Permaculture in Lesotho

The PRI editor has been encouraging me to give a little more background info on my work on the ground here, so you can all better understand the situation I’m working in. Here’s a short attempt to do so.

I have been living in Lesotho for two years, as a volunteer with Australian Volunteers International (AVI ). This is part of the Australian government’s southern African aid programme for 2012-2014. My host NGO here is Phelisanong, which cares for disadvantaged children and has orchards, vegetable gardens, a plant nursery / garden centre and livestock. My role with Phelisanong is as their permaculture advisor and trainer.

Living in another very different culture and natural environment can be a very confronting and is a real life-changing experience. Lesotho, the mountain kingdom in the sky, is a very beautiful country with outstanding permaculture potential.

My current activities are completing the construction of a greenhouse in the plant nursery, landscaping the garden centre, setting up a seed bank and growing vegetables. I am also currently training the staff in pruning the peach and apple trees in the fruit orchards.

The morning walk, down the much eroded mountain track to Phelisanong starts at -0.5°C with pale blue, clear skies and brilliant sunshine. The views of the Maluti Mountain Range in the early morning are simply stunning in the clear, high altitude air.

We have yet to have any snowfall. By this time last year we had several major snow events. The winter is the dry season in Lesotho, and during winter the snowfall can usually support winter crops of wheat and pea. The vegetables that are surviving the cold weather in the garden centre garden beds are peas, wheat, radish, cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic and alfalfa. This year’s winters growing conditions have has been very cold and dry; this will make the current food emergency even more serious for Lesotho — with over 40% of the population dependent on food aid. Agricultural food production in Lesotho has been in serious decline for the last thirty years. Currently 80% of its cereal grain maize, sorghum and wheat needs are being imported from South Africa, and it has some of the most eroded landscapes in southern Africa. A radical, agricultural revolution is needed for Lesotho which can go beyond just being sustainable.

Permaculture design is part of a new agriculture which is both restorative and regenerative. A permanent agriculture. I will share more about my on-the-ground experiences as I have time. In the meantime, if you didn’t catch them already, you can read my previous posts here.