‘Women should push green en­ergy agenda’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

TECH­NOLO­GIES for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment (TED) Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, ‘Man­topi Martin de Por­res Le­bofa (pic­tured), was last month hon­oured for mak­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact in the en­ergy and cli­mate change adap­ta­tion sec­tors at the Women Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Awards. In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times ( LT) reporter Pas­cali­nah Kabi, Ms Le­bofa ex­plains how women can har­ness clean en­ergy and use the oc­ca­sion of the 50th in­de­pen­dence an­niver­sary to step up ef­forts to help the coun­try achieve the 17 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGS) — a new, univer­sal set of goals, tar­gets and in­di­ca­tors that United Na­tions mem­ber states will be ex­pected to use to frame their agen­das and po­lit­i­cal poli­cies over the next 15 years.

LT: When did your in­ter­est in de­vel­op­men­tal is­sues, par­tic­u­larly en­ergy, de­velop?

Le­bofa: The in­ter­est was nur­tured from child­hood and in­creased as I grew up. Hav­ing grown up in a ru­ral area, I em­pathise with ru­ral peo­ple’s hard­ships. Ev­ery time we visit our ru­ral vil­lages, the en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic con­di­tions would have de­te­ri­o­rated from the last time. At least that has been the sit­u­a­tion where I come from.

There­fore one can­not think of any­thing other than de­vel­op­ment to bet­ter the sit­u­a­tion. That is the rea­son we wake up ev­ery day.

As a Catholic, I have tried to em­u­late my pa­tron Saint Martin de Por­res also known as Martin of Char­ity. I am also in­spired by the trust and love of God which gives mankind the re­spon­si­bil­ity to care for His cre­ation (Gen­e­sis 1:26-28). Ac­cord­ing to the Catholic Cat­e­chism, the Sev­enth Com­mand­ment of God has a com­po­nent in it, that of “Re­spect for in­tegrity of cre­ation”.

There­fore, my in­ter­est in de­vel­op­ment stems from my iden­tity as a Catholic Christian, to keep in mind that we were cre­ated to know God, to love Him and work for Him. What do we live for: to take care of God’s cre­ation and as such, to pro­mote sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

LT: What does it mean to you and women in gen­eral to be cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence?

Le­bofa: I am also cel­e­brat­ing my 50th birth­day and so Le­sotho’s 50 years of in­de­pen­dence means a lot more to me. I should there­fore be able to point out at least one thing that I have achieved dur­ing that time.

As women, we should be able to utilise our in­her­ent in­no­va­tive skills for the many roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as­signed to us by gen­der roles. We should use all, even lit­tle op­por­tu­ni­ties and av­enues avail­able as step­ping stones to big­ger achieve­ments. We just need to re­alise the power we have and the con­tri­bu­tion we alone can make in the de­vel­op­ment of Le­sotho col­lec­tively.

LT: What are some of the key chal­lenges fac­ing women in the en­ergy sec­tor?

Le­bofa: Si­lence, ig­no­rance and the fail­ure by the ma­jor­ity of women to de­mand the pro­vi­sion of ser­vices that are en­shrined in our poli­cies and doc­u­ments that guide our coun­try re­main among the big­gest chal­lenges that must be rooted out.

For in­stance; the first En­ergy Pol­icy Goal states en­ergy will con­trib­ute to im­prove­ment of liveli­hoods and fur­ther states the en­ergy sec­tor would con­trib­ute to­wards poverty al­le­vi­a­tion.

Do women ever de­mand the im­ple­men­ta­tion of that goal? Can you imag­ine a sit­u­a­tion where Ba­sotho women would utilise so­lar en­ergy to run sewing ma­chines in their ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to sew school uni­forms and se­shoeshoe dresses?

No. Women will just com­plain about the lack of mar­kets for such prod­ucts but the re­al­ity is we live in en­ergy poverty. To my un­der­stand­ing, the terms of ref­er­ence of min­is­ters are the poli­cies of their min­istries with which their per­for­mance should be mea­sured. As the pub­lic, we have the right to de­mand the im­ple­men­ta­tion of those poli­cies.

An­other chal­lenge fac­ing women is lack of in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship to use avail­able re­sources and to re­alise op­por­tu­ni­ties of car­ry­ing out ini­tia­tives for growth.

We seem to be only in­ter­ested in con­sum­ing with­out pro­duc­tiv­ity. For in­stance, on a daily ba­sis, Ba­sotho women pre­pare their fam­ily meals cook­ing with wood but you never see the same women plant­ing back trees to re­place the ones they would have chopped for fire­wood.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges that need to be ad­dressed is the men­tal­ity that we can only over­come chal­lenges and achieve de­vel­op­ment only if we have money. It is not true that de­vel­op­ment can only come if one has money.

LT: How can these chal­lenges be ad­dressed to en­sure that women con­tinue to lead a nor­mal life­style de­spite the im­pact of cli­matic chal­lenges on the en­ergy sec­tor?

Le­bofa: The time is now for Ba­sotho women to grab avail­able op­por­tu­ni­ties at their dis­posal and use avail­able re­sources for their bet­ter­ment. We need to move to a po­si­tion where women would know and ap­pre­ci­ate they can cham­pion pro­duc­tive ac­tiv­i­ties that don’t re­quire fi­nanc­ing.

Women should read pol­icy doc­u­ments and know the ser­vices con­tained in them. How many women and com­mu­ni­ties are aware the Min­istry of Forestry, Range and Soil Con­ser­va­tion pro­vides trees for free to in­di­vid­u­als to plant in their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties?

The min­istry pro­vides on re­quest, a rea­son­able num­ber of free for­est and fruit trees to com­mu­nity mem­bers and women don’t need to have money to cham­pion de­vel­op­ment projects like this.

Women have more tasks in the house­hold and the ex­e­cu­tion of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (the bib­li­cal book of) Proverbs 22:6 lies with them. They ought to know that and be proud of the roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that gen­der has as­signed to them.

LT: SDG tar­get 7 ex­ten­sively deals with en­ergy is­sues. Do you think Le­sotho will be able to achieve this tar­get by cre­at­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for women to have ac­cess to clean and re­new­able en­ergy?

Le­bofa: Def­i­nitely. Le­sotho will achieve not just SDG 7 but all 17 goals. Women and the na­tion as a whole should en­sure that their daily ac­tiv­i­ties do not com­pro­mise the fu­ture. Ba­sotho should also start blam­ing them­selves for con­se­quences of cli­mate change. Con­tin­u­ing to blame other coun­tries means we are fail­ing to re­alise we have not done jus­tice to the en­vi­ron­ment. We are ac­tu­ally wast­ing the time we could have used to change the sit­u­a­tion.

If more than 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion re­lies on biomass for cook­ing and heat­ing (Na­tional Strate­gic De­vel­op­ment Plan 1) and the Na­tional En­ergy Pol­icy Fore­word states that “Le­sotho is char­ac­terised by huge de­pen­dence on biomass fu­els to meet the ba­sic needs of cook­ing and space heat­ing by the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion” then we all need to change our mind-set.

We are con­sum­ing what was pro­duced some 50-plus years ago and ours has been only to con­sume and not pro­duce. That is not sus­tain­able and we are dis­mally fail­ing on SDG 12 which em­pha­sises re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion and pro­duc­tion.

We should use all, even lit­tle op­por­tu­ni­ties and av­enues avail­able as step­ping stones to big­ger achieve­ments. We just need to re­alise the power we have and the con­tri­bu­tion we alone can make in the de­vel­op­ment of Le­sotho col­lec­tively

My or­gan­i­sa­tion, our friends, you and ev­ery­one who hears this clar­ion call should join in in­creas­ing veg­e­ta­tion cover by plant­ing at least one tree, es­pe­cially an in­dige­nous one ev­ery month. That way we will be di­rectly im­ple­ment­ing SDGS 13, 15, 16 and 17. We will all re­alise achieve­ment of the rest of the SGDS.

I can as­sure you Le­sotho will achieve the SDGS. You and I should go and lobby more peo­ple to en­sure that hap­pens. Since last Septem­ber, I have been on a per­sonal mis­sion to dis­cuss and ed­u­cate peo­ple about the SDGS. We should there­fore join hands to come up with in­no­va­tive and sim­ple ways to do it. We fail when we com­pli­cate is­sues on how to achieve sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

LT: What does the fu­ture hold for Ba­sotho women in terms of ac­cess to clean and re­new­able en­ergy?

Le­bofa: The Min­is­ter of En­ergy and Me­te­o­rol­ogy Se­libe Mo­choboroane com­mem­o­rated the African-mosotho Woman Month by hon­our­ing women work­ing in En­ergy and Cli­mate Change. He also pleaded with the Depart­ment of En­ergy to dis­trib­ute the Na­tional En­ergy Pol­icy and to make it widely known. We in­formed the hon­ourable min­is­ter that women will “push” to make sure the pol­icy is im­ple­mented. Hold­ing the min­istry ac­count­able will there­fore en­sure that it achieves its man­date.

As men­tioned in that fo­rum and in many oth­ers, Le­sotho should be proud of re­new­able en­ergy sources the coun­try has in abun­dance and we must use them for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, tourism and other op­por­tu­ni­ties. We can do this by turn­ing Le­sotho into a green coun­try and stop em­pha­sis­ing that Le­sotho’s emis­sions are low.

We have the op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther re­duce and get close to achiev­ing no emis­sions.

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