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Climate-smart agriculture boosts food security in vulnerable communities

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Silence Charumbira / Limpho Sello

MATHOLANG Bereng, a widowed mother of two from Makoabating, Mafeteng has freed herself from the clutches of poverty by participating in a drought alleviation project in her district.

Dubbed ‘Improving Adaptive Capacity of Vulnerable and Food Security Populations in Lesotho (IACoV)’, the initiative is a four-year project launched last October and is expected to end in 2024.

The project is being executed by the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) and the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP).

It is funded to the tune of US$10 million (about M150 million) by the Adaptation Fund- an international fund which finances projects and programmes aimed at helping developing countries to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change.

Thanks to the project, Ms Bereng has now assumed the bread winner role after the death of her husband five years ago. She has embraced climate-smart agriculture which has enabled her and other vulnerable households to survive climate change effects like protracted droughts and floods which have drastically reduced crop yields and ultimately food security in the country.

Climate smart faming is an approach that guides actions towards transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate.

In Lesotho, farmers in the southern districts of Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing are usually worst affected by adverse climate conditions due to poor soils and high temperatures.

However, the training and adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices has seen people like Ms Bereng reap significant yields from their land.

The Sunday Express recently undertook a field trip to Thabana-Morena, Mafeteng where Ms Bereng spoke glowingly about the initiative that has helped her family beat poverty.

“I have always been a housewife and my job was to do unpaid household chores and look after the children while my husband did paid work to provide for us,” Ms Bereng said.

“My husband has been gone five years and living without him has been difficult. The effects of climate change were worsening my situation yearly. In this part of the country crop cultivation is difficult because of desertification and drought. These two evils are real threats to livelihoods because harvests are perennially poor.”

She said when her husband died, she thought her only way out was to seek employment as a domestic worker or as a farm labourer in neighbouring South Africa.

“I just could not figure out a solution to my situation but the training programmes by the government and the World Food Programme (WFP) have opened my eyes.

“I am part of a project to grow food for our households and for sale. I get paid M1200 monthly. I use some of the money for my children’s needs and save the remainder,” she said.

Ms Bereng said villagers in her area were taught how to use the key hole farming methods to preserve moisture and maximise yields in dry conditions. Bigger fields cannot hold enough moisture when it rains while it is also impossible to irrigate them because of scarcity of water. Nevertheless, we are happy that we have been educated about climate-smart agriculture.

“We therefore need funding to capacitate ourselves to handle bigger projects,” Ms Bereng said.

Another Makoabating, Mafeteng villager, Thabo Nkhabu, hailed the IACoV project for changing his life. Mr Nkhabu said the project had restored his “manly” dignity as he could now feed his family from the farming projects.

Before the project, he depended on his M500 monthly income from herding other villagers’ livestock.

“I am now more confident as a man because I can provide for my family. The M1200 stipend that I have been getting will leave me with M300 in savings. I intend to use that money to buy seeds for my big field. I also have a plot with a sorghum crop that is nearing harvesting and I am hopeful that I will provide more food for the family and get more income,” Mr Nkhabu said.

The IACoV project has benefited 42 840 vulnerable beneficiaries in 21 project sites in Mafeteng, Mohale’s-Hoek and Quthing.

This publication also toured IACoV projects in Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek.

Tsoanelo Oliphant, an IACoV field officer has been working with villagers in the Siloe Council in Mohale’s Hoek to help them adapt to climate change.

Mr Oliphant said the Siloe project started in 2015 when Lesotho was battling the effects of an El Nino induced drought. At the time, the southern districts that include Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing were hit hard and were struggling for food and water.

“Since the community was struggling for water and food, the WFP introduced the food for assets (FFA) project. The project entailed the implementation of activities like building stone lines and gully structures to prevent soil erosion.

“The communities also planted trees to minimise soil loss and also constructed communal vegetable gardens where they are growing vegetables for consumption and sale. They have also constructed a water tank where they draw water for consumption and irrigation. There is now an orchard with peach trees and grape vines. The land has immensely recovered since 2015. There is now grass and vegetation,” Mr Oliphant said.

A household is engaged for three months in an IACoV project and is paid M1200 per month for participating. Each household is encouraged to save at least M100 monthly.

“The community is sensitised by different partners like World Vision on credit and savings schemes so that they can learn how to save and invest. With the M300 saved after three months, others buy pigs to start a piggery project, others start poultry projects while start vegetable production at their homes.

“The communities have ownership of the project because it was developed using a bottom-up development approach which encourages input from the communities instead of talking down to them,” Mr Oliphant said.

IACoV communication expert, ‘Mateboho Mokhothu, said, “communities are being empowered to plan and implement appropriate resilience building activities that will transform lives and diversify livelihoods”.

According to the 2020 IACoV project document, the vulnerable and drought-prone southern districts of Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing have benefited from the enhanced predictability of drought and dry spells as a result of the project.

They have also benefited from an early warning and response system that triggers a timely and effective response.

Addressing journalists during a recent climate change workshop in Mohale’s Hoek, Energy and Meteorology principal secretary (PS) Themba Sopeng said, “climate change has become the greatest threat to the entire world”.

“Today humans, animals and all other types of species face a new existential challenge. Our planet is now experiencing more frequent and intense droughts, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans, as a result of climate change.

“Sadly, Lesotho is not immune to the negative effects of climate change. Evidence shows that in recent years, Lesotho has been experiencing an increasing frequency in natural disasters and erratic weather conditions such as drought, snowfall, hailstorms, strong winds, localised floods and early frost.

“In view of these dangers faced by the country, the government of Lesotho realised the need to urgently put in place effective mechanisms and programmes geared towards strengthening technical capacities and systems.

“There is need to create awareness which fosters behavioural change, promotes resilience and adaptive capacity among communities particularly the most vulnerable groups,” Mr Sopeng said.

In his keynote speech to local media editors at a separate workshop in Mohale’s Hoek, Energy Minister Mohapi Mohapinyane said it was important for the media to mainstream climate change issues in its news coverage.

Often, when reporters attend events and press briefings about climate change, their stories end up being spiked because editors find the subject uninteresting, he said.

On their part, the editors said it was imperative to upscale the training of reporters and editors on climate change reporting so that they handle such stories from a position of knowledge.

 

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