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Heavy rains bring challenges

Flooded maize field in Thaba Tseka district

While most people especially farmers are enjoying the good rains, some of the families are being left hopeless and with pain in their hearts as they would have lost their belongings and loved ones due to the massive rains that have been falling over the past few weeks.

There was a near panic among people - from the month of October up to about December 2016 during the dry season, that brought a gloomy reminder of the previous year’s devastating drought – as they pondered over net another El Nino-induced dry season. But then, La Nina, which is the opposite effect of El Nino came in and heavy downpours were witnessed towards the end of December until now – and with them came the disaster.

Deputy Police Public Relations officer, Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki warned members of the public to take care of themselves and their loved ones, especially children who were susceptible to drowning in the flooding rivers and dams during the period of December through to January when there were heavy rains.

Motseki also warned Basotho against crossing the flooded rivers without checking on the water levels to check whether it is safe to cross to the other side. She also pleaded with teenage boys to stop swimming in dams and rivers as current statistics have shown a rise in drowning incidents. She said the statistics reveal that the most affected group are children between the ages of 10-12 who are at high risk of drowning as they are sent by their parents to herd the animals under heavy rain.

She said police have realized that most parents in the rural areas do not take care about the safety of their children and are only concerned about their animals, and in that case the police would hold parents accountable should their children drown while herding cattle, sheep and goats. She also said police were against the practice by some churches that use dams and rivers to baptize or ‘cleanse’ their congregates as it was dangerous to do so during this particular season.

Related incidents that have been reported to the police vary widely, with some that could have been avoided while some others are natural disasters. Motseki outlines some of them:

On December 18 2016, a student from Limkokwing University drowned at Maqalika while swimming with friends, while a 19 year old man drowned in Katse Dam on December 19th while running away from the police and on December 24 the body of dead man aged between 25-26 was found in a dam at Ntširele and police are yet to find relatives of the deceased.

On December 25 2016, she said, four people, two males and two females were saved by the police after their car fell into the Maqalika water reservoir and on January 9, 2017 a storm destroyed several houses in Kau, Butha Buthe, but luckily no life was lost.

Police further said on January 16 at Ha Ngoajane, a priest was holding a baptismal ceremony when a nine year-old girl drowned and her sister also drowned as she tried to rescue her. On the January 10 a 10 year-old boy drowned at Butha-Buthe while he was herding some animals and in the same month, a 20 year-old man of Lithabaneng, Ha Keiso, is reported to have drowned at Mejametalane Dam while a 10 year-old boy drowned at Metolong Dam as they were running away from a bull which was chasing them.

An official at the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) Charles Tšeole said people should expect normal to above normal rainfall in January but some places such as the urban areas have received deficient rainfall because of the rain bearing systems following the severe El Niño of 2015/16.

Meanwhile Tšeole noted that the mountainous places such as Qacha’s Nek, Mokhotlong and Semonkong have received normal to above normal rainfall. However, he said some districts in the north, particularly Leribe and Butha-Buthe, have not yet received normal rainfall  and it was more likely that  the rains may increase in intensity in February  and move to other districts.

 On the issue of some places getting floods, Tšeole said that Butha- Buthe as one of the places that were reported to have experienced floods but it was only a one day experience which did not increase the average rainfall of the district.

He said that people should not take this years’ rains as something off the norm because usually in summer rains are expected in good time for the season except for the past years where most of the countries in the South of Africa experienced the effects of El Niño.

He said that even in normal circumstances where the country experiences more rain than normal, dams, rivers and valleys still get filled up and while this is not something new, Basotho should continue with the necessary precautions.

Tšeole urged people to be cautious and whenever they see the dark clouds coming they should move away from places that are near the water bodies for their own safety as they might be trapped.  The LMS, he said believes that it is necessary to organize an awareness campaign so that people are aware of climate change and its effects.

On the part of farmers the Lesotho National Agriculture Farmers Union (Lenafu) president Motsau Khuele said this year’s rain season was much better as most farmers ventured into farming activities despite the challenges that come with the rain.

He said that even though the rains have been that much this year, challenges such as pest control in the fields will be experienced and very soon, the problem of worms will surface in animals.

In order to fight the challenge farmers will have to work together with experts and not leaving behind the government.

Khuele also mentioned that some of the challenge he has realized is that many people are now behind with the weeding process and the weeds are now high due to the rains and for the fact that most farmers are still used to the cultural way of weeding they may experience challenges with that.

He explained that most farmers who will depend on people to help with weeding will experience problems because nowadays most of the youth are no longer interested in farming processes and they are busy hunting for jobs in towns with little or no time to help with the weeding.

He then advised most farmers to consider using chemicals for weeding so that they do not end up losing their produce because of the weeds they might fail to remove on time. He said that the chemicals are now available for every farmer who wishes to use them but they will have to seek advice before in order to run away from ending up using inappropriate measures which will later cause danger to both the plants and the soil.

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