His Majesty King Letsie III – who turns 60 on 17 July 2023 – has always had an insatiable passion for farming and protecting the environment.
Happy birthday Motlotlehi Rabasotho!
Given his love for the environment, it is not surprising that in 1989, His Majesty chose to study Agricultural Economics at Wye College of the University of London.
Before then, His Majesty, had spent most of his childhood leisure time at his family cattle posts in Matsieng, enjoying country life caring for the environment and the family cattle.
Given this rich cultural background, it is only natural that King Letsie III strongly supports initiatives by ReNOKA to promote the existing strong indigenous knowledge systems that provide highly effective traditional approaches to land management.
Officially launching the ReNOKA movement in May 2021, His Majesty King Letsie III had high praises for the movement, describing it as a vital tool to educate citizens of Lesotho on how best to rehabilitate, restore, and revive Lesotho’s degraded land and water resources using an integrated approach called Integrated Catchment Management (ICM).
“Preservation and protection of our wetlands has become an important exercise as the world experiences shortages of clean and fresh water. It has become an urgent imperative for our country to embark upon an integrated approach that encompasses different stakeholders in the protection of our wetlands and related ecosystems,” he said.
“This approach will help us achieve sustainable and efficient management of our water resources and natural habitat and consequently bring about multiple benefits to our communities and the country at large,” he noted.
Therefore, ReNOKA feels honoured that this year, the King’s birthday coincides with its indigenous and traditional land use campaign. A time when it is appropriate to reflect on the ancestral heritage of the nation and close relationship between land, water and people.
As we mark the King’s birthday, the ReNOKA movement joins him in calling and reminding Basotho that there are effective traditional or indigenous land use approaches that were developed by our forefathers which are affordable and relatively easy to implement.
“Indigenous knowledge is important for Lesotho to maintain a proud legacy,” @renoka_movement posted on Instagram in April 2023.
“Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were aware of what it took to allow the land and water around them to thrive. In the unbroken hills of the highlands to the flowing waters on the rangelands, our ancestors became guardians of the land and the water. They used sustainable farming practices like rotational grazing, crop rotation and cattle posts to keep the land healthy and in turn protected the water sources,” said @renoka_movement.
A research report commissioned by ReNOKA in 2021 on mainstreaming indigenous knowledge in ICM in Lesotho conducted by the Southern African Research Documentation Centre (SARDC) in collaboration with the National University of Lesotho (NUL) also confirms that, “indigenous knowledge provides a basis on which communities base their decisions on issues such as agriculture, healthcare, food preparation, education, natural resource management and a host of other activities in rural communities”.
The report continues to show that, “indigenous knowledge has been designated as a system because it was a constant practice that yielded positive results.”
The report highlights its continued relevance in modern times, particularly within the current socio-economic context in Lesotho, as well as relevant to young people who will be the custodians of the land in the future.
“Research has also revealed that the benefits of integrating indigenous knowledge into modern ways of managing natural resources far outweigh the benefits of using modern science alone. The knowledge developed over generations of interaction between people and ecosystems can make a substantial contribution to ecological restoration,” says Makomoreng Fanana, ICM National Coordinator.
But sadly, as research has also shown, indigenous knowledge is at risk of becoming extinct.
It is against this background that ReNOKA’s indigenous land use campaign is determined to remind the Basotho people about their old traditional approaches to land management which are still relevant today, such as:
- Rotational grazing was used in ancient times as one of the most effective land management strategies. Reserved land was set aside at the beginning of December and livestock would be allowed to graze until April. This was administered in phases to allow regeneration of vegetation. Only animals that provided milk for the family and those that would be used for transport would not be sent to the cattle posts. In some cases, livestock would be allowed to graze after the thatching grass, Hyparrhenia hirta (mohlomo) had been harvested. Burning of rangelands was prohibited to avoid destruction of seeds that would be dispersed to allow for germination in the next growing season.
- Soil erosion. Communities in south-east Lesotho have taken the initiative to find ways to control soil erosion. They have constructed stone walls at the Ha Sekhonyana site for example to slow down the flow of water, thereby reducing its velocity to erode loose and exposed soil. This has been a traditional practice which has since been adopted widely for controlling soil erosion. The soil carried by water is deposited by the barrier and trapped, providing a base on which vegetation can rejuvenate. The primary focus was to facilitate the re-establishment of vegetation cover, which would make a positive contribution to the regeneration of rangelands
- Wetland protection: Communities in Khubelu in Mokhotlong district protect wetlands through high density grazing and temporary kraaling. This prevents livestock from grazing and trampling the wetland areas, especially during wet seasons. To promote the provision of safe water, dead animals are carefully buried underground to avoid contaminating water sources. This is another long-standing approach that is used across the country.
According to ntate Fanana, ReNOKA runs about 300 programmes in conjunction with local communities across the country to rehabilitate the environment and Ha Sekhonyana and Khubelu initiatives are part of these programmes.
“We take this momentous occasion to celebrate His Majesty’s birthday to reiterate our commitment to continue working with communities throughout the country on programmes aimed at rehabilitating the environment for ourselves and future generations,” says ntate Fanana.
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)’