Food se­cu­rity un­der threat

. . . as 4 500 tonnes of fer­tile soil is lost to ero­sion ev­ery hour

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

LE­SOTHO is los­ing 300 lorry loads of fer­tile soil ev­ery hour that are be­ing car­ried away in rivers flow­ing into South Africa, with the coun­try’s food se­cu­rity and liveli­hoods of farm­ers in jeop­ardy.

This was re­vealed in a joint state­ment re­leased this week by the Euro­pean Union, Wa­ter Com­mis­sion and the De­part­ment of Wa­ter Af­fairs which also states that the ma­jor rea­son for the land degra­da­tion was over-ex­ploita­tion of of­ten frag­ile hills, wet­lands and grass­lands.

“For many years, Le­sotho has been hav­ing prob­lems with land degra­da­tion and ero­sion. Although ero­sion is a nor­mal oc­cur­rence in moun­tain­ous ar­eas, the ex­tent of it in Le­sotho has be­come dra­matic,” EU Del­e­ga­tion Press and In­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer Li­atile Put­soa said.

“It is es­ti­mated that ev­ery hour, Le­sotho is los­ing around 4 500 tonnes of fer­tile top soil (or up to 300 lorry loads) that are car­ried away in rivers flow­ing into South Africa.”

She said don­gas (ravines with steep sides) at nu­mer­ous hill­sides were con­tin­u­ing to widen dur­ing each rainy sea­son and farm­land con­tin­ued to dis­ap­pear as the fer­tile soil was eroded.

Among the causes of the degra­da­tion was over­graz­ing by live­stock, in­dis­crim­i­nate gath­er­ing of woody biomass for fuel, and un­sus­tain­able land-use prac­tices.

“This has re­sulted in re­duced agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion in the catch­ment ar­eas, with less maize per hectare and less crop pro­duc­tion over­all,” said Ms Put­soa, adding that cli­mate change was likely to ac­cel­er­ate these neg­a­tive trends.

“The dams, which are meant to store wa­ter, are silt­ing up, and the changes in wa­ter flow pat­terns are di­min­ish­ing the hy­dropower po­ten­tial in the coun­try.”

She said the liveli­hoods of Ba­sotho liv­ing off the land and the na­tion’s food se­cu­rity were in jeop­ardy de­spite the many con­certed ef­forts to ar­rest the neg­a­tive trend.

Ms Put­soa said the EU had en­gaged three ex­perts who had been in the coun­try since Oc­to­ber 2015 to as­sist in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Le­sotho’s In­te­grated Catch­ment Man­age­ment (ICM) strat­egy. The trio, from the Nether­lands and United King­dom, were ex­pected to fin­ish its tour next month.

“As part of a Euro­pean Union project in sup­port of ICM in Le­sotho, a team of three ex­perts has been in the coun­try since Oc­to­ber 2015,” she said.

The project, said Ms Put­soa, was aimed at help­ing the gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment its Long-term Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Strat­egy which was pro­mul­gated in 2014 and puts great em­pha­sis on ICM.

She said the three ex­perts had been work­ing in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the De­part­ment of Wa­ter Af­fairs as the im­ple­ment­ing agency, the Min­istry of Forestry, Range and Soil Con­ser­va­tion as well as other line min­istries.

“To help Le­sotho ad­dress these chal­lenges, the ICM team of ex­perts has con­ducted sev­eral field vis­its, held con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings and dis­cussed in de­tail with na­tional task teams on pos­si­ble so­lu­tions, with an em­pha­sis on en­sur­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity of ICM ef­forts,” Ms Put­soa said.

“At the end of Fe­bru­ary, and at the in­vi­ta­tion of the Ger­man In­ter­na­tional Co­opera- tion, a group com­prised of eight of­fi­cials from Le­sotho, rep­re­sent­ing the Min­istries of Wa­ter, Forestry, Range and Soil Con­ser­va­tion, Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity, Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and Chief­tain­ship Af­fairs, and the EU ex­perts, went to Ethiopia for an EU funded week-long tech­ni­cal study tour.”

She added: “The team of par­tic­i­pat­ing of­fi­cials and ex­perts had the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss and share lessons on the sim­i­lar­i­ties and con­trasts in catch­ment man­age­ment in the two coun­tries.”

Ms Put­soa said both Ethiopia and Le­sotho had sim­i­lar ter­rains and land use prac­tices, adding that both coun­tries were fac­ing sim­i­lar land degra­da­tion and ero­sion prob­lems.

“The team learned that, af­ter many fail­ures and mixed re­sults, Ethiopia has found an ap­proach to Sus­tain­able Land Man­age­ment (SLM) or ICM that can re­verse the prob­lems,” she said.

The team, Ms Put­soa noted, vis­ited sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties which had in­tro­duced sus­tain­able land-use prac­tices by dras­ti­cally chang­ing graz­ing prac­tices and in­tro­duc­ing im­proved pro­duc­tion meth­ods.

“As a re­sult, land degra­da­tion and ero­sion were greatly re­duced, and many fam­i­lies in­creased their house­hold in­comes,” she said.

“These re­sults fol­lowed on a strong lead­ing role of the Ethiopian gov­ern­ment, which had in­tro­duced clear guide­lines on SLM or ICM.”

Ms Put­soa said the Le­sotho team was ex­pected to make a pre­sen­ta­tion on the lessons learnt dur­ing the tour to­mor­row at the Wa­ter Sec­tor Co­or­di­na­tion Fo­rum in Maseru.

“The three ICM ex­perts will also re­port on what needs to be done in Le­sotho on fu­ture ICM plan­ning and or­gan­i­sa­tion, the de­lin­eation of catch­ments and the devel­op­ment of re­lated le­gal frame­works and ca­pac­i­ties, to en­able sim­i­lar progress to be made here.

“There will also be pre­sen­ta­tions made by other agen­cies that are in­volved in var­i­ous ini­tia­tives that are re­lated to in­te­grated catch­ment man­age­ment in Le­sotho, so as to share the ex­pe­ri­ences, chal­lenges and lessons learned for un­der­tak­ing ICM,” she said.

Among the causes of land degra­da­tion are over­graz­ing, cut­ting of trees and un­sus­tain­able land-use prac­tices.

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