The UNDP Lesotho’s Resident Representative, Ms. Betty Wabunoha, visited the Mohale's Hoek and Quthing communities to experience first-hand the impact of UNDP Projects in building resilient Basotho. First arriving in Mohale’s Hoek, Ms. Wabunoha visited Bethesda High school where she met with Headmistress Motšelisi Shata, Mrs ‘Mamusi Sehlabaka and Mr Thabo Makhoalinyane, both Agriculture Teachers at the school. A short walk from the gate into the school yard revealed behind one of the classroom buildings a greenhouse filled with plentiful vegetables, from tomatoes to cabbages and green peppers. The greenhouse was provided to the school by the Reducing Vulnerabilities to Climate Change (RVCC) Project which provided, among other things, skills to local communities on climate smart agriculture for the benefit of food security in Lesotho. Following the RVCC project closure, UNDP Lesotho has continued to support these local communities through the Green Value Chains (GVC) Project which contributes to the national COVID19 recovery agenda by promoting the green economy through value chains, building capacity and resilience in the local agriculture sector, and building sustainable production systems, processing and marketing, the GVC Project is a collaborative project between UNDP, smallholder farmers, the private sector and the Government of Lesotho.
With the produce from the garden, Bethesda High School has been able to provide lunch meals for their students, in addition to selling the excess produce, and using the money to reinvest in their agricultural production. “This year we used some of the money we got last year to buy some of the seedlings here. This helped us to reduce costs when buying food.” Mrs. Shata said. Teachers at the School were given production and marketing training. Mr. Makhoalinyane added “We were taught that one cannot produce before they find a market and see what the seller would want. That helped us a lot.” The school has also been able to garner students’ and parents’ participation in the tending of the garden as a way of subsidising tuition costs for students who could not afford to pay school fees. Thus, building a deeper involvement and interest of parents in their children’s education and school life, in addition to bringing the community together. Bethesda High School collaborates with local farmers whereby they align with each other in the breed of vegetables produced as well as the quality, to be able to meet market needs with the same standard and high volumes of quantity.
Ms. Wabunoha encouraged the school management to utilise the ‘Marakeng application which UNDP developed in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. The application is a platform where farmers can connect with consumers to facilitate sales of their agricultural produce. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security promised that they would train the community on how to use the application so that their products can be bought, and profits made from all excess produce. Indeed, this will allow the income generated from farming to be sustainable and prevent much surplus produce from becoming spoilt.
The UNDP Lesotho RR made her next stop at Mrs. ‘Makatleho Kutoane’s home. This is a 35-year-old wife and mother of two, who is a beekeeper. She embarked on her beekeeping journey after hearing from a radio programme that bees are beneficial for crop production as they are pollinators. Since she was already an avid grower of crops, she decided to attend beekeeping training workshops hosted by UNDP Lesotho through the RVCC Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry and World Vision. In this workshop she was equipped with start-up kits which enabled her to start her business. The GVC project took over after the RVCC Project ended, and through the project ‘M’e ‘Makatleho received production and marketing training which helped her learn how to grow her business. Today she can turnover $120.00 on a good month. She can contribute to her family’s needs such as food, healthcare and education. “I am able to help my husband out and no longer need to ask for money for everything from him.” said ‘m’e ‘Makatleho. This hardworking woman has now become a Marketing Agent who helps farmers in her village secure formal and informal markets. Making use of all the skills learned from the GVC project to build a sustainable market for beekeeping.
Ms. Wabunoha’s last stop was at a mini-grid site in Sebapala Quthing. Here she met with the chief of Ha ‘Malephane, Ntate Monnafeela Malephane, chairman of Tosing Community Council, Ntate Telang Sekotlo, as well as representatives from the renewable energy service provider, OnePower. Installation of the mini-grids is a collaborative initiative between UNDP, OnePower and the Department of Energy through a Project called ‘Development of Cornerstone Public Policies and Institutional Capacities to Accelerate Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Progress’. The SE4All Project is a renewable energy initiative designed to meet energy needs of rural communities whose access is not possible due to their location and limited government resources. In Sebapala, the initiative will focus on the installation of mini-grid solar panels to supply electricity to about 800 homes. Detailing their excitement and hope for their community, Chief Malephane stated “My community and I are very grateful. We promise to take care of the mini-grids which are going to be installed!” Electrification in this community will bring with it safety for women and girls as most of them will be able to travel when it is dark outside with little fear. Ms. Wabunoha added that school children will now have the opportunity to study until late at night because they will have electricity in their homes as opposed to having to use candlelight. All the stakeholders indicated their satisfaction with progress made thus far. Head of Operations from OnePower, the biggest funder for this project, David Song, indicated his joy that the Project is officially commencing and that Basotho communities can now finally benefit from sustainable energy sources.
These initiatives to preserve our environment while also developing our communities are important in building the Lesotho we want, where people are lifted out of extreme poverty and presented with many opportunities to advance in life. Certainly, UNDP Lesotho continues to pursue the global initiative of #ForPeopleForPlant where we advance the lives of Basotho while also preserving the beautiful Mountain Kingdom in the Sky and its resources.