Liapeng Raliengoane

LESOTHO, Leribe – With the impacts of climate change affecting communities throughout the country, Ha Khabo villagers in Leribe, had their land and water sources degraded due to these impacts, among others.  

Through the support of the ReNOKA Movement, these local communities were mobilized to restore their watershed and degraded land. 

The annual report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released last Friday (21 April 2023) states that from mountain peaks to ocean depths, climate change continued its advance in 2022. That droughts, floods and heatwaves affected communities on every continent and cost many billions of dollars.

Drifts and Gabions at the site

As showcased, the measures implemented in the Khabo Integrated Catchment Management programme area include the stone lines and it was explained that they are beneficial in preventing soil erosion and increasing the amount of water absorbed into the ground thus allowing crops to grow. 

The Catchment Manager Phomolo Khonthu described that the drifts and gabions were built to reduce the speed of water run-off and to trap silt. That the erosion blankets on the fields were placed in January this year and the expectation was that they would start yielding results from the 4th to the 6th month but here they are yielding results even before then, because of among others, the heavy rains the country experienced earlier this year.

One of the community members ‘Makhathatso Machesetsa expressed delight and gratitude to ReNOKA for reviving their land which according to her had degraded to the extend that there was a donga that had formed between Ha Lehloba and ‘Makong villages, but ReNOKA helped fill up and cover that donga, it is no more there.

“When ReNOKA put the erosion control blankets over some fields, we thought they had lost their minds, but then they sat us down and taught us that those blankets protect the soil from erosion either by rain, wind or water flow and that they help retain moisture and allow vegetation to establish and stabilize the soil. Indeed, we can see that the fields are resuscitated,” Machesetsa said.

“ReNOKA also brought to our community, employment opportunities as we worked there together with our children. There was also a dilapidated road to Ha Majara, as they were fixing dongas, they also fixed that road and they said it was to control the water flow. They also improved our rangelands and wetland; we learned how to rehabilitate and protect our environment and water sources. ReNOKA also capacitated us in forming community-based associations in which among others, we rear chickens for the sustainable well-being of our families,” she added.

An exclusive interview with a Land Restoration Expert Bereng Mokete explained a method of conservation called Blanket Conservation which is one of the measures ReNOKA implemented at Ha Khabo. He said this method is preferred for its economic, user-friendliness, and ecological support.

Erosion control blankets placed on the fields at Khabo Catchment area

“Blanket Conservation is rooted on the principles of protection, enhancement, and mimicking natural processes. It consists of benefits such as protection: the bare or degraded land is covered with any material like grasses, nets or plastics to exclude any kind of disturbance on it. This way the soil biology is ignited to do its processes and sooner or later re-vegetation occurs naturally,” Mokete highlighted.

 “Another quality is enhancement: bare soil has in it, the dormant seeds of different grasses and plants. Covering such areas with any kind of material, stimulates germination and creates a unique micro-environment conducive for rigorous growth. Last but not least, mimicking natural processes: under natural regime, organic matter provides both surface blanket or top-soil life support. So, covering the soil with any suitable material does the same job,” he added.

This Land Restoration Expert is of a view that environmental conservation is possible and doable. That it is just the matter of which approach any nation wishes to follow based on its financial, material, skills, and vision muscle.

The German Ambassador to Lesotho H.E Andreas Peschke stated that water in Lesotho is under stress and expressed the importance of protecting it by being resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Head of State, His Majesty King Letsie III congratulated ReNOKA and the communities of Ha Khabo for the impactful work. He expressed that when the ReNOKA programme was launched two years ago, he asked for an opportunity to come observe their work. “I have heard and I have seen.”

Front row from right, Head of State His Majesty King Letsie III, Prime Minister Rt Hon Ntsokoane Matekane and minister of Natural Resources Hon Mohlomi Moleko being shown measures implemented at the catchment area

His Majesty also urged the community members to take care of the environment, and also stressed the importance of wetlands. He commended the environmental rehabilitation, preservation and conservation measures implemented at the Khabo Catchment area and wished the same could be done around the country so that among others, Basotho can become sustainable and beat poverty and hunger.  

ReNOKA is an initiative of the Government of Lesotho jointly funded by the government of Lesotho, European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is implemented by the Integrated Catchment Management Unit, supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fϋr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

ReNOKA envisions an integrated planning for the management of land, water and natural resources in the catchment areas of Lesotho to improve economic development and livelihoods.

In November 2022, ReNOKA held a side session at the Conference of Parties (COP27) to unpack issues around water security. It was in this session that the Lesotho National Integrated Catchment Management Coordinator Makomoreng Fanana stressed that Lesotho’s catchments are vital natural resources for the country and the entire Orange River basin.

Adding that the restoration of degraded watersheds through emergency rehabilitation measures and implementation of catchment management plans are vital as these plans address the human causes of degradation such as unsustainable land use patterns, advance climate resilience and provide livelihood opportunities for local communities.

This year COP28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December 2023 and it is expected to convene over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, industry leaders, academics, and representatives from civil society organizations.