Dearth of laws threatens land rehabilitation

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU –  Absence of responsive land legislation threatens the effective and successful rehabilitation of the Lesotho’s degraded land.

To date the country still uses the obsolete Land Husbandry Act of 1969, a piece of legislation described as obsolete and unable to respond to the challenges the country faces due to climate change.

As a result, the country continues to experience extreme land degradation, especially in the southern parts and despite rehabilitation efforts the impacts outweighs the hard work put in.

The country lacks all-encompassing national legislation directed to land degradation and the reality is that communities abuse and disrespect land and resources since no law can hold them accountable for their actions.

However, there is hope as the country’s Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation is currently working on a Range Resources Management Bill, 2021, which when enacted will repeal the outdated Land Husbandry Act of 1969.

Speaking to this publication the forestry, range and soil conversation minister, Motlohi Maliehe, said that the Bill, currently being interrogated by parliament will, among others, address issues surrounding protection and rehabilitation of range and wet lands.

When enacted, the new law is expected to empower the present government and development partners’ efforts to rehabilitate the country’s land that has depleted due to climate change and land mismanagement.

He said the Bill also aims to also promote sustainable use of range land resources, conserve biodiversity and maintain the ecosystem.

“The absence of land legislation has seen herd boys in the rural parts of the country starting uncontrolled fires while communities practice unsustainable farming and exploit resources through illegal harvest,” he added.

The enactment of the Range Resources Management Bill of 2021 is also expected to promote and empower the wool and mohair industry in the country. Rangelands provide primary feeding for most of Lesotho’s wool and mohair producers.

After it turns into law, the new legislation will, among others, also promote sustainable use of range land resources for the benefit of communities in a manner that would preserve the ecological character of an area and conserve biodiversity to maintain ecosystems.

It will further protect rangeland against malpractices such as unsustainable grazing, encroachment and exploitation or illegal harvesting of range resources.

Through the Act, rangelands will be monitored and any other actions detrimental to rangeland health will also be dealt with.

Protection of rangelands means the wool and mohair industry, already one of the leading commodity exports in Lesotho will produce even more quality fibre as the rangelands provide primary feeding for wool and mohair producers.

With over 1.2 million sheep and 845 000 goats in Lesotho, there is a lot of potential to develop the industry, according to the 2019 statistics by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Wool is the leading commodity exported by Lesotho while mohair is the fifth largest. IFAD revealed through its own findings that on average, one sheep yields almost 3kg of wool, and in the case of mohair, one goat yields under 1kg of wool.

The quality and quantity of wool and mohair are influenced by a number of factors, in particular animal nutrition, access to genetic material, animal health and livestock extension services. With the new legislation, production in the already lucrative industry will certainly improve in the long run.

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.

The project is financed by the government of Lesotho, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers’ Association (LNWMGA). It is a seven-year M450 million project that will conclude in 2022.

The Director of Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP), Retšelisitsoe Khoalenyane, notes that the new legislation will go a long way towards improving livestock production and management while enabling producers to generate higher income.

“We go against low productivity of rangelands because it subsequently results in low production. So absence of proper laws is really a challenge in this day and age,” Khoalenyane said.

Under its Climate Smart Rangeland Management Component, WAMP works in tandem with the Department of Range Resources Management (DRRM) of the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation to manage Lesotho’s rangelands sustainably.

WAMP supports the DRRM’s efforts to improve the relevant legislative framework in order to bolster regulations of rangelands, a communal resource that is openly accessible to all Basotho.

 

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