QUTHING – Mphaki Ha Pali, a village in a hard-to-reach area in the district of Quthing is one of the villages that are hardest hit by climate change effects leaving the community acutely food insecure. This community has for years survived on farming but in recent years they have been unable to yield anything either from their fields or livestock due to extreme weather conditions. Nestled deep in the rural areas of Quthing, most community members have no formal education or formal jobs so the only option for the majority is migrate to neighbouring South Africa for work on farms or as domestic workers.
As for families headed by single parents and those that are child headed and of children being raised by their grandparents, children as young as 13 years were denied a chance to education and were forced into child labour.
’Marorisang Mahase aged 63, is one of the residents that told this publication that because of financial struggle, their children were their only hope for survival that ensured that families do not go to bed hungry.
She said while girls were taken for domestic work, boys were taken out of school to work as herd boys for meagre wages. She said this became a norm in her village despite them knowing that it is against the law to both take a child out of school and to put them into child labour. “We are fully aware that it is illegal to take children out of school to work for us but most of the time we have no choice because if parents go to South African farms or to work as domestic workers, no one will look after their children,” Mahase noted.
However, comprising children’s education and child labour are now a thing of the past in Mphaki. The community has come together and started sustainable projects that ensure their food security and even bring in money to sustain their families. This the community was able to achieve through assistance from Improving Adaptive Capacity of Vulnerable and Food Insecure Populations in Lesotho (AICOV).
Mphaki is one of the beneficiaries of the IACOV project, one among many whose adaptive and resilience capacity to climate change has improved. IACOV is a four-year project, financially supported by the Adaptive Fund to the tune of M150 million. It is executed by the Lesotho government through its Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation and the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) – and implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP).
The project intends to address the barriers to climate change adaptation by strengthening the capacity of the government on early warning signs while ensuring that optimal knowledge and utilisation of climate information are tailored to community needs.
The Mphaki community is now food secure and their land has been rehabilitated. The community has a lot of livestock. It rehabilitated its grazing land, wetlands and controlled soil erosion in their community by planting trees. Their veldts and mountains are now clothed with grass, while wetlands have been renewed and, as a result, the community produces more wool and mohair and vegetables and has plenty of water.
Mahase noted that they started land rehabilitation projects in 2017 and while they were working on rehabilitating their land, they were advised by AICOV to save M100 per month for the three months a person worked at the project site to start sustainable projects. She said with the money, they were able to buy seeds and started a farming projects where they plant different types of vegetable for sale to locals. The community is saving the money collected from the project for further sustainable projects that are still in the pipeline.
She said they further came together and contributed M100 each and bought layers (chickens) for each person and currently every member of the Mphaki community has at least eight layers’ chickens and a vegetable plot at their homes. Mahase said at her home, she is able to eat a balanced meal every day and even sells some eggs to the locals. Her grandchildren and children in her village are back to school full time.
She said because of the rehabilitated land, they have been receiving better returns from selling wool and mohair and their produce from their farms and plots have been yielding good produce. Quthing, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek districts were selected as districts that have been hardest hit by climate change which is why they have projects initiated for communities within them.
Ha Mohlakoana, Katlehong, in the Quthing district and Ha Ramokoatsi and Bolahla in Mafeteng are among communities that benefited from AICOV project and are now venturing into more sustainable projects. They are not only determined to ensure better livelihoods for their families but have also invested in sustainable projects that not only ensure their financial stability but also address inequality around their respective communities.
Ha Mohlakoana community in Quthing started the projects in 2017. They started with a land rehabilitation project with support from WFP. Members of the community and part of the project from Ha Mohlakoana in Quthing, Mokhathi Tšolo told Public Eye that in 2019 the community started getting financial and technical assistance from AICOV for their projects.
Tšolo said as of today they have managed to save money for other projects and are currently building a house for rearing chickens and they have every member of their community owning a vegetable plot and layers. He said even after the project’s tenure they will be able to continue with the projects as AICOV has armed them with skills on climate smart agriculture and showed them that there is indeed wealth in farming.
Ha Mohlakoana community started a vegetable project where they were all capacitated on climate smart agriculture to practice both at the project site and at their homes. As of today, the community project is blooming. It produces, among others, tomatoes, all green leaves vegetables, potatoes, butternut and pumpkins which they sell to the community and the local market.
The community has opened a savings account with a local commercial bank and intends to expand their project so that in years to come they are in a position to increase job opportunities for their community. IACoV field officer in Quthing, Tšoanelo Oliphant, confirmed during a separate interview that the Ha Mohlakoana community began their activities with a land rehabilitation project. After progress was made, wetlands, grazing lands were restored, mountains were covered with grass and other indigenous herbs and plants they then proceeded to a vegetable project.
He said they decided on a vegetable project after realising that the land rehabilitation project only addressed food insecurity but does not improve the community’s resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change. He said just like in land rehabilitation projects, community members are hired for three consecutive months in the vegetable growing project and are expected to work for four hours and spent the other four hours working in their household projects at a pay of M1 200 as well.
He noted that the projects are under Component Three of IACoV which focuses on empowering communities to understand community-based planning processes that facilitate implementation of appropriate resilience building and adaptation interventions that generate sustainable assets ensuring income diversification and market access. Oliphant said before IACoV was launched in 2020, capacity training on climate change was a challenge but since its inception, people make more informed decisions when it comes to agriculture.
He said through the projects, the community is able to supply other communities and local market with their products. For IACOV, project coordinator, Nkopo Matsepe, says the venture, which commenced in 2020, is expected to come to an end in 2024. He also indicates that through the project, communities will be empowered to plan and implement appropriate resilience building activities that will transform lives and diversify livelihoods.
Matsepe highlighted that the project focuses mainly on women and children that are most vulnerable and affected by climate change and have no means to survive. The IACoV project is three-pronged, with Component One focusing on strengthening government capacity to generate climate information and promote its use to forecast risks of climate shocks, mobilise early actions, and co-develop tailored and locally relevant climate services for communities.
Component Two concentrates on raising awareness of communities, women, youth, people living with HIV and other vulnerable groups on the impacts of climate change, the importance of adaptation, and the use of climate information for seasonal planning and climate risk management. “And Component Three focuses on empowering communities to understand community-based planning processes that facilitate implementation of appropriate resilience building and adaptation interventions that generate sustainable asset ensuring income diversification and market access,” explains the project coordinator.
In its Country Brief, the WFP notes that Lesotho is experiencing a major food security crisis as a result of the El-Niño-induced drought. It addresses that the situation has been made worse by successive years of crop failures, low incomes and high food prices that mean that 41 percent of rural families are spending over half their income on food.
“Over 30 percent of the Lesotho population across all 10 districts will face high levels of acute food insecurity until March 2020. More than 70 percent of the population in rural Lesotho is engaged in subsistence farming. Productivity has been deteriorating since the early 1990s because of unpredictable weather conditions, including inconsistent rains and persistent and recurring droughts.
Maize is the staple diet of Lesotho, but just nine percent of the country’s total landmass is suitable for cultivation. “Despite this, 80 percent of the population live in rural areas. Many poor rural households lack access to agricultural land, while those who do own land lack resources to maximize production, such as fertilisers and high-yield seeds,” reads the brief.
It further notes that Lesotho loses 7.13 percent of its GDP to chronic malnutrition, and around 33 percent of children under the age of five years are stunted, with a low height for their age. It says nearly a quarter of the population is infected with HIV, with women being disproportionately affected due to gender-based violence. Around 80 percent of those living with HIV also have tuberculosis (TB).
“Lesotho is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with droughts already affecting harvest yields and causing significant loss of livestock. The climate is predicted to become warmer and dryer, making droughts and floods more frequent and intense. “With less snow on the mountains and an increase in run-off rates, soil erosion will worsen and deplete the soil of nutrients. But while some climate adaptation measures are being taken, the country lacks the resources for extensive mitigation,” the brief noted.