Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lesotho Highlands Water Project, Phase II Launch

Today marked the official launch of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), right here in Mokhotlong District. Dignitary attendees included His Majesty King Letsie III, Prime Minister Tom Thabane, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, …and TTL of course. We wouldn’t miss the chance to celebrate the launch of a major development project for Lesotho.
His Majesty King Letsie III addresses the crowds, explaining the operations and benefits of the Polihali Dam, which will be constructed as part of LHWP Phase II.
The LHWP has been in progress since 1986, when the governments of Lesotho and South Africa first agreed to large-scale development. The bilateral treaty outlined construction plans for several dams on Lesotho’s main waterways that would create employment and investment opportunities, provide hydroelectric power, and build associated infrastructure for the mountain kingdom. In exchange, much of surrounding South Africa would receive access to safe and reliable drinking water. The first phase comprising Katse Dam, Mohale Dam, and 'Muela Hydropower Station was inaugurated in 2004; now the second of four total phases has begun.

Just as South Africa relies on Lesotho for potable water, Lesotho relies on its only neighbor to meet many of its basic needs. For instance, all imports and exports must necessarily cross South African soil or airspace, including the import of foreign assistance. 
(photo credit: WFP)

Since 2012, the Lesotho highlands have faced a harsh food shortage that has increased cases of malnutrition among other problems. TTL has seen evidence of this firsthand both in our Safe Home and on our Outreach visits. The World Food Programme has striven to mitigate the severity of food insecurity and has worked closely with South Africa to deliver life-saving support. In time, more roads and other infrastructure could aid the delivery of regular food shipments and medical assistance to rural areas and, if needed, increase the speed of external support programs. 

Mokhotlong District will likely look very changed in five years. For the Basotho highlanders, we are eager to see the benefits of the many new opportunities promised by the LHWP as well as the strengthened partnership between Lesotho and South Africa. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Strengthening Partnerships

Since taking in our first client in 2004, TTL has constantly striven to improve and expand our high-impact services. For this we rely on an intimate network of partners, many of whom provide quality services complementary to our own.

The Lesotho government has proven to be a strong partner over the years. Not only have national health campaigns reduced the prominent necessity of TTL’s PMTCT efforts, but local ministry offices have also frequently referred us clients and shared new information about medical treatments in Lesotho.

Recently, TTL partnered with the Ministry of Social Development to ensure that our clients with special care needs can benefit from the full range of available services. Over the past few weeks, we have collaborated with the Mokhotlong Senior Social Welfare Officer to develop an official referral form - a small achievement, perhaps, but one with great impacts.  The first step to receiving government aid begins with a referral from a trusted partner. Now for the first time, TTL has authorization to directly refer our clients in Outreach and the Safe Home to the Ministry of Social Development whenever necessary.

This new tool has expanded our capacity to serve the vulnerable children of the mountain districts. We are grateful for the trust and support we have received from the Ministry of Social Development and look forward to supporting the many children who face extra difficulties in leading healthy lives.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Moshoeshoe Day!

King Moshoeshoe I
(photo credit:
King Moshoeshoe I is revered in Lesotho, which goes without saying considering he was the country’s first reigning monarch. Some describe Moshoeshoe (pronounced ‘Mo-SHWAY-shway’) as a man of great wisdom, character, and diplomacy, arguably good qualities in the leader of a new nation.

Amidst the 1868 conflict against the Free State in modern day South Africa, Moshoeshoe led his people to the top of Thaba-Bosiu, the ‘Mountain at Night.’ For nine days, the mountain became a fortress against invasion as Moshoeshoe strove to find a peaceful resolution. He ultimately succeeded and today Thaba-Bosiu has become a symbol of nation building, closely associated with King Moshoeshoe himself, who is now buried there. Each year on Moshoeshoe Day Basotho travel to pay their respects to the beloved leader.

(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The 11th of March commemorates the death of Moshoeshoe. As a solemn occasion, however, the holiday celebrations are small and personal to each Masotho. Many will wear traditional dress on this day; local businesses are closed; and communities may gather for a drink and good time. Around the world, Moshoeshoe Day festivities are aimed at celebrating Basotho heritage and the Sesotho language. It is also an opportunity for non-Basotho to learn a bit more about the little Mountain kingdom.

So next 11th of March, be sure to wish your friends and neighbors a Happy Moshoeshoe Day! 
Sala hantle (stay well).

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Forgotten Kingdom

There is a certain beauty in seeing a movie that was filmed in a place you know well, maybe even call home. Many people feel that brief thrill and pride in recognizing local landmarks and favorite hangouts. However, that experience is completely foreign to most Basotho. Until now.

The Forgotten Kingdom is the first full-length feature film to be shot in Lesotho. The movie tells the story of a young Masotho named Atang living in Johannesburg and estranged from his homeland. He begrudgingly returns to Lesotho to bury his father, but gradually reconnects to his country through old friends and new acquaintances who teach him the value of Lesotho. There is more to the mountain kingdom than first meets the eye.

On the first of March, The Forgotten Kingdom premiered in Maseru. The debut screening was an event studded with stars, VIPs, and a theater filled with Basotho eager to watch a film not only about their nation, but in the Sesotho language. In the days following the premiere, the director and a team of crew began touring around Lesotho – returning to the communities where the film was shot and sharing the finished product with hundreds of Basotho.

TTL has supported this project and helped coordinate the screening to take place tonight in Phuta and tomorrow in Mokhotlong camp town. In return, our Managing Director ‘M’e Nthabeleng was invited to attend the premiere in Maseru; she knew little of what to expect that evening.

I asked her to reflect on the experience and share her thoughts:

‘M’e Nthabeleng, tell us about The Forgotten Kingdom. What did you like about the movie?
For me, I really appreciated that the movie is in Sesotho, so it’s easy for many Basotho to understand. This is such a great opportunity for Basotho to connect with their stories and country. Some of our Basotho actors were a part of the movie, which also makes me so proud. This was really a movie about Lesotho and for Lesotho.

How did the movie portray Lesotho? Do you think this was accurate? 
I think it showed many different parts of the culture of Lesotho – you could see people working in the fields and the traditional dress and dances – and the landscape in different areas of the country. It showed what Lesotho is really like.

Part of the movie showed some people’s real response to HIV – the stigma in the rural communities. The father’s shame over his daughter’s illness forced him to move to an entirely different part of the country. Even though the stigma is lessened today, it remains a problem. Fortunately the movie also portrayed the support systems that exist in Lesotho for HIV+ people. There is education available and clinics that can help provide treatment. That was really important to show.

Would you recommend the movie to your friends?
Yes – that’s an easy one!

Describe your reaction when you first saw the VIPs.
I was sitting in the audience and all of a sudden, voilĂ ! One row behind me was sitting the Prime Minister and the royal family, which showed how important the movie is to Lesotho. It was a really great moment and one I was not expecting.

I had never been to that slick movie theatre before – every time I’m in Maseru I’m so busy I never have the opportunity to relax and enjoy the city. This gave me the chance to enjoy my capital city, meet some actors (and take pictures with them!), and feel proud of Lesotho.

Who were you most excited to see/meet?
I was most excited to meet Zenzo Ngqobe (who plays Atang) because I had seen him in other TV shows. Also, the little boy (Lebohang Ntsane) because he did such a great job in the film. Oh and don’t forget Lillian Dube. Everyone, really!

What was the best part about the entire evening?
Oh my gosh, at one point while I was trying to take a picture with Zenzo I knocked over one of the waiters and broke a whole tray of glasses. He kept asking if I was okay, which I was, but I was so excited I forgot to help clean up! It was so nice to have a night out and meet celebrities and hang out with friends. Also the food was so good.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I want to thank Andrew Mudge (the director) because this is a really life-changing experience for Basotho, especially in the rural areas. For an American to make such a beautiful movie about Lesotho and then bring it to show the Basotho shows real love and respect for the culture. He could have made and produced this movie and then only showed it in America. I feel, on behalf of the full Basotho community, I should extend thanks. I am really touched.