What is ReNOKA?

‘ReNOKA’ is an active citizenry movement that aims to engage, unify and inspire all communities living and working within the Orange-Senqu River Basin to act together to protect and restore land and water for the shared prosperity of the catchment and its people.

ReNOKA – ‘We are a river’.

ReNOKA ke lekhotla le ikemiselitseng ho khothalletsa kopano le ts’ebelisano ‘moho har’a batho ba phelang tikolohong a noka ea Senqu-Orange ka sepheo sa ho sireletsa le ho ntlafatsa mobu le metsi molemong oa katleho ea bohle ba phelang tikolohong ena.

ReNOKA embraces a new way of thinking that sees land, water, people and infrastructure as one interconnected system that must be managed collectively. When the socio-economic and ecological needs of a river basin are managed for the sustainability of future generations using multiple approaches, we call this Integrated Catchment Management.

As the Orange-Senqu River has its source in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, ReNOKA takes its name from the local Sesotho language and means ‘we are a river’.

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Why is the ReNOKA movement important?

The global impact of climate change has been felt in the Kingdom of Lesotho, threatening livelihoods as severe weather cycles of flooding and droughts have become more frequent with each passing decade.

While Lesotho’s economy is becoming more industrialised, subsistence and livestock farming still remains an integral part of the household income and culture of Basotho. Since two-thirds of the country’s landscape is mountains, many Basotho farm on the mountainsides, which presents additional challenges, including erosion. As Lesotho’s population grows, there is added pressure on the limited land to produce more food from increasingly poor soil and to support livestock grazing.

Mountains may not be ideal for farming, but the unique landscape does offer some unique benefits, like providing an ideal collecting basin for rain and snow. In fact, Lesotho is capable of harvesting so much water, that four countries benefit from the many rivers and tributaries that originate in the Lesotho Highlands.

Water is an important export for Lesotho, as it helps support the energy and industrial economy of neighbouring South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. As Lesotho’s wetlands become increasingly degraded, the very source of the Orange-Senqu River is under threat.

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The Purpose

The goal of ReNOKA is to use the tools of Integrated Catchment Management to facilitate stronger economic growth and climate resilience for Lesotho.

Since the Orange-Senqu River Basin is fed from the headwaters of Lesotho, ReNOKA begins its action in the Mountain Kingdom.

ReNOKA aims to support and empower Lesotho to implement and maintain sustainable measures that will restore and protect the source of the catchment.

The Action

In order for ReNOKA to succeed in building a resilient river basin capable of serving future generations, multiple steps must be taken that address social, political, economic and environmental challenges together. The Orange-Senqu River is such an important natural resource and economic enabler for Southern Africa that it is one of the most studied in the region. ReNOKA’s Action Plan is therefore guided by years of research and considers many lessons learned from other regional river basins.

The ReNOKA Action Plan consists of five interconnected steps that will bring about better policies and laws, capacitate government departments to regulate, and highly trained people to implement the plan. Local communities will also benefit from training and practical conservation work to restore and manage degraded land.

  • 01
    Better policies
    Policies reflect the values of a society and regulate citizens’ actions on their natural environment.

    Policies are a set of principles or rules that guide organisations and governments on how to build a fair and inclusive society and help us regulate the conduct of business and society.

    In order to manage the Orange-Senqu River Basin sustainably, ReNOKA needs to ensure that policies are inclusive, harmonised and responsive to address complex challenges both in Lesotho and the region.

    As part of the ReNOKA Action, all existing policies that are relevant to water, land and their uses within Lesotho and the SADC region, must be mapped. Legal experts will then look for duplications and propose a roadmap to harmonise and review existing policy, so that the various laws and policies complement each other. This review is carried out comprehensively at regional, national, and local levels and includes mainstreaming efforts to account for a rights-based approach and climate change adaptation in existing policy and laws.

    Public participation is an important part of developing policy in a democratic society, to ensure that everybody’s interests are considered. Thus, the policy review process has a strong focus on working collaboratively with key ministries, and stakeholders at all levels.

    One of ReNOKA’s guiding values is “to leave no one behind” and adopt a rights-based approach. It makes sure that the voices of women are included. We call this gender-sensitivity. Since we are working to protect the river basin for future generations, the action also considers the voices of youth.
  • 02
    Stronger and inclusive institutions
    Good policies are effective when there are strong instruments put in place for enforcement. To help enforce laws and regulations outlined in policies, we need strong institutions that will regulate, enhance accountability, implement and monitor policies.

    If the rivers in the Orange-Senqu River Basin are heavily polluted or run dry, this impacts industries as well as communities and government. Good governance is inclusive and works collaboratively with all stakeholders and beneficiaries to ensure water security. Integrated Catchment Management, and ultimately water security, is intended as a collective and multi-stakeholder effort where all should contribute according to their needs.

    ReNOKA’s Action seeks to work with local leaders and communities at local and national levels to support and strengthen capacities and financing.
  • 03
    Knowledge and skills development
    ReNOKA represents an opportunity to build on and learn from existing knowledge and skills in Lesotho. This human capacity building will give the Government of Lesotho and community leaders the tools to influence positive behaviour change where it’s lacking, improve land and water management and apply suitable laws towards a sustainably managed Orange-Senqu River Basin.

    To support local and national institutions, professional training is being developed that will build the skills of those working in key institutions across civil society and the government. Integrated Catchment Management (previously referred to as watershed management/development) falls under Integrated Water Resource Management, and human capacity building stands to benefit the entire Southern African region.

    At a community level, ReNOKA’s vision is to build knowledge, understanding of positive behaviour and sustainable land-use practices that will ignite a sense of guardianship and stewardship across the catchments.

    ReNOKA will create numerous opportunities for learning, knowledge sharing and skills transfer in Lesotho and the region.
  • 04
    Catchment conservation and rehabilitation measures
    Lesotho, like most nations, is facing severe environmental degradation from overgrazing and erosion. ReNOKA will take practical steps towards stopping and reversing erosion and restoring watersheds in Lesotho by working with farmers, herders, local councillors and traditional leaders at a community level.

    As some of Lesotho’s most important sub-catchments at the source of the Orange-Senqu River become degraded, Lesotho is losing up to two percent of its precious topsoil every year, which is exacerbated by the lack of trees in the region. Two-thirds of the population of Lesotho is said to be living on degraded land.

    Wetlands, grasslands and woodlands are nature’s examples of healthy ecosystems that are capable of absorbing rainfall. Wetlands act like a sponge, capturing excess flood water and slowly releasing the stored water in the dry season and thus playing an essential role in softening the impacts of floods and droughts.

    When we strip our landscapes of vegetation for intensive development, farming and livestock grazing, we lose precious topsoil and create erosion.

    By safeguarding and restoring critical watersheds and ecosystems, land in Lesotho that is currently overgrazed and eroded can become productive again and benefit the people who rely on livestock and agriculture for their livelihoods, while ecosystem restoration can protect the river basin from the effects of climate change.

    ReNOKA has identified six sub-catchments in Lesotho that are badly degraded and need urgent rehabilitation. (Lesotho has so many rivers and streams that the country is divided into 74 sub-catchments.) These hotspots will then become demonstration sites for local communities to see the benefit of better water and land management.

    Once local communities experience the benefits of improved grazing and farming yields, ReNOKA can expand its work to other sub-catchments where local community leaders will help spread the message.

    ReNOKA will also work with local communities to extract Indigenous Knowledge that holds unique wisdom about Lesotho’s plants and animals and how our ancestors managed a changing climate.
  • 05
    Integrated catchment management
    ReNOKA seeks to leave behind a legacy that is positive for the people of Lesotho and its environment. Sustainable Integrated Catchment Management structures will be established to plan, manage, monitor and protect the Lesotho catchments, contributing to better management of the Orange-Senqu River Basin.

    The ReNOKA Action will deliver a capable management structure within the Government of Lesotho so that Integrated Catchment Management becomes an embedded way of thinking and doing. Catchments are not just rivers but include water, land, people and infrastructure that all fall inside the footprint of the river basin. Therefore, different government departments, water users and other stakeholders must coordinate and share information for the better management of these catchments.

    Data monitoring is an important knowledge management tool that informs decisions in any country and region. As an example, catchment managers need to know the extent and severity of catchment degradation in their catchments to plan and implement rehabilitation measures with communities, and over time to monitor the effectiveness of the measures that were introduced. This must go hand-in-hand with collection, management and interpretation of other types of data such as climate data, land use, water quantity and quality, and socio-economic data to inform Integrated Catchment Management.

    ReNOKA has the potential to catalyse new growth and career opportunities for the people of Lesotho. Researchers, water scientists, engineers, environmentalists and agricultural experts will be needed to ensure that Integrated Catchment Management becomes a long-term approach to managing the catchments of Lesotho and the Greater Orange-Senqu River Basin.

Steering structures

ReNOKA incorporates stakeholders, partners and donors, working together to succeed.

As the most important river in Southern Africa, shared between four countries, protecting the source of the Orange-Senqu River in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is critical. Achieving this requires the cooperation and support of governments, businesses and local communities.

ReNOKA is being driven by the Government of Lesotho, with support from the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation, implemented by the ICM Coordination Unit in Lesotho in partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Together with local partners that include technical experts, local businesses and communities, ReNOKA will build a capable framework to restore, protect and manage the Orange-Senqu River Basin, starting in Lesotho.