Lesotho gets lion’s share of water aid

IRENE SEME

MASERU – For decades a large portion of the population in Lesotho has been struggling to access clean water, with many communities resorting to fetching it from unprotected sources. However, this is gradually changing as the Ministry of Water thanks to funding assistance from UK Aid which has begun the programme to restore water access to communities in seven districts. These are Mokhotlong, Botha-Bothe, Thaba-Tseka, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing.

According to the British High Commissioner Anne Macro the British government approved a programme worth of M125 million to provide assistance to the Southern African countries in the areas of water, sanitation, child protection, nutrition food and livelihoods. This programme is delivered by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Red Cross.

Macro said Lesotho has received the lion’s share of this amount. According to UNICEF, out of 232 systems requested by Ministry of Water to be constructed, UNICEF Supported the Department of Rural Water Supply (DRWS) under the Ministry of Water will construct 79 water systems including 12 newly drilled boreholes, following climate-resilience guidelines.

UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist, Bernard Keraita, explained that due to climate resilience, in Lesotho solar pumps are mostly used even though there are pumps which are powered by electricity, diesel or petrol. Explaining how the construction is done, Keraita said contractors first need to identify a location where enough water is available. “As contractors we use soil formations to make a decision and once we see certain layers, we know that there’s water so we also get the machine to check where the water level is.

“Having found the best place for a high yielding borehole, the next stage is how to get water from the borehole to a place where the community can access it for use,” he explained. “We are moving more to solarise systems using solar panels because of climate resilience principle that we are integrating,” said Keraita, adding that the solar powered pumps are more preferred because they can be installed in areas with no access to electricity. He also explained that even though the hand pumps are cheaper, their maintenance cost is high and they easily break down because they are manually operated.

Keraita said another disadvantage of hand pumps is that their depth is limited to 25m – 50m in Lesotho and at this level, water yields or the amount of water in a borehole could be lower than that so when drought hits those kinds of boreholes may dry. On the contrary, with the new pumping systems the depth limit goes as deeper as 60m to 120m down to get enough water, hence these are called high yielding boreholes. He said the advantage of this new system is that the pump is installed inside and water may not dry up even if there is a drought.

Another advantage of this new model is that the water tap may not be mounted right where the borehole is at but closer to a place easily accessible to the community so as to avoid community members having to walk long distances to fetch water. Keraita said: “We drill a borehole on a site where we get a high yield of water. The solar panels will then be placed in an open location to get solar energy and where they are secure.

“The tank or reservoirs will normally be in a higher point so that water will flow by gravity from the tanks to the stand pipes (tap). There is always a balancing act in positioning all these components of a water supply system.” He then explained that when enough water is pumped, the pump automatically stops and the reservoir stores water to save energy from continuous pumping. So the tap is placed where people can easily fetch water.

Keraita also made it clear that even though solar energy is limited during winter or cloudy conditions, the tanks store water to make up for such days when the pumps automatically stop when the tanks are full. He also said with solar the advantage is that even with a little sunshine the solar panel stores energy. UNICEF representative, Anurita Bains, appealed to communities to take ownership of the water systems installed in their villages and ensure that they are always well maintained for the future.

“As UNICEF, we will continue to support the government to strengthen their capacity and expand systems for WASH services, even in the face of humanitarian shocks (climate change, health pandemics), so they can always be accessible to all,” Bains said. Water Deputy Minister, Mankoe Maime, echoed Bains views that residents should take care of the equipment installed and take ownership of it. He also appealed to chiefs, councillor and police to ensure that whoever disrupts the equipment should be brought to book. Maime thanked the partners for extending a helping hand to the ministry through the DRWS.

Alwyn’s Kop resident and farmer Linda Ramoorosi said since the installation of water systems in his village, he began an initiative to farm potatoes and supply the Askop Primary School and vulnerable people. Ramoorosi told Public Eye that since he was born in 1977, he grew up struggling to access water. “Even though some of us are old, we are thankful to the funders because this gift will benefit our children and they will no longer miss classes because they have to go draw water or there’s no water at school,” Ramoorosi said.

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