Restoring land, water sources

Restoring land, water sources
Restoring land, water sources

Africa-Press – Lesotho. Lesotho’s river catchments are facing severe land degradation, which is posing an existential threat to water security for Lesotho and the Orange-Senqu basin. The livelihoods of the country’s rural population in the catchments of Lesotho are also at risk.

Every hour, Lesotho loses the equivalent of 300 lorry loads of topsoil due to erosion caused by the over planting of crops and the over-grazing of animals, according to a local non-governmental organisation, ReNOKA. Climate change, characterised by extreme weather patterns have aggravated the situation.

Loss of constant water supply, due to catchment degradation, could push back Lesotho’s economy and affect communities and businesses on the 1 million square kilometres of the Orange-Senqu river basin that covers South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia.

To combat these challenges, Lesotho has embarked on a national movement for integrated catchment under the name ReNOKA (We are a river). ReNOKA, which was established in 2021, represents a network of individuals, communities and professionals dedicated to the restoration of water, land and the long-term prosperity of all communities in Lesotho.

The Hlotse sub-catchment, located in the Leribe district towards the northern part of Lesotho, is one of the six priority sub-catchment areas that are a part of the ReNOKA project.

It covers 35,821 hectares in an area and is mostly rural. The Hlotse sub-catchment comprises 5,453 households from 109 villages with a population of about round 23 208 people.

ReNOKA recently organised a media tour to Ha-Khabo in Leribe for journalists to observe the work that has been done to restore land and water and the support that has been given to the local community through rehabilitation measures.

“We never fully understood this ReNOKA project. But when we learnt that it was about taking care of the environment, we then appreciated what they have been doing for us.

The land must be preserved,” said Jeremea Khabo, a local chief. At first, the local community in Ha-Khabo Leribe had issues with the development of their land without receiving any form of “compensation”.

The people of Ha-Khabo deeply believed that the land was theirs and should not be tampered with. However, members of the Community Watershed Team (CWT) raised awareness to help the community appreciate the benefits of such a development project.

“We are giving them education, that when this area is well developed, the people in the community will reap the benefits,” said Sipho Khanyapa, the CWT chairperson.

“We are hoping that in the future, in this very area, we are going to have a dam.

This will be an opportunity for travellers (tourists) to come and do all sorts of activities such as fishing. In Mokhotlong, they have Afri-ski. It is there for the people of Mokhotlong.

They are benefiting from that. So even here when we have a dam in the future, we will benefit,” said Khanyapa. River catchments in Lesotho are directly responsible for 22 percent of the country’s income and 30 percent of the country’s employment, according to a report done by ReNOKA. Even outside Lesotho, millions rely on this water resource for their agriculture, industry and drinking.

In the future, ReNOKA aims to restore the degraded watersheds in Lesotho through emergency rehabilitation measures, policy and institutional governance, financing arrangements, skills and knowledge for practitioners, social and behaviour change awareness, data and research, climate resilience and transboundary cooperation.

ReNOKA’s integrated planning for catchment management involves collecting information about the geography and geology of a certain area. This plan is what allows ReNOKA to take well informed decisions and coordinate action to preserve the Orange-Senqu basin.

The ReNOKA movement has called on the government, private sector and civil society of Lesotho and Southern Africa to partner with the movement and to contribute financially or through other means such as technical know-how to plan and implement catchment rehabilitation measures to the benefit of Lesotho, the Orange-Senqu basin and the entire Southern African Region.

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