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Erosion threatens Mohale’s Hoek school

Mohalenyane Phakela

THREE classroom blocks at Holy Cross Primary and Secondary schools in the Mohale’s Hoek district are on the verge of collapse owing to excessive soil erosion.

This came out in recent workshops that were facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Khoelenya, Thaba Mokhele and Lithipeng in the Mohale’s Hoek district.

The school management at Holy Cross, in Khoelenya Council, which serves as both primary and high school, said they are living in fear as a donga is creeping closer to the buildings with each rainy season.

The high school principal, Paulina Selele, told this publication that her fear is that if the area continues to receive incessant rains as has been the case in the past few years, then the classrooms would collapse in the next if they continuously experience heavy rains for the next two or three years.

“Since we are located below Holy Cross Hill and on a sloppy area, during the heavy rains the water comes down from the hill in high pressure and washes away the top soil here at the school,” Sister Selele said.

“It became worse last year when the country experienced floods. Since we are close to Quthing, we were also affected when they suffered a severe hail storm which was accompanied by heavy rains earlier this year.”

Sister Selele said after the heavy rains that the area earlier this year, the school had to move toilets that were also threatened by erosion for the safety of the learners.

“That water swept a significant amount of soil which saw the donga on the left of the school extend drastically so much that we had to relocate the students’ toilets which were close by. The donga is now about five meters from the Form A, C and D blocks so if we keep experiencing heavy rains in the next two to three years, the three blocks are going to collapse.

“The forestry ministry has been quite helpful as they provided us with the fences which we used to build metseletsele (stone lines) on the hill so as to lower the water pressure. They also provided pine and willow trees which we planted in the dongas last year and in March this year. We had also engaged the community in all these works we were doing,” Sister Paulina said.

The Forestry ministry’s chief conservation officer, Malefetsane Nthimo, said that the problem did not affect Holy Cross only but the entire district due to its light soil which can easily be swept away.

“This district is filled with piping soil which is light and is easily swept away by the rains. It however, becomes worse for Holy Cross because of its sloppy terrain.

“Apart from the soil problem, the soil erosion is caused by human activity, especially when animals are made to graze in restricted areas or at the same spot for too long thereby removing the plants that protect the soil from erosion.

“We have tried to help with trees and fences but then that is not enough without the communities’ commitment.  I believe this workshop which will teach children about climate change will make a huge impact. Children learn easily and in the same way are able to pass on the messages to their peers who are mostly heard boys,” Mr Nthimo said.

The whole Mohale’s Hoek district is faced with severe with dongas eating up villages rapidly. The ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation is working with the UNDP to combat the problem.

The UNDP, through its programme, Reducing Vulnerability from Climate Change (RVCC), together with the Forestry and Education ministries recently collaborated for workshops for both primary and high school students in the three councils of Khoelenya, Thaba Mokhele and Lithipeng in the Mohale’s Hoek district.

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.

“The objective of the project is to mainstream climate risk considerations into the Land Rehabilitation Programme of Lesotho for improved ecosystem resilience and reduced vulnerability of livelihoods to climate shocks,” read a statement by UNDP.

“The project will support the integration of climate change adaptation into national and sub-national land use planning and decision-making.

“Climate change – including rising temperatures, and a greater frequency of droughts and extreme rain events – is negatively affecting local communities living in rural parts of Lesotho. The fragile mountain ecosystems of Lesotho provide a range of benefits that increase the resilience of such communities to climate change. These include regulating services such as storing and retaining water as well as mitigating floods.

“However, these ecosystems are characterised by widespread degradation because of unsustainable land management and exploitation of natural resources. The effects of this ecosystem degradation in Lesotho include loss of vegetative cover and extreme soil erosion. Such effects reduce the capacity of these ecosystems to protect vulnerable communities from the increasingly negative impacts of climate change that are threatening their livelihoods.”

Pont?o Litlokoa, a learner at Letlapeng Primary School which was also toured by the RVCC facilitators, told this publication that she now sees herself as an ambassador who should teach the rest of the community about climate change.

“Today we were taught about various causes of climate change which include green gases which pollute the atmosphere and those are often the results of burning plants.

“We often chop down trees to make fire but today I learned that when one tree is chopped down, another one should be planted. It is also our duty to teach the herd boys not to graze animals at the similar spots. Wetlands should be protected too from animals as we are already leaving in an area where water is scarce.

“I believe it is also important to engage the chiefs for them to hosts gatherings where we students will pass on the teachings to the communities,” ,” Ms Litlokoa said.

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