Water tanks helping rural women in Lesotho withstand climate change

Source(s): Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Headquarters

Maseru – Women in Lesotho are primarily responsible for collecting water for home use and for farming activities. The challenge of lack or limited water infrastructure coupled with the drying of water springs have meant that they must walk further, wait for longer and rely on lower quality water to provide for their household and farming.

“I used to walk a distance of 400 meters to collect water overflowing from the community storage tank. I would go there at least 20 times a day pushing a wheelbarrow especially during the dry season when the children are at school,” says Mamothepane Khatseane, a mother of four children, from Ha Koali village, Quthing district.

Climate change conditions such as erratic rains and droughts have increased in her area, and she has to adapt to continue with farming, and take care of her family.

In other areas, women collect water from unprotected overflow springs which provide low quality water and is shared with animals.

“The spring we fetched water was a far walk. I would leave home as early as 6 a.m. to fetch water, and would return around 9 a.m. Livestock would also drink from the same spring”, says Maliile Matete, from Boluma- Tau, Mafeteng, “There were constant conflicts between women fetching water and the livestock owners,” she added.

Thirsty crops and livestock

Mamothepane’s husband is employed as a driver in town so he is not at home most of the day. She grows crops such as, green pepper, beetroot, green beans, spinach, fruit trees, carrots, maize, and rears pigs. During the dry season she uses a lot of water to irrigate her water thirsty crops, and provide water for her animals.

“Vegetables need a lot of water. It was really tiresome, I spent a lot of time and energy collecting water, yet my family couldn’t afford a water tank. I couldn’t get time for myself,” added Mamothepane.

Considering the competing uses of water, some families in the rural areas prioritize irrigating their crops and feeding livestock over other home uses such as washing.

Enhancing adaptive capacity

To address this, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the project “Strengthening Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation through Support to Integrated Watershed Management in Lesotho”, built water tanks for communities in most vulnerable livelihood zones in Mafeteng, Quthing and Thaba Tseka.

According to FAO, Women are key to food production. In developing countries, women comprise 45 percent of the agricultural labour force, with that figure rising to 60 percent in parts of Africa. They bear the brunt of climate change. Investing in women creates ripple effects felt throughout entire communities.

The project constructed for Mamothepane a water storage tank with a capacity of about 5 000 litres, adding to another that the government built for her.

“The water tanks have reduced the work burden. During the rains I harvest water which I use. Thanks to the presence of water in my compound, I have increased the crop varieties I grow. I used to grow for home consumption, now I sell to the community around, and compliment the family’s income, I don’t have to depend on my husband for all the household needs,” said Mamothepane.  

She affirms that she now gets more time for herself and for her other meaningful activities like beekeeping which is earning her family income through sale of honey, and treating people with different health condition using live bee sting therapy (apitherapy).

To boost her activities, the project gave her five modern beehives, two pigs, and trained her in mushroom production, and conservation agriculture, a farming technique that adapts well in the context of water scarcity. 

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