Urban poverty bites in Mohale’s Hoek

Urban poverty bites in Mohale’s Hoek

MOHALE’S HOEK – IF you run away from poverty, it will sooner or later catch up with you and at that time you will be too tired to continue running or fighting back.
This is a lesson Khoto Leseli, a man in his mid-50s, learnt in his over 30 years of trying to flee from poverty.
“Fight back from the onset, don’t run away,” is his advice to those “attacked” by poverty.

But for people to effectively fight poverty, education must be grounded in history, he says.
“There has to be political education as well as gaining necessary everyday skills to survive,” Leseli says.

Leseli left his rural village of Lifajaneng Masaleng 35 years ago to settle in Mohale’s Hoek town in the belief that he was running away from poverty.
Leseli, a farmer with no formal education having failed to complete primary school, says living in town has not improved his standard of living.
When he left his rural home it was because his parents’ fields were no longer producing enough to feed the family due to inconsistent rains.

“The fields are there but I had to quit farming because, in my view, it no longer held any future for me,” Leseli says.
“I came to town to start this business of metal sheet cutting but my life is still where it was when I left home,” he says, leaning against a table used for metal sheet cutting in the Mohale’s Hoek market area.

Leseli says his younger brother is a livestock keeper and “I am afraid that he too will lose the animals because he is always not at home seeking employment in South Africa”.
He says he tried advising his brother to concentrate on improving his sheep and cattle for business “but it is difficult, I think for him, because there is nothing to feed them”.

“These educated people have long warned us about the changing climate and most of us took them for granted,” he says.
Leseli says it is high time that Basotho turn to politics of development and come up with real solutions for themselves and generations to come.
“People are leaving the country because of of poverty thinking there is better life out there. Poverty will find them there and when they come back they will have to fight it at home.”

Leseli says if the country had political minds that think beyond party politics “we could be in a better position to fight against poverty”
He says the nation must not rely on handouts from the international community “because they are meant to capture us alive and recolonise us”.
“As you can see we are so hungry that we have become a colony again. The whites are colonising us through the Chinese,” he says.

Leseli says the whites have heavily invested in the Chinese manufacturing companies and are producing their machines in great numbers so that they “sell to us lazy Africans and we continue to be their colonies”.
He says Basotho, and the rest of Africa, must sit down as one and think of how to use their resources in such a way that the people will be delivered from poverty.

“This is the best way to fight against poverty and the best way to stop being colonised again,” he says.
For example, he says, Lesotho can use its underground water for irrigation “instead of spending their time on toppling each other in parliament and attending unnecessary international trips”.
He also says without coordinated efforts to open markets in towns for rural food producers “Basotho will continue experiencing poverty from the rural areas to the urban areas”.

“They will run away from poverty in their rural homes and when they try to settle in the towns it will catch up with them. It is happening, has always been happening and it will continue to happen until we decide to join hands and fight it together.”

Leseli says in Mohale’s Hoek town, poverty is rampant because the locals cannot produce goods that match the quality of those found in Chinese shops.
“Who in their right state of mind will come to you to buy things of poor quality when they can get it from the Chinese shops at an affordable price?”

He says if we cannot find means to fight poverty in the rural areas, using affordable natural resources, we cannot beat it in towns using sophisticated materials imported from rich countries.
“I am not educated and there is no way I can produce quality products to compete with the Chinese. We have to educate our children so that they compete with the Chinese.”

Leseli, a single man without children, says he is looking after his aged mother back at home “and it is embarrassing that I cannot always provide for her”.
He says he tried planting fruit trees back at home but the changing climate has forced him to abandon the project to focus on metal sheet cutting “because it is a business not dependent on rain”.

Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Mafeteng districts are known for being hard hit every time when there are El Nino-induced droughts like this year.
The October 2019 Lesotho drought situation update, issued by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, shows that April to September 2019 was characterised by below normal rains for some parts of the country- impacting negatively on winter harvest and rangelands.

The report says the rangelands deteriorated earlier (August) than normal – negatively affecting livestock conditions.
It also says in the period (May – September 2019), approximately 350 000 rural people were in emergency food security situation.
Four districts of Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek have been classified as being in emergency food security situation.

The situation is expected to deteriorate further and around 430 410 rural people are expected to be severely food insecure with all the districts classified in emergency food insecurity from October 2019 to March 2020.
According to the Lesotho Meteorological Services, the rains for season 2019/20 are likely to delay.

In the period October to December 2019, the country is expected to receive normal rains with the possibility of below normal rains.
In the period November 2019 to March 2020, normal rainfall conditions are expected with the possibility of above normal rains, however, the episodes of dry conditions are expected in-between the good rains.

The department further indicated that the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently on its neutral phase with most models predicting a slight possibility of a weak El Nino during the period December 2019 to February 2020.

The neutral ENSO can have a mixture of both El Nino (Dry conditions) and La Nina (enhanced rainfall).
In 2017, the Ministry of Energy issued the national climate change policy which seeks to provide strategic directions and coordination on issues of climate change, cognizant of its linkages with sustainable development.

It identifies major vulnerable areas and risks presented by climate change.
It then describes 22 policy directions or statements, of pivotal importance and focus, on which various sector adaptation and mitigation interventions will be anchored to address fundamentally critical issues.
The policy statements are based on key thematic areas identified by the consultative process.

The vision of the National Climate Change Policy is to build climate change resilience and low-carbon pathways including a prosperous sustainable economy and environment in Lesotho.
One of the policy objectives is to promote climate-resilient, social, economic and environmental development that is compatible with, and mainstreamed into, national development planning and national budget-setting processes.

Caswell Tlali


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