‘We need a sense of own­er­ship’

Lesotho Times - - News -

Cabi­net ap­proved the Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy bill a fort­night ago which hadd been gath­er­ing dust since 2006. the ap­proval­proval paved the way for home­grown in­no­va­tions ations in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy to be funded­ded by govern­ment once the bill be­comes law.

in this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, thehe Di­rec­tor of Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy inn the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Sci­ence e and tech­nol­ogy, Lefa Thamae, speaks too Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter Pas­cali­nah Kabi, about the im­por­tance of the bill in ad­dress­dress­ing Le­sotho’s chal­lenges.

LT: Could you briefly tell us what at you de­part­ment is all about?

Thamae: the de­part­ment is re­spon­si­ble­ble for co­or­di­nat­ing sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy in­no­van­no­va­tions coun­try­wide. this is a big re­spon­si­bilin­si­bil­ity be­cause sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy cut across many sec­tors, among them en­ergy, health, agri­cul­ture and so­cial wel­fare.

it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that sci­ence cience and tech­nol­ogy are not con­fined to onee min­istry or a cer­tain de­part­ment so we e have the fur­ther re­spon­si­bil­ity of en­sur­ing th­ese afore­men­tioned min­istries and sec­tors ors do not work in iso­la­tion. We will also givee tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial sup­port to th­ese sec­tors.ctors.

LT: When was the de­part­ment t es­tab­lished and what are its no­table able achieve­ments to date?

Thamae: it was es­tab­lished in 1994 but ut there have been more chal­lenges thann achieve­ments due to lack of ad­e­qua­tee per­son­nel and a clear strat­egy to guidee its oper­a­tions. i was not there at thee time but I am told there were only fivee staff mem­bers — the di­rec­tor, driver,r of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tor and two oth­ers. It op­er­ated like that for a long time with­out re­ally im­ple­ment­ing its man­date. it has been strug­gling a lot.

it even took 10 years be­fore con­sul­ta­tions were held to draft a pol­icy to guide the em­ploy­ees on how to im­ple­ment the man­date.

Dur­ing that process, coun­try­wide con- sul­ta­tions were held to in­cor­po­rate peo­ple’s as­pi­ra­tions. ex­perts were also hired to come up with the best draft pol­icy and some in­ter­na­tional bod­ies funded this process.

the United na­tions Com­mis­sion for Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy pro­vided tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance dur­ing the con­sulta- tions.

Le­sotho’s was one of the best poli­cies to come out of africa but we are still be­hind other coun­tries in im­ple­men­ta­tion. Coun­tries like Uganda have made huge progress and we are only ap­prov­ing the pol­icy now-10 years af­ter the first draft.

i don’t know why this did not hap­pen ear­lier. Maybe this was be­cause the au­thor­i­ties were not in­ter­ested in it. i do know how­ever, that po­lit­i­cally there have al­ways been ups and downs which led to the pol­icy be­ing re­viewed ev­ery time a new govern­ment came to power.

the de­part­ment tried to get the pol­icy ap­proved but each time a new govern­ment or min­is­ter as­sumed of­fice, every­thing was re­versed. For ex­am­ple, dur­ing the last govern­ment’s ten­ure, the min­is­ter di­rected that the num­ber of com­mis­sion­ers be re­duced from 15 to 11 be­fore it could be ap­proved. that alone, forced us to restart the whole process. turned to trea­sury. this was due to lack of a Scien Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy act to pro­vide the le­gal b ba­sis for us­ing the funds.

the bill en­cour­ages peo­ple to have a dif­fer­ent mind­set and come up with fresh ideas which will be funded by the Le­sotho in­no­va­tions t trust Fund.

this bill is long over­due and once passed, it will open so many doors for our country and its peo­ple. ba­sotho ex­perts who left the countr country will come back. they have been com­plainin plain­ing that the ab­sence of an act made it im­poss im­pos­si­ble for them to in­vest in the sec­tor.

HLT: How will the pol­icy ad­dress the ne­glect of lo­cal in­no­va­tions?

Thamae:Tham this pol­icy en­tails so many things and ou our man­date is clear. Onc Once the bill is passed into law, it will promo pro­mote ef­forts to de­velop lo­cal tech­no­log­i­cal sol so­lu­tions to re­spond to our unique needs. For in­stance, right now we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chal­lengesch in agri­cul­ture. and even if we ha had a good har­vest, thou­sands of peo­ple were s still go­ing to go hun­gry from win­ter on­wards due to the fact that we seem to have lost ou our own preser­va­tion tech­nolo­gies. Such techn tech­nol­ogy en­abled us to can our veg­eta­bles and t this helped us through dry sea­sons. O Our fore­fa­thers used to have can­ning me meth­ods which we are now ne­glect­ing an and as a re­sult, peo­ple are suf­fer­ing, b buy­ing a head of cab­bage for M20 a and that is too much money for most house­holds. this can be avoided by re­sus­ci­tat­ing our tech­nolo­gies and de­vel­op­ing new ones suitable for our lo­cal con­di­tions. the pol­icy also pro­vides for the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­ter-min­is­te­rial body com­pris­ing min­istries of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy; agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity; trade and in­dus­try and Fi­nance and en­ergy. the Min­istry of Small busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, Co­op­er­a­tives and Mar­ket­ing must be in­cluded in this body as well. We will need to cater for this new min­istry be­cause in­no­va­tive ideas will now be fi­nan­cially sup­ported. With Smes (Small and Medium-sized en­ter­prises), there have to be orig­i­nal busi­ness and in­no­va­tive ideas which will be funded by the Le­sotho in­no­va­tion trust Fund.

LT: Has the de­part­ment un­der­taken re­search in lo­cal in­no­va­tions for im­ple­men­ta­tion once the Bill is en­acted?

Thamae: We haven’t done any as yet. How­ever, we need to first change the mind­set of our peo­ple be­fore we can even think of kick-start­ing re­search projects for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of our own tech­nolo­gies.

i think ba­sotho have adopted a bad mind­set. i don’t know whether this is due to pol­i­tics and aid but ba­sotho now take pride in re­ceiv­ing do­na­tions in­stead of work­ing hard for what they want in life.

i don’t have any prob­lems with do­na­tions but our peo­ple de­pend on them so much. We are now de­pen­dent on other peo­ple for mi­nor things like veg­eta­bles. We need to have a sense of own­er­ship and pro­duce our own veg­eta­bles by start­ing small as in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies but we have lost that sense of own­er­ship and en­tirely de­pend on do­na­tions.

We do not need to go to school to can our own veg­eta­bles. We just need to in­ten­sify our ef­forts in en­sur­ing ba­sotho change their mind­set and start tak­ing own­er­ship of their own fu­ture.

in 1965, we used to ex­port wheat to South africa but we are now de­pen­dent on do­na­tions.

LT: What are you do­ing to en­sure peo­ple will be well-in­formed to tap into this trust fund once the Bill is passed into law?

Thamae: We are plan­ning work­shops with dif­fer­ent min­istries to en­sure they will be ready when the bill be­comes law. this has also been ne­ces­si­tated by the fact that most of the peo­ple who were in­volved in draft­ing the pol­icy in 2006 are no longer around.

We have also found ac­com­mo­da­tion for Maths Vi­sion- a group of young ba­sotho who vol­un­tar­ily train learn­ers in math­e­mat­ics.

They were rent­ing an of­fice in Qoal­ing and it was dif­fi­cult for them. We have since taken off some of that load and they no longer pay rent.

they have ac­cess to free wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and the in­ter­net. they are now fo­cused on train­ing many young ba­sotho on sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy is­sues at very low rates.

Di­rec­tor of Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy Lefa thamae.

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