THE Global Environment Facility (GEF) this week handed-over US$320 000 (about M4.5 million) to eight Community-Based Organisations in support of environmental protection and management programmes in the districts of Mokhotlong and Qacha’s Nek.
This support was channelled through GEF’s Small Grants Programme (SGP), a facility that is managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of GEF.
Implementation of GEF funded projects in Lesotho started in 2007, focusing on supporting sustainable community-based environmental management and protection initiatives; and research, through grants of up to USD 50,000 per organisation.
Speaking at the Grant Award Ceremony on behalf of the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Mamotsie Motsie, the Minister of Industry and Trade, Tefo Mapesela said government welcomed initiatives that aimed at strengthening conservation efforts, particularly through community-based approaches and innovations.
He said owing to Lesotho’s undulating terrain, the country has a fragile environment that demands the involvement of communities in conservation programmes.
“Partnering with community-based organisations ensures ownership and sustainability of activities, which is critical in the case of Lesotho, particularly now with challenges presented by climatic changes; that adds more pressure onto the environment,” Mr Mapesela said.
He explained the importance of environmental conservation in food and livestock production.
“Through programmes that protect the environment, local communities can strengthen the resilience of agriculture-based livelihoods, which the majority of people in Lesotho depend on,” Mr Mapesela said.
The community based organisations that benefitted from GEF included Maseepho Bee-keeping Cooperative Society, which works to address threats to bee colonies and habitats, in addition to building the capacity of bee-keeping farmers; and Sehlabathebe Grazing Association, which has partnered with local communities to manage and protect rangelands.
Ramatšeliso Grazing Association promotes sustainable rangeland management practices through activities such as strengthening institutional capacity for fire management aimed at enhancing livelihoods’ resilience.
The National Coordinator of the Global Environment Facility, Nthabiseng Majara said the objectives of the programme was to enhance the protection of the environment and provide livelihood support.
“Through the Small Grants Programme, community-based organisation can strengthen their efforts in areas including biodiversity conservation, adaptation and mitigation activities responding to adverse impacts of climate change, protection of shared water resources and reduction of impacts and release of persistent organic pollutants,” Ms Majara said.
Over the years, Ms Majara said, more than 50 Non-Governmental and community-based organisations have benefitted from the programme in Lesotho.
Also speaking at the ceremony, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Representative, Christy Ahenkora said the environment protection facility emphasised the need for various stakeholders to work together.
Through such partnerships, she further explained, actors can share experiences, knowledge and ideas on how they can enhance their livelihoods without negatively affecting the environment.
“The small grants programme is an opportunity to learn and test ideas on how effectively can communities engage in development activities while at the same time managing and protecting their natural resources sustainably. Such experiences are critical as they can inform environment sensitive national policies and development strategies for poverty alleviation,” Ms Ahenkora said.
She added UNDP will continue working with the Ministry of Tourism and Environment to align all environmental programmes with the mandate of the ministry.