El Niño test­ing our faith

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

Tem­per­a­tures in maseru, other towns and through­out Le­sotho reach­ing as high as above 40oc with­out any sig­nif­i­cant drops at night­time. No end in sight to the sti­fling heat, drought, star­va­tion and not the slight­est hint of droplets of rain. All our ma­jor rivers are dry to the core.

Our mother earth is as dry as a bone that has been ly­ing in the un­re­lent­ing swel­ter­ing heat of the sun for decades. short­age of wa­ter run­ning dan­ger­ously low for an­i­mals, plants and hu­mans. The fre­quent thun­der­storm pat­terns be­com­ing the or­der of the day. prices of ba­sic food­stuffs and grain are rock­et­ing daily at an alarm­ing rate.

No­body dares wait, let alone walk in the bak­ing day­time heat with­out an um­brella, sun­screen, hat or some item to pro­vide shade for one­self. Vast tracts of land through­out the coun­try are ly­ing fal­low and there is no food pro­duc­tion at all. Heat­stroke is a com­mon oc­cur­rence among the peo­ple.

Even some peo­ple are be­gin­ning to sug­gest that God is un­leash­ing His wrath on His peo­ple for their cruel, de­vi­ous, evil, mur­der­ous and un-chris­tian ways that have made the na­tion erected the prover­bial un­breach­able wall be­tween Him and His peo­ple. How­ever I de­cided not to ex­press an opin­ion on this. This is El Niño for you that brings with it a com­bi­na­tion of weather pat­terns that are un­usual and pose in­evitable hard­ships for the peo­ple.

In Psalm 24:1-2, it is said that: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and ev­ery­thing in it, the world, and all who live in it, for he founded it on the seas and es­tab­lished it in the wa­ters.” Fur­ther, in Proverbs 16:3, it is said: “Com­mit to the Lord what­ever you do, and He will es­tab­lish your plans.”

In ad­di­tion, Verse 1 of Hymn 40 says: “The earth is the Lord’s: He founded it and all those who in­habit it: He founded it long time ago upon the oceans and on rivers.”

On the ba­sis of the above it is there­fore in­evitable for some peo­ple to as­cribe th­ese un­bear­able weather pat­terns to our evil and de­vi­ous ways but also to the fact that as some Chris­tians be­lieve God is test­ing our be­lief in Him. This is when God tests the en­durance of our faith in Him. He is there­fore bring­ing us, hu­mans, closer to him to seek his so­lace and in­ter­ces­sion.

The book of Zechariah, un­der the sub­ti­tle: “A call to re­turn to the Lord,” 1:1-6 wherein it is writ­ten: “In the eighth month of the se­cond year of Dar­ius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zecharia son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo: The Lord was very an­gry with your an­ces­tors. There­fore tell the peo­ple: this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Re­turn to me,” de­clares the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your an­ces­tors, to whom the ear­lier prophets pro­claimed: this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Turn from your evil ways and evil prac­tices. “But they would not lis­ten; pay at­ten­tion to me, de­clares the Lord. Where are your an­ces­tors now? And the prophets, do they live for­ever? But did not heed my words and my de­crees, which I com­manded my ser­vants the prophets, over­take your an­ces­tors? Then they re­pented and said, “The Lord Almighty has done us what our ways and prac­tices de­serve, just as he de­ter­mined to do.”

The sit­u­a­tion has be­come so des­per­ate that even so­cial me­dia, though this is pure hog­wash that no­body will be­lieve, has jumped onto the band­wagon. The anec­dote goes like this: Avid Chris­tians be­lieve that God has as­signed a num­ber of dif­fer­ent tasks to par­tic­u­lar an­gels.

One is for ush­er­ing the dearly-de­parted to the king­dom of God. The other is as­signed to hood­wink those of us who de­parted this, our mor­tal world, on the back of evil, wicked and de­vi­ous record to hell and the eter­nal fire. Yet an­other one is tasked to con­vey funds amassed from the earth to God, Him­self, so that He may en­dow us with good sea­sonal rains.

Leg­end has it that with the third an­gel among the many that per­form dif­fer­ent tasks on be­half of God. Some un­scrupu­lous politi­cians stole all that money with the re­sults that God is so livid with Ba­sotho that He is un­leash­ing his Om­nipo­tent pow­ers and wrath to deny us rain for some months as part of His col­lec­tive ret­ri­bu­tion on all of us.

Lest I be per­ceived to be blas­phe­mous, let met has­ten to re­it­er­ate that this is com­plete hog­wash. What this anec­dote un­der­scores is merely to demon­strate the des­per­ate lev­els that the dire sit­u­a­tion has reached.

How­ever, what we all uni­ver­sally agree on is that the El Niño phe­nom­e­non is tight­en­ing its iron-grip on the sub­con­ti­nent in­clud­ing Le­sotho and the north­ern hemi­sphere with dis­as­trous con­se­quences.

El Niño is an ir­reg­u­larly oc­cur­ring and com­plex se­ries of cli­matic changes af­fect­ing some re­gions of the world be­yond ev­ery few years usu­ally ev­ery five years, char­ac­ter­ized by the ap­pear­ance of un­usu­ally scorch­ing weather pat­terns.

El Niño is caused by global warm­ing in that it in­volves grad­ual change in the over­all tem­per­a­ture of the earth’s at­mos­phere gen­er­ally at­trib­ut­able to green­house ef­fect. This is caused by in­creased lev­els of car­bon diox­ide. sci­en­tists and cli­ma­tol­o­gists uni­ver­sally agree that El Niño is omi­nously caused when strong high pres­sure sys­tem dom­i­nates the up­per lev­els of the at­mos­phere caus­ing stag­nant air mass that pre­vent rain­fall.

It will rear its ugly head again with dis­as­trous con­se­quences, in the next few pos­si­ble five years. This de­spite our pre­pared­ness or oth­er­wise we need only pre­pare and face its de­struc­tive wrath that, like the cur­rent one, is ex­pected to last un­til at least April 2016.

Com­men­ta­tors, sci­en­tists and cli­ma­tol­o­gist are vir­tu­ally agreed that this is the worst drought to have hit Le­sotho, in par­tic­u­lar, in a hun­dred years or in liv­ing mem­ory since records be­gan.

The at­ten­dant drought brought by El Niño is so se­ri­ous as ear­lier al­luded to, vir­tu­ally all ma­jor rivers have run dry. Our only sal­va­tion are the mo­hale and Katse dams whose sluice gates have to be opened pe­ri­od­i­cally to en­able down­stream ar­eas and towns along the ma­jor rivers to ac­cess wa­ter in­clud­ing South Africa’s eco­nomic heart­land of Pre­to­ria-wit­wa­ter­srand-vereeniging (PWV).

As all the ma­jor schools and ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions re-open for their new term, I am ap­pre­hen­sive whether the au­thor­i­ties have done enough to en­sure sus­tain­able wa­ter sup­ply and there­fore whether th­ese in­sti­tu­tions will re­main open for their full term. The jury is still out.

The sit­u­a­tion is so des­per­ate that it calls not only on govern­ment but also all stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing big busi­nesses and NGOS to come on-board to keep away or at least, lessen the dis­as­trous con­se­quences of the re­sul­tant drought. Our coun­try’s peren­nial po­si­tion as a net im­porter of ba­sic food­stuffs and grain has be­come even more pro­nounced as a re­sult of the in­sid­i­ous El Niño phe­nom­e­non. We are poised to im­port more grain and other food­stuffs in the near fu­ture.

Thank­fully, govern­ment af­ter much pro­cras­ti­na­tion has de­clared a state of emer­gency in recog­ni­tion of the des­per­ate and pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion that the coun­try finds it­self in. The state of emer­gency will un­shackle and un­leash all the re­sources that will be piv­otal in al­le­vi­at­ing the dis­as­trous con­se­quences of the drought. It also calls on de­vel­op­ment part­ners and aid agen­cies to come on board to as­sist in al­le­vi­at­ing the prob­lem as Le­sotho on its own can­not ad­e­quately with its lim­ited funds and re­sources, deal with drought. rightly, how­ever, govern­ment has set aside M150 mil­lion for emer­gency re­lief but this is not enough as govern­ment has asked for ex­ter­nal aid.

The dec­la­ra­tion of the state of emer­gency will hope­fully ob­vi­ate the need for strin­gent pro­cure­ment reg­u­la­tions and pro­ce­dures so that es­sen­tial sup­plies can reach vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of the pop­u­lace swiftly thereby do­ing away with the cus­tom­ary bu­reau­cratic red tape.

Govern­ment needs to com­mit more funds and re­sources to al­le­vi­ate the drought and star­va­tion. Al­ready there are re­ports that many com­mu­ni­ties and vil­lages have none of the most ba­sic needs, food and wa­ter. even where they are avail­able they are of un­hy­gienic qual­ity thereby pos­ing a se­ri­ous health haz­ards. To bor­row the over-used cliché, the con­se­quences of the El Niño phe­nom­e­non are too ghastly to con­tem­plate.

I may has­ten to add, thereby out­strip­ping our coun­try’s mea­gre fi­nan­cial and other re­sources. Le­sotho as the prime min­is­ter rightly points-out, can­not with­stand the disas­ter with­out for­eign as­sis­tance. even if govern­ment had long ago taken pre-emp­tive mea­sures to al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem this nev­er­the­less ow­ing to its mag­ni­tude calls for a global in­ter­ven­tion.

Need­less to say, EL Nino is also a phe­nom­e­non that will al­ways oc­cur in those in­fa­mous cy­cles a cou­ple of years down the line. It is a dis­as­trous phe­nom­e­non that due to cir­cum­stances be­yond our mor­tal con­trol, will live with us and even gen­er­a­tions to come for the fore­see­able fu­ture. How­ever, as al­ways, na­ture has a strange way, un­known to us or­di­nary mor­tals, of rem­e­dy­ing what­ever disas­ter. I do not doubt we will sur­vive, de­spite the heavy odds staked against us.

In con­clu­sion and in ad­di­tion to 2nd Chron­i­cles 7:14-16, I urge read­ers to draw in­spi­ra­tion from 2nd Chron­i­cles 7:14-16: “If my peo­ple, who are called by my name, will hum­ble them­selves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will for­give their sin and will heal their land.

Now my eyes will be opened and my ears at­ten­tive to the prayers of­fered in this place. I have cho­sen and con­cen­trated this tem­ple so that my name may be there for­ever. my eyes and my heart will al­ways be there.”

LIKE most of Le­sotho, Ha Mot­lo­h­eloa vil­lage has not been spared of wa­ter short­age due to El Niño.

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