Puleng (In the rain…)

27 Sept. 2007

IMHO (In my humble opinion), Menkhoaneng is still the most beautiful place i’ve seen, second only to Tsehlanyane National Park in my few romps around Lesotho. As the Peace Corps volunteer, I am not only assigned to this village of 700, but many other villages in the area as well. Considering the plethora, i’ve chosen to focus on helping at least three other villages in Hlotse Valley: Mate, Ha Khabo and Lentsoaneng.
The peach trees started blooming a couple of weeks ago, adding much needed vibrancy to the drab yellows, browns and evergreens (there are pine trees, although not indigenous). In addition to these emblems of deep pink, yellow daisies are popping up all over and the willow trees are now shaggy with leaves.
In the last several years, Lesotho’s annual rainfall has been dropping to the point where last year, a full-blown drought was declared. Two weeks ago, the Menkhoaneng Council Secretary asked me, “Do you believe in God, Ausi Pontso?” Religion here is Christian and mainstream. Prayer is a daily part of Basotho life; they bookend every meeting, school day and workday. Ntate Sam had asked every person in his acquaintance to pray for rain two Sundays following, on Sept. 23.
God got the memo three days late, but when it arrived, the rain poured. Thunder roared for hours on end and lightning cluttered the sky. Those who had tin roofs set buckets under the gutters to collect water. Clouds bubbled over from the next stretch of mountains, and some of the closer wisps looked like kites melting into the sky. With a good drenching, all colors become lush, but in Hlotse Valley, it was really the reds that took center stage. Red brush stood at attention and pine tree nettle blended with broken grass to form a red, on-land plankton. Water, stained with red mud, plunkered down the rocky terrain as miniature waterfalls. Picassos and Klimts were illuminated in the cracked rocks. They were now as visible in the facades as the rose bud stamps, the little anime thought-bubbles and record grooves I see everyday, and were I an art connoisseur, I’m sure I would have spotted more.
The rain is not so kind to the roads. Hlotse Valley is incredibly hard to reach, making the task of attracting tourists to Menkhoaneng’s future cultural village even more complicated. After only a couple of hours of steady rainfall, the roads are saturated with enough water to transform it into mush. It makes transportation, even on foot, nearly impossible.
To the Basotho, this is a small sacrifice for long-awaited rain. In the past, the rainy season started in September and ended in April. What was once eight solid months of rainfall has been reduced to, at worst, half of what it could be. This poses a huge problem for a nation that largely practices subsistence farming and has not changed its farming practices in decades, despite new problems. The Basotho wait for rain to water their crops, employing no irrigation system or water harvesting practices. They do not know how to germinate their own seeds and sometimes do not have enough money to purchase them during planting season. They’ve used chemical fertilizer since the 1930s with no real understanding of its ill-effect. The most complicated farming technique employed is the burning of fields, which clears out brush and destroys diseases, but the Basotho do it out of tradition without realizing the point. The land is splotched with dongas due to overgrazing and soil has turned into dust. Yet, the most immediate threat to the Basotho is weather change. Since income in the villages is nearly non-existent, the Basotho will have great difficulty trying to deal.
The culprit? Possibly global warmingclimate change—in which case we are witnessing only the beginning of the onslaught.


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~ by dennetmint on October 3, 2007.

3 Responses to “Puleng (In the rain…)”

  1. interesting perspective on the complexities of climate change… seems like most of the media (including npr) in the u.s. is focused mainly on climate change’s effect on the quality of napa valley’s grapes and shortening seasons at ski resorts. just out of curiosity – do the people you interact with have an awareness of climate change theories and if so, what is their attitude toward the (so called) “developed” nations such as the u.s. that are responsible for causing it?

  2. I’m going to have to disagree with you Tom. In the defense of NPR, I haven’t heard much about ski resorts (except when they are being burned by eco-terrorists) or Napa Valley. Infact, they have done a nice series on the changes in the arctic and the affects on the local Inuit tribes. I might be biased though.

  3. the people i interact with don’t necessarily realize it’s global warming, but have definitely noticed the ever-decreasing rainfall over the last several years. it’s really the people in the ministries of environment and forestry/land conservation that have an idea of what’s going on, and they’re often so far removed from rural villagers, which is what most Basotho are.

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