THE effects of climate change have compounded the dire situation facing villagers in the rural parts of the Mohale’s Hoek district.
This came out in a series of recent workshops by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the district.
The villagers told the Lesotho Times on the side-lines of the workshops that they are increasingly desperate owing to climate change which has brought with it longer dry spells that have dried some of the scarce water sources.
The villagers said that their situation has also been exacerbated by the fact that the majority of the rural communities do not have running water and have to rely on the Senqu River, which separates the Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek districts. Owing to extreme heat and less rainfall that has been recorded in recent years, the river has often dried up leaving the reliant villagers in dire straits.
During the Lesotho Times’ visit to the councils of Khoelenya, Thaba Mokhele and Lithipeng in the same district, it established that only villagers who are fortunate enough have drilled boreholes in their yards.
‘Mateboho Makaaka, a villager from Khoelenya council, said that community members now have to buy water from those who have boreholes M1 for a 20-litre bucket.
“We have always had serious water problems for a long time as we have only one old community borehole which at times bursts and sometimes goes for a year without producing any water,” Ms Makaaka said.
“Sometimes we survive by drawing water for household uses like laundry from the Senqu River but then at times it also dries up.
“Most villagers are not able to save up to drill boreholes in our yards so we buy from those who have them at M1 for a 20-litre bucket.”
The Lesotho Times further learnt that the majority of community taps installed in the district as far back as 1970s with the help of development agencies to give villagers access to clean water have long dried up. The taps draw water from larger tanks in the community.
Ms Makaaka said the situation because untenable in the 2015-16 rainy season when the region experienced an El Nino induced drought.
The 2015-16 El Nino was one of the strongest ever recorded, and had an impact on global temperatures, which saw 2016 enter the record books as one of the warmest years.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), climate change is influencing the traditional dynamics of the weather events. The WMO projects that there is a 70 percent chance of another El Nino induced drought this year.
After one of the workshops, Ms Makaaka said she now believes that the main cause of their water crisis was climate change and that the communities have to act to address the issue.
“Climate change exists and we need to adapt. We must find ways to preserve nature and protect the ecosystem things like the wetlands,” she said.
The Global Environmental Fund-financed project was launched in 2015 by the Lesotho UNDP country office and the government as a five-year action plan to implement the RVCC in the foothills, lowlands and Senqu River.
‘Manthatisi Makhaola – a member of GEM – who was also a facilitator at the workshops, said that the objective of the project is the reduction of vulnerability of livelihoods to climate shocks.
“GEM is aimed at educating, capacitating and raising awareness among primary, secondary and high school learners about the multiple challenges arising from climate change which include land degradation because of unsustainable land management and exploitation of natural resources. We were integrated into the RVCC project as it is in line with what we are pushing through our motto “reducing vulnerability from climate change through a voice of a child” as older people have proven to be stubborn.
“During the workshops, we discovered that the greatest challenge was lack of water supply. The climate’s predictions also indicate that there will be low precipitation in the near future. Another problem is that due to climate change we also experience prolonged drought season and heavy rains on the contrary. Therefore, we thought of constructing small dams and further install water tanks so that the communities can be able to collect water during rainy seasons.
“I cannot say for sure as to when that will happen but it is projected to start sometime in January. Besides that, when the water table level is low, boreholes will not be able to pump up water, therefore we have advised the communities in the three councils to protect the wetlands so that they can be able to recharge the perennial rivers during dry seasons,” Ms Makhaola said.
Ms Makhaola also indicated that since the RVCC is a five-year programme ending in 2020, GEM plans to continue with the project to maintain and spread the information beyond the programme’s lifespan.