Lesotho’s rangelands are being devastated by the spread of non-native invasive plants and poor grazing management. From an economic perspective, farmers currently face many barriers to provide for their families through their livestock as they used to do.
Therefore, ReNOKA aims to regenerate degraded the rangelands by motivating and empowering farmers, herders and young people to restore and practice sustainable herding. To achieve this, ReNOKA is working closely with the soil scientists students from the National University of Lesotho.
Soil Scientist: Protectors of the Land
Thabo Masobeng, a soil scientist at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), carefully measures soil into a beaker. He is processing the soil samples he and several other postgraduate soil science students gathered earlier in the day.
Scientists like Thabo are crucial to ensuring the future of communities in Lesotho in order to support research-driven and risk-informed decision making. Soil scientists conduct soil tests, advise on soil fertility improvement, diagnose plant growth problems, and prescribe remedial processes for contaminated soils.
Thabo is part of a group of five scientists completing the postgraduate Master of Science (MSc.) programme in Soil Science at the National University of Lesotho. His postgraduate thesis focuses on the correlation between soil organic carbon, soil types, and land use. For this, he is conducting a time series study from 2012 to date to see how land has been used over this period and how much the health of the land is being affected by land use.
“Carbon is very important to improve soil quality and fertility. However, there is a problem of carbon studies. They are few; it is not easy to do.” Thabo says.
Understanding the rangelands is a critical prerequisite to finding sustainable solutions to land degradation. Lesotho’s national Integrated Catchment Management programme, ReNOKA (‘we are a river’) and it’s implementing partner, Catholic Relief Services, are partnering with NUL to support Thabo and four other postgraduate soil scientists with research funds. While some research exists, there is a need for further studies to enhance knowledge and understanding of the ecosystem that feeds and sustains the rangelands in Lesotho.
In a very real way, scientists like Thabo are the future of farmers, and ultimately, food security in Lesotho. Their research provides the critical data to crack the code of managing and restoring rangelands which have suffered from the effects of climate change, land degradation and over-grazing. The funding enables their research to continue building on already available studies to provide solid evidence to what is working, what is not and the best methods to protect and restore rangelands sustainably.
“A lot of carbon is being removed from the soil, and the soils are suffering. Once there is no carbon in the soil, the nutrients are not conserved. They are just lost, they lose their fertility very easily. They are easily eroded. When you till the soil, it’s becoming weaker every year. S,o there is a lot that is being lost from the soil that is very significant.” Dr Mapeshoane Botle explains.
Dr. Botle is a senior lecturer with the Department of Soil Science and Resource Conservation at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). She has worked in academia, studying soil science and conservation for over 15 years. She started her academic career in agriculture but soon focused on resource management. She supervises the five MSc. Students.
“My work as a soil scientist is to protect soil. To see that people don’t take soil as just dust. Everything comes from the soil. If you don’t see that you are abusing [the soil]. At the end of the day, you are the one who is going to suffer if you don’t protect it.” Dr. Botle says.
ReNOKA (‘we are a river’) is a national programme and citizen movement for the restoration of land and water in Lesotho and the Orange-Senqu basin. Support for ReNOKA is provided through a partnership between the Government of Lesotho, the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The EU and BMZ contributions are implemented through a technical assistance project “Support to Integrated Catchment Management in Lesotho” by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
For more information
Visit the ReNOKA website at www.renoka.org
Engage with us on social media:
National ICM Coordinator, ICM Coordination Unit
GIZ Programme Manager, Support to Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) in Lesotho
‘This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Integrated Catchment Management unit and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)’