Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Villagers take a stand against hunger


Makhopotso Mothusi

Mohale’s Hoek

Inset Mamotlatsi Moletsane show the seedlings the community is planting below the stone-lines (terraced land)
Mamotlatsi Moletsane show the seedlings the community is planting below the stone-lines (terraced land)

When Fusi Mohlouoa tied the knot in October last year, he was probably the happiest man in the whole village of Moletsane in Mohale’s Hoek district.

Yet his joy was short-lived after realising the responsibilities that suddenly came with his new marital status. At 25 years of age, Mr Mohlouoa was unemployed despite passing his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) examinations in 2008, which meant he did not have the means to look after his family.

However, four months after his marriage, Mr Mohlouoa could not believe his luck when he received news that he was one of the residents selected to work on the World Food Programme (WFP)’s cash-assistance-for-assets scheme in Lesotho.

Believing his young wife had somehow brought him good luck, Mr Mohlouoa and 250 other people from his village started their new jobs in March this year. After working 12 days per month doing various activities—planting trees, constructing silt-traps and rehabilitating gullies—the villagers will each receive M660. This project is expected to run for six months (March to August) and payment would be made on a monthly basis.

Like his fellow villagers, Mr Mohlouoa believes they have to stand together against a curse and common enemy  that has plagued them for so long and made them go to bed hungry and despondent.

Many are aware climate change is their greatest enemy but lack the means to help themselves survive the repeated shocks this phenomenon brings to their community.

The trend of long dry spells is not new but what worries the community is whenever the rains come, they are heavy and carry away the fertile top soil, leaving gullies in their fields.

The rain is usually followed by excessive heat which destroys many of the crops. Trees have been dying in Moletsane and without fertiliser, much of the land has become unproductive. This is a story commonly told by many smallholder-farmers from Mohale’s Hoek, but the communities are also aware they must work together if they are to adapt to shifting weather patterns.

Reducing soil erosion and harnessing water from springs are some of the solutions Moletsane residents are now employing with the assistance of WFP.

“Constructing these broad lines of stones is going to reduce soil-erosion and prevent further loss of arable land,” Mr Mohlouoa says. “Although I never expected to do this kind of work, I believe these activities will alleviate hunger and poverty in our neighbourhood.”

Last week, the community could be seen planting some vegetables on a two-acre plot of land below the recently constructed silt-traps, breathing new life into an area that had appeared irredeemable only a few months ago.

“This is an area once shunned because of flooding which was caused by the run-off from the hills,” says Mr Mohlouoa. “We’re going to use it even during the rainy season because we now have the silt-traps that will control the run-off.”

The villagers are soon to construct a water tank that would enable water-harvesting from a spring above the hills. The water from the tank would be piped to irrigate the crops planted below.

“As a community, we are grateful for all the assistance we’re receiving to ensure we survive,” he says. “It goes to show that where there is support, there’s a way.”

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) donated US$580,686 to the Government of Lesotho through WFP in 2014. The funds were given to support communities suffering chronic food insecurity so they could engage in activities that would help them withstand climate shocks.  A total of 1000 representatives of food-insecure households were earlier this year selected, through the Ministry of Social Development’s National Information System for Social Assistance system and since March this year, they have been working in five projects situated in the Siloe Community Council.

‘Mamotlatsi Moletsane, a widow, is grateful for the money she received from WFP a few weeks ago after working at the project site in Moletsane village. The money enabled her to buy food for her family of four—a development she had not believed possible not so long ago.

“We have more than 70 single and unemployed mothers working on this project,” she says. “It’s not a good thing to depend on food hand-outs every year, which is why we welcome this support because it will protect our land from harsh weather and enable us to produce our own food.”

Her wish is to see the project continue beyond its planned six-month duration.

“There is a lot of land rehabilitation needed in this area,” Ms Moletsane says. “Many people have lost their fields due to soil-erosion. We can only hope that the project will continue and be expanded to other affected areas.”

Ms Moletsane believes although many people in her area planted maize, most of them would not harvest anything due to adverse weather.

“We had drought and then early frost,” Ms Moletsane says. “Many people will need food support. The food situation is bad; really bad.”

Those who depend on farm “piece jobs” are also suffering, she adds .

“There are no such jobs this year, not to talk of sharing food with neighbours who would have better harvests,” Ms Moletsane says.

In Ha-Mokoroane village, 178 workers at a dam construction site chant songs of hope. The villagers wish for the success of the project and to see the dam holding enough water to irrigate all their crops. Since the project started, 349 men and women have been working in two groups at different times of the month.  One cannot help but notice the villagers’ determination to complete the task.

“We start work at 8 in the morning and don’t stop till 4 pm,” the site project supervisor, Marethabile Sauli says.

The workers are desperate to harvest water for use throughout the year, and are excited about turning the area around the dam into a green belt through vegetable production. They have big dreams and with the fertile soil around this part of Ha-Mokoroane, they would like to produce as many vegetables as they can and sell to the villages nearby.

“People from neighbouring villages are helping us build the dam,” Ms Sauli says. “They know if we can have water here, they will also benefit from the food, and their livestock can also have water to drink.”

Women can also be seen working at the dam site, thanks to World Vision International, a WFP partner that has provided a pre-school for the children to be safe while their mothers are at work.

At other project sites, Tlokotsing and Salang, 400 people are involved in land rehabilitation activities. Four sites have already been identified for dam and water tank construction to support food production in Tlokotsing, Salang, Mohapeloa and Moletsane. However, in other parts of Tlokotsing, results from the construction of silt-traps can clearly be seen. The grazing land show signs of recovery with new shrubs and grass on the terraced mountains. Even the gullies that ruined the land are slowly being eradicated.

WFP Programme Officer, Nkopo Matsepe says the agency would partner organisations interested in helping communities put in place preventive measures to help them become more food secure.

“As climate-related disasters increase, we should work together to improve our resilience,” Mr Matsepe says. “This way, we can increase productivity and have food all year round even in times of drought.”

Comments are closed.