The kingdom of Lesotho is one of the smallest countries in Africa, landlocked and surrounded by South Africa, consisting of a population of approximately 2 million people. It has an interesting and colourful history, enriched by a strong Sotho culture and a beautiful mountainous landscape. The Government of Lesotho has embarked on an agricultural development programme, co- funded by IFAD to the tune of $ (?) over a period of six years (2005 to 2011), called the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Programme (SANReMP).

 

Khanya-aicdd, through its partnership with the SMIP, is responsible for supporting the programme from 2007 to 2009. This support has taken on a two- pronged approach- one, conducting in- house training on Managing for Impact (M4I) for programme managers and implementers, and two, providing intensive programmatic support to a range of stakeholders through the action learning site.

 

SANReMP’s goal is to promote sustainable livelihoods of rural household in  the three southern districts of Lesotho, namely Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, and Quthing. An improvement in household food security and family nutrition will indicate to us that there has been an improvement in rural peoples’ lives. In order that this is possible SANReMP would need to ensure that the following objectives are met:

  1. agricultural productivity amongst rural household would have increased as a result of diverse and focused production activities
  2. land degradation and destruction would have been reduced through the application of appropriate land and water conservation measures, and
  3. the capacity of decentralised district administrations have been strengthened to deliver services effectively and efficiently

 

SANReMP as a SMIP Action Learning Site:

 

The SANReMP learning site initially took a while to get off the ground. This was partly due to the intense bureaucratic requirements that needed to be fulfilled in order to have the process approved. In addition to this the first phase of the roll- out co- incided with SANReMP’s agricultural months in June and July. Eventually we managed to finalise and sign the contract for supporting the learning site in December 2008, and first activity, Community Action Planning (CAP) was facilitated early this year.

 

SANReMP, as part of their overall planning, facilitates what they refer to as Community Action Plans. These are plans that are supposed to be jointly designed with the very community beneficiaries that the programme is targeting. However these plans are usually developed by government field officers involved in the programme without input from the communities. To ensure better planning in any programme that is supposed to develop communities it is important and crucial to involve communities in the planning process, and CBP ensures that this is achieved.

 

As it turns out one of Khanya’s competency areas is in Community Based Planning (for more information on CBP check http://www.khanya-aicdd.org/community-driven-development/community-based-planning). The CBP is a process of participatory planning that raises awareness of communities and the facilitators of the situations they face and what would be the best way forward by building on their strengths and addressing their challenges. Unlike traditional planning approaches, the CBP process avoids a situation where communities tend to generate an unrealistic wish- list of demands. Instead, it promotes a realistic account of what is possible under situational constraints and within existing assets.

 

One of the key outputs of the ALS was that of building the capacity of SANReMP implementers in participatory planning. This output with its requisite set of activities would fall under the ‘Guiding the project strategy’ component of the M4I.

 

Overall the process could be described as a success in that it managed to raise awareness amongst the SANReMP implementers as to the importance of involving communities. The training process was facilitated over a period of two weeks, beginning with the theory, and then followed by the field process on. The training was designed specifically for the field staff for SANReMP, and the Khanya CBP manual was therefore adapted to suite the administrative processes in Lesotho.

 

The entire process was mostly facilitated using the local language, Sesotho. This was to ensure that the SANReMP facilitators understand the value of facilitating community based planning processes using the local language to ensure maximum participation by community members. The training was also facilitated by Basotho, from Khanya, to also ensure that it’s people who understand the cultural dynamics of the country, and to ensure the community is involved and not alienated through the planning process.

 

Although the objectives of the training were met, there were however challenges experienced. For instance,  some of the SANReMP facilitators did not attend several of the planned sessions. In addition to this there were challenges with logistics, as one of the venues for the training was not conducive for our purposes, especially when the weather got bad.  

 

Part of the community based planning process entails pre- planning. The pre-planning processes are crucial in gaining the trust and confidence of the community and also involving community leaders from the beginning of the planning process.  This therefore meant that Khanya facilitators had to work with what was presented to them to ensure that the process was effective and relevant.

 

It is also worth mentioning that most of the SANReMP facilitators were very participatory and eager to understand the CBP process, and in some of the districts there were other role players fro the ministries that joined the field work part of the training. This was however both and negative and a positive- positive in the sense that it showed the eagerness from the ministries to link the various processes, and a negative because these individuals had not attended the theory aspect of the training and would at times derail the process.

 

Process flow for the CBP theory training

 

  • Providing a background of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) and how it applies to community based planning.
  • Providing an outline of Community Based Planning process, and the importance of understanding the administrative process for effective planning process.
  • Providing the importance of involving the various stakeholders in the planning process, and also exploring the role that each of the stakeholders play both at the level of the leadership and community members.
  • Providing the SANReMP facilitators with the skills to facilitate community planning tools.

 

 

Observations from training (theory and field)

 

  • The pre-planning process ensured that communities turned out in large numbers, and this was made evident by the fact that even though the sessions took approximately six hours, the community members were willing to stay on right until the end.

 

  • Their eagerness to share information and provide the facilitators with the rich history and their experiences was astonishing. They would go into great length in explaining events that led to the current situation (poverty and unsustainable farming practices), and also providing information on what they think the government should provide them with in order for them to have sustainable livelihoods.
  • In all the three districts the main challenge that they experienced was that of lack of access to markets, where they can sell their produce. For most of them they farm for subsistence purpose, but would rather sell their produce.

 

  • The facilitators from SANReMP were also very comfortable facilitating the tools, and the indicated that what made it easy for them was the fact that they were facilitating in a language that they are familiar with, and that the community understands.

 

  • The facilitators were also very comfortable with the tools, and this was as a result of them having used the tolls before, and what they indicated was that they had never used the tools all together as presented by the CBP, and yet the CBP process assisted in the gathering data for better and relevant planning.

 

  • One major challenge raised by the facilitators was the fact that some of the issues that the communities raised were not relevant to the ministries of agriculture and forestry, and were concerned that they would not be in a position to respond to some of the issues.

 

The CBP training was the first real experience that Khanya SMIP staff had in supporting an Action Learning Site. For us, this opportunity presented several lessons which will help us move forward with subsequent activities and these are:

  1. The importance of understanding fully the context within which one is working. Without an understanding of the cultural dynamics, the vernacular, the way the bureaucracy works, the process would not have been conducted within the anticipated timeframe and with the required patience that it needs!
  2. It was an advantage that Khanya operates from Bloemfontein, which is close to Lesotho and has an office in Lesotho as this helped with initiating meetings and in maintaining constant contact.
  3. The success of the  support to SANReMP as an ALS cannot be limited to promoting M4I in the programme. SANReMP is an important programme which requires deep understanding of the politics and economics of national agricultural and rural development. This implies that SANReMP’s success as a multi departmental programme rests on factors beyond its internal capacity to implement the programme- issues of governance and the political economy (especially value chains and markets) need to come into the fold of awareness as well if it is to succeed.

Written by Keneilwe Thipe and Thevan Naidoo