Manthethe Monethi takes up the post as the new Country Director of Lesotho from May. Here she talks about her surprising career in international development and her hopes for the future of her country.

I grew up in Lesotho. My father worked in the mines (in South Africa) and my mother took care of the household. I remember my mother was a member of a women’s group who did sewing and knitting to earn some extra money. I also remember she was learning bakery, as for a period there were always large multi-coloured cakes in the kitchen.

I always saw myself as a banker, which was very glamourous to me! But after finishing my studies in economics and accounting I went to work for an NGO and loved it. I often worked in the field managing programmes, and I’d feel rewarded at the end of the day when I’d spent it meeting people we’d worked with, as I’d seen their perspective on who they were and what they could achieve completely change, because of the intervention that had brought them hope.

I always saw myself as a banker, which was very glamourous to me! But after finishing my studies...I went to work for an NGO and loved it.

Lesotho is a small mountainous country in Southern Africa. It is completely surrounded by South Africa and borders it throughout the country. We became an independent kingdom in 1966. We have a King but we also have a political system and structure in place that runs the country.

We are the only country in the world which lies entirely 1000m above sea level, which means we experience four seasons every year. In the summer it’s very hot and in the winter we will have snow. The snow makes movement and accessibility especially hard in either the rural areas or the mountains, where people can get trapped for weeks on end without access to food.

Most of the people that live in the rural areas are farmers but because Lesotho is very mountainous we have the problem of land erosion. Even the small amount of arable land we do have gets swept off by the torrents when it’s raining, so our challenge is to increase the production from the land we have and protect it from climate shocks.

A road well trodden

We also have high levels of poverty. In the past our fathers used to work in the mines, that was our source of income but in the past few years most of them have gone back home because the mines are not employing as many people as they used to.

As these families have no money coming in, and the men are faced with unemployment, the women are going to find domestic work in South Africa, often leaving very young children in the care of their fathers or grandparents.

The high levels of HIV/AIDS means we also have households that are child-headed, because their parents have died, or they are staying with grandparents. Access to medication isn’t a problem, as it’s subsidised by the government, but if you’re on medication you need to be eating well, ensuring you have carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins.

Recently organisations like Send a Cow are introducing sustainable agriculture practices to farmers. For many it’s a brand new technology, but the whole idea is to preserve what we have and change how and what we plant so that farmers can diversify their crops, improve their own health and have surplus to sell.

I want to see excitement and hope in people’s eyes as they see their situation changing

When I think of my hope or vision of the future as I start this new chapter, it goes back to the reason I stayed on this career path in the first place and that is the people I meet along the way. I want households to be food secure and enjoy three nutritious meals a day. I want to see excitement and hope in people’s eyes as they see their situation changing, which will lead to them becoming more resilient to bad weather and climate shocks. I want to see families brought back together, sharing in their achievements and enjoying the freedom of being able to send their children to school, improve their household and take care of their families.

Because if you have the means to take care of your family your whole situation changes. You are more hopeful, more confident and every one of us deserves to feel that way.

Manthethe was visiting the UK in support of our Summer Appeal for Lesotho, if you would like to support the appeal please follow the link below: