Malehloenya Tesenoli is used to waiting. Every year, as late summer approaches she nervously anticipates the September rains that will replenish her 9 acres of land, bringing life to the soil that she needs for the maize crops that she and her four children desperately rely on to survive.

This year, the waiting has been in vain. Though some rains have recently arrived, they had not fallen since April 2015 and have arrived too late to draw Lesotho back from the brink of its worst drought in decades; the situation has rapidly becoming desperate.

“Under normal conditions, my 9.5 acre field would sustains me with food until the next harvest while also earning some money through the sale of surplus. But in this season, I only planted maize on 2 acres which does not even form half of my field and the maize has emerged very weak giving a picture of zero harvest in winter 2016.”

  

Malehloenya Tsenoli with her empty fields

The true impact of the loss to Malehloenya, and Lesotho as a whole, is reinforced when later in the day we discuss the drought with Manthethe Monethi, Country Director for Send a Cow Lesotho. She recounts an especially pertinent Basotho expression: “we don’t have food if we don’t have maize”

Malehoenya has been working with Send a Cow for three years, and speaks with great pride of the way that she and her family have worked with the group to begin to shape their own future.

We don’t have food if we don’t have maize

“I have acquired important skills [that have] brought to us sustainable farming which we did not practice before…skills which normally improve soil fertility, soil water retention and the produce. I have benefited from the gardens as even in the dry season I have still had vegetables to feed my family and sell surplus to pay school fees for my children” Malehloenya said.

But even the skills she has learned can only sustain them for so long without the rains. She knows that the family are facing a difficult battle over the coming year. The fruit crops that she has invested so many hours of labour into as a means to diversify beyond simply surviving on maize yields are of such poor quality that they cannot be sold. They are good only for feeding to the pigs. 

“We have already suffered consequences of drought, there has been no adequate water for domestic activities like drinking, washing dishes, cooking and bathing” she says.

Malehloenya and thousands like her are working with the extension workers from Send a Cow to implement practices that can see their communities through the next year. Communities are being encouraged to expand on their vegetable production, focusing on crops that are short seasoned, bringing quick returns to the household.

This month we are running an emergency appeal to support families like Malehloenya's across Lesotho. Please support the appeal by donating whatever you can and helping us get to more families as quickly as possible.