BY TAPERA CHIKUVIRA

After toiling as a builder in South Africa for an agonising five years, a disheartened David Moshoeshoe packaged his bags and decided to come back home in 2011.

Those close to him were adamant it was a wrong move and questioned how he could come back when most of them could only dream of making the great trek to the City of Gold – Johannesburg.

But the determined Moshoeshoe knew what he wanted in life and told himself that nothing would ever discourage him from realising his dream.

However, nothing could have prepared him for the worst like the cruel weather back at home near the historic Thaba Bosiu, on the outskirts of the capital Maseru.

The sun-baked land looked sad and uninspired.

It starred blankly at the sky, as is looking for answers and begging for rain to quench its thirst caused by the stifling and perennial heat.

The rain did not come. Neither were there any signs of cloud pregnancy nor hope that the land and its environs would be wet and spring to live again.

However, this did not dampen Moshoeshoe’s spirit as he set out to start a vegetable garden at his homestead with very minimal resources. The first hurdle was that he and his wife Mamasupha had to walk some distance to fetch water from a nearby dam using a 20-litre container and wheel barrow – quite a taxing and labouring exercise. The dam would also dry up during drought.

With time their perseverance gradually paid off as they managed to turn the dry land into a lush green oasis of vegetables. Soon the area was too small, forcing them to move to a bigger area – their current two hectares plot, about two hundred metres from their home.

Here, they produce cabbages, ‘rape’ vegetables and Chinese spoil for sale mainly to the local community. They also have a few business people coming from Maseru to order their produce for resale.

The family also has a greenhouse to prevent their variety of seeds from being damaged by sun or rain and keep them in favourable state before planting.

The Moshoeshoes hope to expand the project in future should they be able to raise enough funds to purchase a truck to deliver to Maseru as well as more inputs including pesticides and irrigation pipes.

The family said they live in constant fear of losing their vegetables to thieves and grazing animals since the garden is not fenced.

The garden – which has since become the envy of the local community – received a major boost this year following the installation of a community water tap just a stone’s throw away, courtesy of the Metolong Authority.

“I love farming. It is much better than working. I’m able to feed my family through this project and don’t have any worries at all about where our next meal will come from,” said the 32 year-old Moshoshoe.

“You see; this whole area is very dry because of successive droughts but we are happy we have managed to make something out of it,” his 24 year-old wife Mamasupha chipped in.

The young family are some of the villagers who have taken up urban and peri-urban agriculture to improve food security in the country.

“We are playing our part in our own small way,” Mamasupha said delightedly.

“You see this land here; it used to be a river that flowed year in year out as we grew up. But now that has all gone. It has dried up and can easily pass for a soccer field,” the husband bemoaned.

“We have to change our farming methods to suit the new but painful reality or we perish. In this garden we are using manure cow because it is friendly to the environment and gives the vegetable a good and natural taste,” he added.

Their neighbours too and many others across the country also felt the wrath of climate change.

Some lost income and draught power after their cattle were reduced in numbers by tenacious climate change-induced droughts. That meant they could not effectively engage in agricultural activities to feed their families or raise money for other pressing needs such as health and schooling.

But the farmers have remained resilient in the face of such adversity as they are gradually picking up the pieces and engaging in activities such as conservation agriculture.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, ‘Mamosa Molapo, believes the future of Lesotho lies in sustainable agriculture in the face of changing climatic conditions.

“We have been resting on our laurels for long but look now, after last year’s devastating drought, people are now taking to their fields. Pieces of land which were fallow are now being utilised,” she said.

Molapo added urban agriculture could play an important role to improve Lesotho’s food security.

“The major problem has been that our people always want government and donor agencies to assist them instead of working for themselves. I’m glad we are gradually getting there,” she observed.

A consultant on sustainable development and community resilience, Anna Brazier, explained Lesotho is prone to decreased rainfall, changes to seasons, erratic rainfall distribution, more extreme weather events, and drought, just like other countries in the region.

Brazier said Lesotho is likely to see an increase in food insecurity in the coming years due to loss of productive land because of climate change.

She also indicated the country could also witness a surge in cases of under-nutrition in children, unless it takes drastic actions to deal with changing climatic conditions.

The consultant further urged governments to improve collection and dissemination of meteorological and water resource data to encourage people to take actions that save the environment.

“There is need to come up with clear, simple messages highlighting economic and social benefits of appreciating our environment and coming up with actions that preserves it,” she added.

She advised Basotho to plant more trees and vegetation, as well as adapt to renewal energy, adding women, children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled would be mostly affected by climate change.

Celebrating World Food Day on October 16, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that the frequency of devastating weather patterns is likely to increase with time and this demands changes in the way Lesotho does agriculture.

Significant improvements in food security, as well as resilience to climate change, could be achieved with the introduction of sustainable agricultural practices.

This year’s World Food Day theme focuses on climate change and the need for agriculture to change in response to changing climate. FAO recognises that it will be impossible to achieve food security for all and eradicate hunger, malnutrition and poverty without adapting to changing climate.

“This is clear evidence that climate change is happening, putting at stake global food security as a result of more frequent extreme weather events that impact negatively food production worldwide,” the organisation stresses.

Lesotho is suffering from the effects of two years of drought, most recently as a result of El Niño, which has badly affected agricultural and livestock production.