By: Thandiwe Kubere

Responding climate change crisis remains a critical factor globally, forcing nations to take action in order to mitigate its effects. As a way of responding to the call for action, World Vision International Lesotho, in partnership with the Christian Council of Lesotho and other organizations launched the Faith Partnerships for Environmental Stewardship and Climate Action (ESCA) Project.

The primary goal of the project is to contribute towards household and community reliance, and child participation in climate change and adaptation and mitigation. National Director of World Vision International Lesotho James Chifwelu declared the organization has a similar commitment with the Christian Council of Lesotho in addressing the climate change under the social component of environmental care. 

“It may appear strange today that we are talking about climate change with faith leaders and we just want to emphasize that it is a dimension that is very important because of the role churches play in the society. The first influence is that they change hearts, so without proper involvement of the church and faith leaders, the planned actions cannot be well effected”, he said. 

Mr Chifwelu further noted the partnership recognized the call made by the government of Lesotho for the need to adapt and be resilient against climate change and addressing its impact. He declared the government has recognized the urgency of addressing climate change, acknowledging its impact on socio-economic development. “As a child-focused, Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision is dedicated to supporting Lesotho in meeting its climate goals and obligations under international treaties.” 

The anticipated outcomes of the Project are that since Faith leaders influence positive social norms and behaviours, they will enable responsiveness of households and communities to Climate Change.

Therefore, empowerment of faith leaders should lead to an increase in awareness of urgency among children and other targeted groups to participate in Environment Sustainability and Climate Action. Additionally, another outcome is to have improved practices on conservation (land and water) and greenhouse gas emission reduction, resulting with actions taken by ESCA Champions.

Moreover, participation of boys and girls in climate change education, mitigation and adaptation is expected to improve, therefore, driving positive shifts in behaviours regarding Climate Change amongst boys and girls. Another outcome is to have improved collaboration with Faith Actors and their communities and have a contribution of Faith based approaches to further ESCA.

“Our collaboration with the Christian Council of Lesotho is crucial in harnessing the influential role of the church in promoting environmental care within faith communities. This partnership aligns with the predominantly Christian identity of Lesotho and provides impetus for faith-based development”, he said.

World Vision’s current initiatives in Lesotho aim to enhance the well-being of 580,000 children and 250,000 households by 2025, focusing on climate action, health, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, child protection, and faith and development.

Recognizing the divine mandate Christians have to care for the environment, this project aims to catalyse positive cultural change. The aim is to foster mind-sets, behaviours, and practices that enable communities to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Children are integral stakeholders in our climate action efforts. They are not only engaged but also encouraged to challenge and lead interventions for climate action. In affirming their participation, the project’s outcomes will reflect the meaningful contributions of children to environmental care.

The project aims to reach at least 15,000 Basotho with climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in Leribe and Mokhotlong districts. “Through collaboration with the church, development partners, and the government, we hope to mobilize Basotho towards active participation in climate care, fostering a collective mind-set change”, said Chifwelu.

On behalf of CCL, Pastor Monaheng Sekese asserted that mankind was made to manage the resources that God put on earth, to rule over things and take care of them, further declaring that God’s first command involved stewardship of the earth.

“Any ordinary Mosotho living anywhere in the country is observing the climatic changes occurring in the country, however, not everyone truly understands or comprehends the intensity of the situation. Our seasons have changed from what used to be, winter comes at unexpected times, when the weather is warm, it gets very hot. Something is not right”, he said.

He further encouraged churches to take a step in standing against climate change and not to remain silent when harsh conditions affect their communities. “Every day we see import cars crossing the border into Lesotho; are we prepared to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions? What are we doing to God’s earth? Are we truly the stewards we are meant to be”, he questioned.

He professed it was time for change of behaviours and tendencies, calling on all to interrogate key areas which urge Church leaders and their congregants to be familiar with a wide range of disciplines that would not normally fall into a typical seminary or Bible school program.

“Subjects such as thermodynamics, ecology, systems theory and biology are all topics that need to be integrated into church theory programs. Much of this knowledge and expertise will come from members of the congregation and in this case our partners such as the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and food Security, World Vision, ReNoka, Lesotho Meteorology Services and others will help with the information we need for the project to be effective.

World Vision International Lesotho collaboratively working with partners, carried out a study at Pitseng Leribe and Senqu and the findings were that: Around 46.0% of people believed that climate change is a signs of the world coming to an end and God is punishing people for their sins, which shows how people participate in ESCA; More than 80% of respondents believe weather is something we should accept and live with as it is determined by God, which also shows low participation of people in climate issues.26.6% of respondents on the other hand, believe that climate has nothing to do with children and they need to be excluded from the climate issues which is a “dangerous” mind-set that excludes child participation.

According to the report, common practices which were found to promote climate change were open Defecation, which was found to be at 64.5%, deforestation, which was found to be at 57.0% and Littering at 80.1%, ultimately reported as the most common behaviours that affect the environment. Another contributing factor is that there is less usage of fuel that is less harmful and affordable as only 24.8% of sampled population showed usage of efficient fuel, which is not using wood, coal, animal dung and shrubs as fuel.

As a way of mitigating the contributing factors, ESCA planted trees, which reported as major/prominent land conservation practices in both Senqu (67.5%) and Pitseng (43.6%). Moreover, after community sensitization, 45.9% of respondents reported to do landscape practices as a mitigation measure to preserve land. 42.9% of the population reported to have done some ESCA Initiatives like investing in various types of renewable energy, Creating greener cities and green spaces, Promoting sustainable agriculture and farming methods and more.