By Kwanele Sibanda (on behalf of CORC and SDI)
The Kingdom of Lesotho is a landlocked country in the South Eastern region of South Africa. The country’s population is still largely rural, and major multilateral organisations have supported the Government of Lesotho on strategies for poverty reduction. Despite the growing investments in public infrastructure, especially around agricultral reforms. Little has been done in strengthening civil society’s ability to generate livelihood opportunities for poverty alleviation. The South African Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) has been mobilising and sharing experiences with an emerging federation of community leaders in Lesotho since 2011.
Alina (FEDUP) making a presentation in Butha-Butha
Through exchanges with the South African federation, savings schemes were established in a number of urban and peri-urban areas including: Qopo, Ramagwebe, Buwasono, Mabote, Hatetsane and Qalaheng. These exchanges also resulted in the identification of four community leaders who have engaged the South African federation in the activities taking place in Lesotho.
In January 2013, a delegation from FEDUP visited the emerging Lesotho federation. This two-way exchange was beneficial to both groups: FEDUP brings a lot of experience in brokering deals with formal institutional, especially the government, while the Lesotho groups, with very limited support from the state, continues to inspire and rejuvenate the real spirit behind self-reliance through savings and livelihoods opportunities. Some of the central discussions facilitated included the following:
- Importance of determination, unity and honesty as demonstrated by the Butha-Butha members who started and are successfully running a livestock (pigs) project. In line with the above is the importance of identifying a need before an individual or groups starts saving.
- The South African group developed links with nine groups in Lesotho. The relationship created between the two is now a platform of sharing experiences around dealing with day to day developmental challenges as well as means of engaging with various institutions. The relationships created are very important for the South African affiliates since Lesotho members have already started demonstrating enthusiasm of using various poverty alleviation methods with limited support from formal institutions.
- At this stage, the above is crucial for the FEDUP as it is a way of curbing dependency on formal institutions like government and NGOs.
- The lessons learnt of self-reliance can be applied back at home in the form of strengthening income generating projects to support savings for the targeted goals.
- The Lesotho community water supply system uses a tag to monitor water wastage and maintenance. The South African delegation was very impressed with this system, which could inform a new community-based monitoring approach of water usage in informal settlements.
- The group started off with 107 members; however it is now left with 20 committed members.
- The members have saved up R1 300, but they have not yet opened a bank account.
- They named their saving scheme Kopanang Basuthu meeting ‘Let the Suthu tribe unite’.
- The members are saving for a poultry project as well as a catering business.
- The group was advised by the South African delegates to open a bank account for the security of their savings.
- The group has twenty-one active members.
- The group has been saving, however it has just started disintergrating because of a member who collected money for savings books from members, but did not deliver them.
- The S.A delegates played a role of re-emphasizing the importance of choosing trustworty members to deal with their transactions, making constant follow ups as well as ensuring that women lead the process.
- Hatetsane is not the only group that was affected by the deeds of the dishonest man. In a report given in a meeting with the last group, it emerged that the man in question swingled members in different groups and it is estimated that about 450 members fell victim.
- In order to try and ease the commotion or re-unite the members, the visiting team left 132 savings books for the members to start saving while the matter is being dealt with. The decision of leaving the books for the members was well considered and it was made in the light that the value of the books can not be compared to the image of the organization especially at its establishment. This however does not mean that it is always the alliance’s responsibility to correct the wrong doing of members.
- A group of 18 interested members were mobilized by the leaders prior to the South African delegation visit via SDI.
- An alliance presentation was made and it was followed by an answer and question segment.
- A thorough explanantion was made on how the saving system works.
- The group has twenty active members.
- Since this was a new group, a presentation was done and the savings recording system was explained to them.
- The group has 25 members
- The group was assisted in making corrections in their books.
- They named their group Sebetsang Kalerato meaning ‘show love in the work that you do’.
- The group also mobilized the youth and they formed their own group called Future World. The youth have saved R100
- Before the goup was mobilized by the federation leaders, they were already organized. The 10 members made contributions and started a Pig Project.
- The only challenge is that the members are from different settlements.
- The group was encouraged to continue with the project and again start saving schemes in their various settlements.
MATLAKENG – HLOHLORA BOFUMA SAVING SCHEME
- The group was mobilized by the Lesotho leaders. The members have started saving however they mentioned that they infrequently meet and the moral of the members became low when they could not get savings books after paying for them.
- The members were encouraged to stay focused on their vision, be vigilent, and expect some uncertainity along the way and to also work as a team in addressing their own challenges.
The exchange visit to Lesotho was a two way learning process for all the participants. The community members of Lesotho can be alikened to those of Zambia and Zimbabwe in the sense that in the midst of economic and unemployment challenges, they still remain with self-reliance approach to life. It is for the same reason that most groups already had income generating projects even before being mobilized. Lesotho therefore has the potential of having a strong federation. Savings in most groups is mainly meant for expanding existing projects. In terms of upgrading, a great population has houses however most of them require rennovation and being extended. The South African SDI delegates leant about a water supply system that can be of use to most South African informal settlement. The water system is a simple community tap that is in form of a hose pipe that has a mechanism that uses a tag for producing water. The tags can be topped up at most tuckshops. The system saves water since it can not be left running unless a tag is inserted and it also saves the copper that is normally stolen from tapes.
The South African delegation team had two main concerns and recommendations regarding the Lesotho federation. The first one is the need for groaming savings champions and that can be done starting with a national savings workshop. The Lesotho leaders proposed that it must be done during the first week of February 2013. The second concern from the team was the coordination of activities that requires at least one external person to act as an NGO for example for the distribution of savings books and compiling savings reports. The Lesotho leaders are capable of identifying one such person.