambassador for Nutrition, King Letsie III, toured several project sites in the Mafeteng and Thaba-Tseka districts where the UN agency is implementing activities to restore land and water resources and to improve food and nutrition security.
The King indicated during the tour that better nutrition has improved relations in households, and expressed hope that the achievements of the project could spread to the whole country, noting that he is proud to have a special relationship with the FAO.
He said he is happy with the work of organisation in the communities and that he sees change in the lives of the people where the project was implemented, and the testimonies from the farmers themselves is a confirmation.
The project ‘Strengthening Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation through Support to Integrated Watershed Management in Lesotho’ was funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) through the Least Developed Countries Fund.
The project has strengthened climate change adaptation through improved watershed management. Implemented since 2015, it has promoted protection of land and water resources through an integrated approach and, strengthened and diversified the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people so that they can better respond to climate change impacts.
It has benefited local communities in most vulnerable livelihood zones by rehabilitating their rangelands and water sources, making them realise notable and progressive improvement in their production systems, especially in homestead vegetable production.
As a result, communities produce enough fodder and have access to water, both for their livestock and household use. Nutrition has improved, and they have been supported to engage in other income-generating activities to diversify their livelihoods.
During the visit, the King also inaugurated water storage tanks and animal drinking points constructed under the project to facilitate access to water for communities and their livestock. He commended FAO’s work in improving the lives of the communities and urged the communities to sustain the gains.
Lesotho faces fragile and substantially degraded soils and disappearing vegetation. Farmers rely on rainfall for food production and for their livestock.
FAO built infrastructure to help vulnerable communities access water through simple and appropriate water harvesting technologies such as ground water dams, roof water tanks, earth dams, and animal drinking points.
The farmers now have access to water to grow fodder for their livestock which has improved productivity.
“Conserving the rangelands has helped water recharge, and catchments have enough water for livestock and households. We now have healthy springs. We were trained to manage the rangeland, including removing invasive shrubs that outcompeted the growth of desirable and palatable grass species,” said Linakeng village Chief, Serobanyane Matete, in Thaba-Tseka.
The benefiting households received chicken, rabbits, pigs, and assorted vegetable varieties to improve the household’s dietary needs.
“We were trained to grow diverse varieties of vegetables in keyhole gardens and under shade net covers all year round. Our families now eat a balanced diet – eggs, meat, and vegetables. Conflict in households has reduced drastically,” said ’Mamokeretla Sebeta of Matlatseng village in Thaba-Tseka.
“Our husbands and youth no longer want to move to urban areas to look for work because the project introduced us to income-generating activities that are more profitable,” she added.
In a bid to reduce burden on the environment, farmers were equipped with skills to engage in other income generating activities such as beekeeping.
Beekeepers received essential equipment used in their work such as beehives, protective gear, a swarm catcher with a telescopic handle, bee smokers, draining sieves, a bee brush, and honey extractors.
The project also strengthened the technical capacity of national and district level staff and institutions on sustainable land and water management and climate-resilient livelihood strategies.
The four-year project worked with partners in the country including the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry of Energy and Meteorology, Ministry of Water Affairs, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship, Department of Environment, and National University of Lesotho.
King Letsie III was appointed as FAO’s Special Ambassador for Nutrition by the Organisation’s Director-General, José Graziano da Silva in December 1, 2016, in Rome Italy.
Pledging to take up his new role with energy and passion, King Letsie III welcomed the fact that nutrition is now firmly on the global agenda. He noted that in Africa just a few years ago “nutrition was not a priority for discussion, let alone investment.”
The King had already been playing an active role promoting better diets as the African Union’s ‘Champion for Nutrition.’