Photo: Uniformed children in class in Ha Nqabeni primary school, Lesotho. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. - Photo: 2016

UN Gears Up to Help Lesotho End Poverty

By Majara Molupe

MASERU (IDN) – The United Nations in Lesotho is set to help the Mountain Kingdom implement Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular Goal One: End Poverty in all its manifestations, including extreme poverty, over the next 15 years in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, comprising 17 Goals approved by UN member states on September 25, 2015.

Sylvia Tiisetso Khabele, the UN Volunteer on UN Communications told IDN that the key priorities of the world body’s work on SDGs in 2016 include strengthening national capacities and those of the UN system for implementation of the Agenda 2030.

“We will support the Government in finalization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report, also reflecting lessons learned and how these can be considered in translating the SDGs into reality,” she explained.

The 2015 Lesotho Annual UN Country Results Report indicates that although the country was recently upgraded to Middle Income Country (MIC) status, poverty and inequality continue to be chronic challenges: 57.1% of the population lives in poverty, with poverty more prevalent in the rural areas.

“The country needs inclusive growth and stronger private sector participation to be able to lift the Basotho out of poverty particularly the young, as more than half of the population is below the age of 24,” she said. The Basotho are Bantu ethnic group whose ancestors have lived in southern Africa since around the fifth century.

The UN agencies have a key role to play in supporting countries in taking to the SDGs, mainstreaming them into their national plans and policies and implementing them. To support countries in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN system has come out with a guidance tool called Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPs).

Following the issuance of MAPs, the UN System in Lesotho has drafted the SDGs Roadmap for consultations with national partners.

Sylvia Tiisetso Khabele, UN Volunteer in Communications at United Nations, Office of the Resident Coordinator“Discussions with the government will also focus on enhancing existing mechanisms to address cross-sectoral issues such as poverty and health. Additional evidence-based recommendations and a detailed cost breakdown of interventions might be required to support government action plans,” she added.

The UN System is looking at developing the data for sustainable development project in partnership with the European Union (EU), Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Development Planning.

This intervention will contribute to realisation of the national, regional and global targets as enshrined in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) and SDGs by also promoting centrality and availability of quality data, strengthening stakeholder coordination and leadership in collection, dissemination and use of development data.

In line with the NSDP, Khabele reiterated that the UN in Lesotho seeks to help the people and government of Lesotho achieve increased and sustainable agricultural growth, food security, access to energy, and resilience to climate change, while also ensuring sustainable usage of natural resources and protecting the environment.

“Lesotho lagged behind in achieving the MDGs targets of reducing poverty and hunger by half. Given the country’s landscape and socio-economic conditions, agriculture, environment and natural-resources management have a significant role to play in whether Lesotho is now able to achieve the SDGs.

“Unfortunately, the overall performance of these relevant sectors has failed to live up to expectations, fuelling the pervasive poverty and chronic food insecurity, and worsening the health of many Basotho,” Khabele said.

To date, a sizeable number of progressive farmers have established small to medium-sized agribusiness ventures, with the support of different UN agencies. “These businesses are predominately in horticulture (green houses), while there is little focus on small-livestock production (poultry, piggery and other).”

Khabele added: “The UN family continues to build multi-faceted resilience among the most vulnerable segments of Lesotho’s population. In 2014 alone, the UN in Lesotho provided access to fortified food commodities to more than 25,000 beneficiaries through the UN Food-For-Assets Programme. These resilience-building programmes were accompanied by technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of key institutions for emergency early warning, preparedness and responses to food crises.”

The UN is also working towards integrating social protection with agriculture, through promotion of home gardens and nutrition education amongst recipients of social grants.

Recognizing how important environmental and natural resources management are to improve and sustain the livelihoods of local communities, Khabele said the UN system continues to mobilize and train communities on sustainable land management, conservation-based agricultural production techniques/practices, and how to apply renewable-energy technologies.

Lesotho’s youth unemployment rate, according to ‘The Economic Impact of Youth Unemployment in Lesotho, November 2012’, is estimated at 38.0 per cent in 2010 by the International Labour Organisations (ILO).

Meanwhile, the public relations officer of the Ministry of Development Planning, Mpho Mosili said there is already a roadmap that they are going to follow when implementing the SDGs especially towards eradicating poverty.

She said presentations have already been made before the Parliament and they were well received by the Members of Parliament. “What is left with us now is to go out there to the communities to sensitise them about these SDGs and what do they entail,” she explained.

Lesotho United Nations Development Assistance Plan (LUNDAP) 2013-2017, shows that the Minister of Development Planning will form part of the UN Country Programme Steering Committee that will be established to guide UN operations in alignment with government priorities.

In this regard, the document shows that the government will invite UN Agencies to its periodic programme reviews and relevant planning meetings, which the UN Agencies are supporting.

Poverty is rife in Lesotho and the rural communities are the ones most hard hit because most of them survive on rain-fed agriculture and do not have any other means of survival.

According to United Nations in Lesotho ‘Delivering As One‘ Toolkit, the UN helps address Lesotho’s development challenges by providing evidence-based policy advice and sharing innovation and international best practices.

It further shows that the UN continues to support the government in addressing the development agenda, strengthening national capacities and using its convening role to bring together different stakeholders and facilitated multi-sectoral processes to inform policies and programmes. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 September 2016]

Top photo: Uniformed children in class in Ha Nqabeni primary school, Lesotho. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Left photo: Sylvia Tiisetso Khabele, UN Volunteer in Communications at United Nations, Office of the Resident Coordinator.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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