Qacha’s Nek Radiance: UNDP Recognizes Local Dedication and Impactful Initiatives

November 22, 2023

UNDP Resident Representative with the chairperson of SCCF at Ha Soloja Sehlabathebe

In a week filled with inspiration, UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Jacqueline Olweya toured through Qacha's Nek, exploring three vibrant project sites powered by The GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) and the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) project. The journey unfolded stories of commitment, resilience, and community-driven change. 

The first stop was at the Sehlabathebe Community Conservation Forum (SCCF) at Ha Soloja, a group deeply committed to preserving biodiversity in the Sehlabathebe National Park buffer zone. Their focus on nurturing the environment and preserving the San Rock Art showcases a commendable dedication to safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage of Sehlabathebe. 

Chairperson of SCCF Mr. Mapheelle Nkuebe, a GEF grantee, shared that the community's realization of living next to Sehlabathebe National Park inspired them to form the forum. Their goal is to protect and derive benefits from their beautiful landscapes. He said becoming a GEF grantee through the SGP marked a turning point, allowing them to venture into ecotourism through establishment of a campsite with requisite ablution facilities and an information office. 

"This is really only the beginning, but so far GEF has really been our starting point and it has given us hope that we are going to leave our future generation a legacy that they can also be proud of. We have also established linkages with other grantees who specialize in horse riding as such to make sure that we provide tourists with an experience they will never forget,” Nkuebe expressed. 

The visit of the RR was during a muddy rainy day but that did not stop her and the team to walk 2 km in the rugged terrain braving the cold rain. Their motivation to see the progress done by the grantees was unstoppable. 

Even though many members of the community supports the organization, they still face the challenges of herdboys lighting fires which destroy the San Rock Art paintings which are the treasures of the place. The other challenge is that the ablution facilities are not yet operational  because of vandalism of the water delivery pipes from the source to the facilities. The neighbouring village of Ha Soloja is the main beneficiary of the water harnessed from a natural spring, to supply the campsite.

Nkuebe highlighted the community's efforts to involve the youth, ensuring the continuity of their work.  

The journey continued to Tsoelike Ha Ratšoleli, visiting Ratšoleli Farmers Association, a group of determined smallholder farmers ensuring food security for their community. Despite being of advanced age, they are hardworking and dedicated to fighting poverty. Their initiatives include protected and open field vegetable production, beekeeping, and aspiring to develop an  orchard and a fish farm. 

Mrs ‘Mahlalele Monaheng, a member and chairperson of the Farmers Association, expressed the challenges faced due to the advanced age of the group. However, the GEF's recognition has allowed them to produce their own vegetables and honey, marking a significant achievement. 

"I am scared that if we all go (die) one day, this Association is going to go with us. Nonetheless, we are happy that GEF recognized us, and we are at this point today where we are able to produce our own vegetables and honey," Mrs Mohaheng shared. 

She said nevertheless, “We are continuing with our recruitment efforts, with a special focus on youth, and other villagers. Some villagers have approached us and are working out the joining fees.

The community's proximity to South Africa poses a challenge in engaging the youth, as many seek quick cash across the border. Monaheng stressed the importance of GEF support in ensuring the Association's sustainability. 

Dr. Jacqueline Olweya expressed admiration for the commitment shown by the grant beneficiaries. She acknowledged the transformative impact of the grants, praising the projects for reaching the hard -to- reach parts of the country and benefiting multiple communities. 

The tour extended to a Renewable Energy project, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL),also funded by GEF, aiming to establish a mini-grid providing electricity to 11 villages in Sehlabathebe. Motlatsi Sephaka, the project's liaison manager, shared their ambitious goal to complete the project by the end of March 2024, despite challenges posed by extreme weather conditions and formidable rocks. 

"We dig one pole hole for a long time because we have to break very hard rocks. The community has been really good to us by supporting us, and many people that work on this project are already members of this community," explained Sephaka.

The project site visits preceded a grant awards ceremony held in Qacha’s Nek, where eight grantees were awarded a total of USD 350,000 (Over 6 million Maloti) in grants for environmental protection and community development in the Sehlabathebe Buffer Zone. 

Notably, four districts were invited to apply for grants, and Qacha’s Nek secured an impressive eight out of the ten grants awarded, showcasing the community's commitment to conservation and development. 

This is also due to the dedication and support given by the District Coordination Office of the Ministry of Environment and of Forestry who established a support mechanism for the grantee partners; and  the technical backstopping provided by the Ministry of Agriculture. 

Mr.Zifunele Roxa, speaking on behalf of the new grantees, expressed gratitude for the support from GEF and district coordinators. He highlighted the critical role these grants would play in protecting biodiversity, particularly in the face of challenges such as grassland burning. 

"To my fellow beneficiaries, let us work hard because we are lucky to have even been chosen. We should help each other through advice or collaborations and make sure we report and seek guidance whenever it's needed," emphasized Mr. Roxa

Mr. Takiso Maphathe, representing old grantee partners, shared a testimony of his inspiring journey as a grantee. He imparted wisdom to the new grantees, emphasizing the values of honesty and transparency in ensuring success and securing future grants. 

In conclusion, the week-long exploration through Qacha's Nek highlighted not only the transformative impact of GEF grants but also the resilience, commitment, and innovative spirit of the local communities as well as the critical role of strategic partnerships in ensuring success and sustainability of such initiatives . These projects stand as beacons of hope, illuminating the path towards a sustainable and prosperous future for the people of Qacha's Nek.



UNDP RR and GEF team with Ha Ratsoleli Famers Association member.