On the face of it, this
video documentary appears to be about the impact of the displacement of
thousands following the construction of a dam in Lesotho to address the
country's chronic water shortage after years of droughts,
but it goes further than that, providing unique insights into daily life
in the Kingdom of Lesotho, a small mountain independent nation that is
home to some 2,000,000 people and an enclave within South Africa.
Lesotho is a country in
crisis at risk of being wiped out, not by invasion or warfare but by a
virus ~ HIV ~ a virus that is sweeping across the country affecting
of the population and half of all women.
As one village elder from
Nazareth Haphloane commented "At this rate of dying, this village will
soon be wiped out ... We are burying a child or adult victim of Aids
almost every day."
Lesotho has more children who have lost parents to
AIDS than any other country on the planet and many of these children are
later abandoned on the streets by adults who cannot care for them or
simply aren't prepared to share their limited resources with other
people's HIV positive children "who are going to die anyway." Life expectancy in Lesotho
is under forty years and for those few families not affected by the HIV
crisis life remains cruel.
The country has been wracked by political
turmoil, droughts causing severe food shortages and malnutrition, and the
economic slump of 2009 created huge waves of unemployment as those
travelling into South Africa
to work in the mines there found their services were no longer required.
Life in Lesotho is made even more
difficult by the fact that only
10% of its land being cultivable. However ongoing drought conditions have
led the United Nations to report that climate change could shrink this
even further to just 3% within twenty five years. Droughts have occurred in Lesotho for decades,
however recent droughts have been the worst for over a quarter
of a century leaving upwards of a quarter of the population in
need of humanitarian aid just to survive.
Such droughts have
decimated farm crops and many have abandoned the land, not just
because of uncertainty as to whether crops will actually end up
growing but also due to a
shortage of manpower as AIDS sweeps across the kingdom.
This increasing dearth of home grown crops is forcing prices to
rise as the population not have to rely on expensive imports
with Lesotho currently importing 65% percent of its annual maize
needs and 80% of its annual wheat needs.
As such, many go hungry with such prices forcing the provision
of food out of their reach; children attend school under
nourished and unable to concentrate and are further exhausted on
returning from the local walk home from school by replenishing
water supplies as part of their household chores.
Human Development Index for
Lesotho 1980 - Present (Below)
The HDI (Human Development Index) is measured by the UNESCO Institute
for Statistics (UIS) and the World Bank and is based upon the life expectancy,
literacy, access to knowledge and living standards of a country. Lesotho is in 158th place out of 186 countries and territories in 2013 and
the chart below shows how levels of poverty and living standards in Lesotho
now fall slightly short of low human standards.
The drought is now
so severe that the World Food Program estimates that about 30%
of all water reservoirs in Lesotho have now dried up, forcing
mainly women and children to walk hours and miles to access any
Life in Lesotho is about building and maintaining the rural
homestead and the perpetuation of traditional Lesotho
institutions. Its culture is also heavily influenced by its
history of resistance including the 'successful' Gun War, Zulu
attacks and Boer transgressions, and the role of the Sotho
people in developing South Africa not just as a nation but in
educational and religious terms as well.
and composers such as Thomas Mofolo (who wrote the popular novel
'Chaka') and Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa are also celebrated in
Lesotho culture. The two most significant dates in Lesotho
culture are independence day (4th October) and Moshoeshoe's
Day (12th March.)
latter a time for traditional dances, speeches and ceremonies,
whilst the former focuses on celebrating children's achievements
through sport and singing competitions.
Handmade musical instruments such as drums, stringed
instruments, whistles and rattles accompany story tellers and dancers who
embrace their audience as literature, dance and music fuse during the
retelling of ancient folktales.
The video of Lesotho culture, bottom right, features Lesotho dance where traditional dances are
gender specific with 'Mokhibo' and 'Litolobonya' dances for Lesotho women
and 'Ntlamo' and 'Mohobelo' dances for Lesotho men whilst the video
above shows more
about life in Lesotho.