Basotho Women Leading the Cause in Climate Change Action and Biodiversity Preservation: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow

March 8, 2022

‘M’e Thabitha Senone– Tšenekeng Botanical Garden, Semonkong

Among the rolling hills of majestic mountains and green foothills lies the home of ‘m’e ‘Makatleho Kutoane; a 35-year-old bee farmer who has taken it upon herself to preserve these pollinators for the benefit of the ecosystem and to start her beekeeping enterprise. As a passionate farmer, she heard about the importance of bees in income generation, ecosystem improvement and other health benefits  on the radio, and she decided to venture into beekeeping. She embarked on independent research, and when UNDP Lesotho through Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry, and World Vision introduced a beekeeping training programme, she used the knowledge gathered as a launchpad into her business. Eager to  learn, ‘m’e ‘Makatleho decided to join the training even though she did not have all the required equipment. Months later after being fully equipped with start-up kits from the programme, facing several challenges such as ant and moth infestations, this businesswoman started turning a profit from her business. Today she makes up to $120.00 on a good month, which goes a long way in supporting her eight and five year old children as well as her husband. With the income from beekeeping her confidence has been increased  as she can now contribute to the family's needs including children's education, food and health. She is now able to reinvest into her business and is also mentoring and encouraging other women and youth to take part in beekeeping and other community developments. As a woman in a male dominated sector, she proclaims that she is confident in her skills. “I was inspired by another female beekeeper, ‘m’e ‘Mamorena, who would open the beehives alone without the help of a man and I realised that I can definitely do this too!” ‘m’e ‘Makatleho Kutoane.  With a business which is helping her provide for her family, this beekeeper further received training on production and marketing organised by the UNDP's Green Value Chains Project, which has enabled her to price, package and brand her products based on competitive market values. She has also been selected as one of the Marketing Agents in her village to work with other farmers to secure formal and informal markets.  “Now I know what the value of my hard work is, and I no longer allow customers to set their own prices. So, I am able to make a good profit.”  said ‘m’e ‘Makatleho confidently. “Today I collaborate with another female beekeeper with the help of ‘m’e ‘Mamorena, who has been doing this much longer than I have.”

The story of this young woman ignites a lingering remembrance of the saying by Brigham Young: “You educate a woman, you educate a generation.” Inspired by her neighbour, ‘m’e ‘Makatleho ventured into unknown territory because she wanted to practice sustainable production systems that are also socially, economically, and environmentally friendly. Help was indeed nearby as UNDP together with its partners empowered her to stand on her own as a young businesswoman who practices farming that preserves and nurtures our environment. This woman is a climate change and ecology ambassador to keep an eye on!

In the wetlands of Semonkong lies a little village called Tšenekeng. Close to the road leading into this quiet community, is the Tšenekeng Botanical Garden which was founded by Mofumahali ‘Makholu Mahao (Chieftess of Tšenekeng) as a call to improve her community. She proudly spoke of the hard work which she and her community put into the collection and nurturing of endangered species  within the garden. Directing us to speak with those who have been supporting this cause for years, she mentioned how delighted she is to see her vision continue even though she is in her old age and unable to tend to the garden anymore. 

Tšenekeng Botanical Garden’s mandate is “Baballa Tikoloho ‘Me U Phele”, a call to take care of the environment in order to sustain and preserve one’s own life. The aim is to protect the land from soil erosion and degradation, to do ecological research, grow ecotourism, assist farmers, healers and allow an opportunity for everyone who wants to learn about the indigenous species to visit the Botanical Garden. “Our goal is to multiply the indigenous species we have here, and to ensure that future generations know about them and how they are tied to our heritage.” ‘m’e Thabitha Senone, Chairperson of the Committee of Tšenekeng Botanical Garden. 

The ultimate goal is to improve the lives of the community by creating jobs. The Garden has even extended into beekeeping and honey producing, orchard farming and a nursery for the benefit of selling seedlings to make a profit. The Garden has truly been successful as it has been ranked in the top two Botanical Gardens in Lesotho. It has also won the “Mosali oa Mo Afrika” award. These successes have been reached due to support from UNDP through the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) and Serumula Development Association. “We are so grateful for the help you are giving us here at our Botanical Garden. It is because of you that we are still standing when many people have decided to leave.” Mofumahali ‘Makholu Mahao. Future generations of Basotho women can learn how to protect their environment by following the footsteps of these women. Opportunities are being presented by UNDP and her development partners to empower women to be able to withstand future environmental challenges which exacerbate their vulnerability to poverty and abuse. Our future smart UNDP is preserving the future of nations by protecting the nurturers of our homes and land.