Lesotho is a land-locked country surrounded by South Africa. Featured by a unique ecosystem of high mountains, Lesotho shares challenges with other African countries: endemic poverty, inequality, HIV-AIDS, food insecurity, stunting, and increasing environmental degradation exacerbated by erratic and variable climate.
This complex vulnerability leads its population into recurrent food security crisis.
But, can these structural conditions be addressed with fragmented, limited humanitarian funds? How can we reconcile today’s urgency with the reduction of tomorrow’s vulnerability building Basotho’s resilience?
Lesotho Emergency and Resilience Programme (ERP) acknowledges the tension between the objectives of emergency support, which is reactive, and building resilience, which is proactive and forward-looking, moving beyond an emergency relief focus towards delivering long term benefits.
This is the story about how we initiated a journey where everyone’s steps count, big or small.
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) - Lesotho - LesothoLead applicant
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Our three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) - Lesotho - LesothoInitiative partner
Promotion of agricultural and food production Employment promotion to ensure sufficient and stable access to food Promotion of infrastructure and services to support livelihoods Promotion of public transfers and social safety nets Promotion of improved utilisation of food at household level Development of improved food security and vulnerability information systems
Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation - Lesotho - LesothoInitiative partner
The Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation iscommitted to protecting and rehabilitating the physical environment through forestry, management of rangeland resources and control of soil erosion and harvesting of water in order to enhance means of livelihoods of local communities
Home Gardening and Nutrition Working Group - LesothoInitiative partner
Coordinate the design of harmonized visual training materials on Home Gardening and Nutrition
HPG Advertising - South AfricaInitiative partner
HPG Advertising is a creative agency located in Irene, Pretoria. Its work is consistently recognised by major national and international awards schemes for both creativity and effectiveness.
Lesotho National Conservation Agriculture Task Force - LesothoInitiative partner
Promote the adoption of Conservation Agriculture in Lesotho
Lesotho Emergency and Resilience Programme (ERP): increasing Basotho’s food security and natural resource base through integrated sustainable agriculture practices.
ERP manages the tension between relief and long term benefits through an innovative programme design. ERP sequences short term funding along a 3 years-cycle.
ERP is structured around 3 pillars, ensuring that every dollar, every effort, brings us closer to our long term vision:
1.Sustainable production: Promotion of sustainable and integrated agriculture practices-Conservation Agriculture (CA), Home Gardening (HG), Nutrition (N), Natural Resources management (NRM)
2.Capacity development: Upscale sustainable practices nationally strengthening local structures and producing harmonized, visual and appealing training materials
3.Policy & analysis: M&E, coordination, advocacy
An African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” We believe so. In complex contexts impact cannot be achieved in isolation. ERP is inclusive, implemented jointly by FAO and Gov. of Lesotho in coordination with state structures, UN, NGOs and socially-committed private sector
Lesotho’s food security has gradually declined in the last decades.
Changing weather patterns with delayed onset of rains and long dry spells have a major adverse impact on food security.
Climate change is compounded by environmental and social challenges: severe land degradation caused by overgrazing, deforestation and other poor land use practices, limited access to quality inputs and limited use of productivity enhancing technologies. Besides, HIV/AIDS pandemic, which affects 23% of Lesotho’s population, has generated 220,000 orphans. Stunting affects 40% of all children under 5. Poverty is widespread with 56% of households living below the national poverty line, of which about 40% are extremely poor. The vast majority of these poor households resides in rural areas and depends to a large extent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
The highest number of households in need of humanitarian aid was recorded in 2012 with one out of three Basotho affected. We had to act, we started ERP.
ERP has exceeded its initial targets. Since 2012, ERP has benefited 18,500 households (HH), or 92,500 individuals, across Lesotho: 11,000 HH were enrolled in 2012 and 7,500 in 2013.
Among HH enrolled in 2012, maize production increased by 60%, beans by 37% and vegetable consumption by 122%
Over 530 extension staff members -from the entire MAFS network of 68 Agricultural Resource Centres (ARC)-, 600 lead farmers and 280 teachers have been trained on sustainable farming practices. 30 CA planters have been distributed for demonstration.
Training materials on CA & HG/N have been harmonized and distributed among all beneficiaries and food security actors ensuring communities receive consistent messages.
In 2015, we plan to design NRM training tools, train additional actors on sustainable farming, continue promoting mechanical CA and land cover as well as assessing the national Land Cover Change. The HG/N package (seeds and training) will be piloted among GoL Social Protection beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries were selected based on vulnerability criteria among the head of HH (i.e. women, elder, orphan, chronically ill–often HIV AIDS affected) and vulnerability criteria among members of HH (i.e. same categories as above plus children U5 and pregnant or lactating mothers).
Vulnerable active farmers are selected in groups of 15 HH per village. Each group chooses a lead farmer from the community in coordination with extension staff. Lead farmers act as mentors and play a significant modelling role among farmers.
ERP distributes agricultural inputs in Years 1 & 2 allowing the progressive adoption of sustainable farming practices while technical support is provided over three years.
Priority has been given to develop the capacity of extension staff, farmers and teachers. ERP is expanding the target groups since NRM affects the society as a whole. Chiefs, local leaders and parliamentarians are critical to promote behavior change. Training will be complemented with radio and TV spots.
ERP is a partnership among FAO, MAFS and MFLR, implemented in consultation and coordination with CATF and HGNWG. These coordination groups are integrated by Government (GoL), Academia, NGOs and UN and receive FAO secretariat assistance.
All field activities are implemented through MAFS/MFLR extension services present in all districts. FAO staff provides financial management, technical guidance and monitoring. Working with GoL field structures responds to the strategic aim to make a reality the implementation of sustainable agriculture policies at field level. Increasing GoL capacity contributes towards an enabling environment for the adequate NRM and sustainable food security. It also allows HR efficiency and decreases future donor dependence. Constant coordination is maintained with MAFS/MFLR management and technical departments.
ERP has been funded so far by 7 different donors: ECHO, DFID, USAID, COMESA, SDC, Belgium and CERF. FAO Lesotho is a small team integrated by 16 people.
Behavior changes cannot be achieved in a short period of time. Improving communities’ relationship with their environment, restrictive cultural practices and negative economic dynamics is a path with no shortcuts.
Change requires not only a sustained effort, but a concerted one. This kind of change is not within the reach of one individual or one organization. Complexity calls for collaboration, synergy, principled action and attention to detail.
This is the spirit governing ERP design and implementation. Both ERP “rolling programme approach” -opposed to a “project time-bound frame”- and ERP partnership have offered us the possibility to think big, while remaining small, efficient and down to earth.
Achieving change requires monitoring and adaptive measures. Long-term programmes must evolve based on evidence and avoid complaisance. ERP established a comprehensive M&E cycle complemented with external evaluations that feed the planning and implementation.
ERP promotes a number of farming practices optimizing, preserving and improving the natural resources base. Environmentally, Conservation Agriculture (CA) contributes to reduce water and wind erosion on the soil, improves soil quality and water infiltration. CA sequesters carbon from the atmosphere into long–lived soil organic matter pools, while promoting a healthier environment and enhancing economically sustainable production conditions for farmers.
Home Gardening techniques such as Keyhole or Trench Gardens improve soil fertility and moisture retention offering families adapting technologies in times water scarcity.
ERP integrated design allows beneficiaries to establish linkages and interrelations among different natural resources and our behavior. ERP wishes to improve the monitoring of slow changes. For this reason a Land Cover Change assessment will be conducted in 2015, establishing the level of soil degradation in the last years and inform decision making.
From inception, ERP is designed to contribute to the sustained upscale of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) nationwide.
ERP avoids the “pilot syndrome” -which entails a concentration of resources and capacities difficult to replicate beyond the project. ERP progressively mainstreams sustainable farming techniques in GoL routine action at the field empowering extension staff, farmers and local leaders, bridging a common divide between policies on paper and reality.
ERP covers the entire country embarking with all extension staff, beneficiaries and communities in a movement for change. The newly acquired skills, training materials and farmers modelling are complemented with attractive communication tools and the sensitization of a wide diversity of actors. Having set these conditions, ERP expects spillover effects. However, the upscale of CSA in countries like Lesotho remains challenging due to socio economic and cultural conditions. Perseverance, analysis and adaptability are essential.
ERP long term vision and emphasis on behavior change is underpinned by a communication strategy encompassing integrated levels of information for a wide diversity of stakeholders.
ERP progressively designs and produces interrelated communication products, made available to all. ERP aims to the development of an integrated set of visual training materials (CA, HG/N and NRM). CA was completed in 2012-13 and HG/N in 2013-14. NRM is planned for 2015.
Leaflets summarizing these materials have been printed in Sesotho and English for public distribution. Based on the CA materials, TV and radio spots are being finalized in 2014.
Additionally, ERP produces articles, human interest stories and visibility items. T-shirts with the CA crest (20,000 units made in Lesotho) have been produced for distribution among project beneficiaries, extension staff and teachers encouraging a sense of belonging and pride in this movement for change: ‘Moho, re ka hlola tlala! (Together we can defeat hunger!)