St. Camillus Farm Irrigation Project – Lesotho

This project is made possible through the partnership of Water Charity and the National Peace Corps Association.

Mohlakeng, Mohale’s Hoek District Capital, Lesotho

Community Description
Mohlakeng is a community council located in the Maseru District of Lesotho. Its population in 2006 was 18,906. The community of Mohlakeng consists of 81 villages.  Lesotho is an enclaved, landlocked Kingdom in southern Africa completely surrounded by South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size and has a population slightly over two million. About 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day.

The St. Camillus Centre community where the project will be taking place consists of almost 60 individuals: 20 orphans and vulnerable children who live at the St. Camillus children’s home, 15 orphans who live with foster parents in the villages adjacent to Mohlakeng, and 24 adults who are living with HIV/AIDS who are dependent on the Centre for food, clothing, and rent money.  Mohale’s Hoek is considered by the Ministry of Social Development to be one of the three most vulnerable districts in Lesotho: 24% are HIV+, 75% rely on subsistence farming on the limited arable land available (10%), approximately 70% live at or below the poverty level, and 40% of children under the age of 5 years are malnourished.

St. Camillus is one of the few orphanages in Lesotho that cares for children under the age of 5 years.  There currently are 10 children less than 5 years and 80% of them are below normal weight for their age.  Funds to maintain the Centre’s operations are chronically limited and food shortages occur regularly thus impacting the quality and quantity of nutritious food provided.

Problem Addressed
The St. Camillus Centre does not have adequate irrigation to grow the crops necessary to feed their residents and sustain their center.  Relying on rainwater is high risk due to changing weather patterns, resulting in less rain beginning later during the growing season, thus negatively impacting harvest yield and their ability to feed the children, and earn a small income from the sale of vegetables to the public.  The Ministry of Agriculture has recommended that St. Camillus dramatically change its farming techniques by adopting Conservation Agriculture to achieve a better yield and improve our income.

Project Description
A critical component of the project includes installing an irrigation system on over 4,800 square meters of vegetable fields at the St. Camillus Farm. With a regular water source from irrigation, fed by natural underground water and cached rain water, the harvest yield will be improved. This in turn will enable more produce to be brought to the market and provide a more reliable source of nutritious food for individuals living in the center.

A “spray” irrigation system will be installed on the fields, as it provides the best versatility for crop rotation with less water loss than a “sprinkler” system. Centrifugal pumps will be installed at the water tanks, fed by wells and rainwater. Irrigation hoses will be placed in trenches and covered with soil. The operation of the sprinklers will be manual (on/off) and a specific watering schedule specific to each crop will be followed.

Thabang Mpokathe, Director of the Qalakheng Evergreen Farms, (QEF), has created a master plan for the design and a phased installation schedule.  To purchase at the best price, the majority of equipment and supplies will be obtained from stores specializing in irrigation in Bloemfontein, Republic of South Africa, and transported to the St. Camillus Centre.

St. Camillus staff will prepare the fields, dig the trenches, and lay the pipes while QEF staff  will install the valves, sprinklers, and controls. The QEF Director will train the St. Camillus staff in operating and maintaining the irrigation system.

Phase one is already underway, and irrigation will be installed in the first field of almost 3,400 square meters.  Phase two and Phase three are pending acquisition of sufficient funds.  Phase two will entail installing irrigation for 1,120 square meters of farm field, and Phase three completing the irrigation in the remaining fields.

The purchase and installation of the irrigation equipment and supplies is a collaborative effort between the vendor, Qalakheng Evergreen Farms and the St. Camillus farm staff. Sister Juliana and the St. Camillus Farm Manager, Mme Mamello Manele are responsible for overseeing the installation, and ensuring that all equipment and supplies are accounted for and installed.  A successful testing of the irrigation system is required before the work will be considered completed, and final payment made to the vendor.

In addition, St. Camillus will offer quarterly workshops to the community (starting in the 2nd quarter of 2016) in conservation agriculture and irrigation. The goal is provide training in the tools and techniques to improve farming practices in the community, raise the level of income and provide more abundant nutritious food.  The goal is to train 20 individuals each quarter (up to 80 per year), focusing on inclusion of the under-employed, impoverished individuals, and people living with HIV/AIDS. With education from the workshops and practical experience on the farm, these individuals will gain the knowledge and expertise to implement the new methodologies on a scale appropriate to their means.

Project Impact
At least 120 individuals will be impacted in 2016 and this number will increase as the farm becomes more successful. Those individuals under the care and support of the St. Camillus Centre will be directly impacted: 20 resident orphans, 15 orphans in community-based foster homes, and 24 people living with HIV/AIDS (total 59 individuals) by the improved harvest yield and sales achieved by the irrigation project. These individuals receive food, clothing, education, and employment as a result of the vegetables and income produced by the St. Camillus Farm.

The Centre will be able to ensure employment to the existing 4 farm workers and 4 orphanage matrons, it will hire 2 additional full time staff and will augment the number of workers (up to 6 or more) during the planting and harvesting seasons. Even these small numbers of employed community residents improve the economy and wellbeing of the region surrounding the Centre.  The increased and more reliable vegetable harvest will impact families in the Mohale’s Hoek District capital and surrounding villages who rely on the market for a secure source of produce throughout the year.

The Mohale’s Hoek District capital and surrounding villages support numerous public and faith-based pre-school, primary, and secondary schools.  All the schools provide lunch for their students and have already sought commitments from the Centre to provide fresh vegetables that will enhance the nutrient value of the school meals.  The Centre is also planning to market produce to the local hospital, hotels, and large Catholic convents in the Mohale’s Hoek area.

Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
Stephanie Sales

Monitoring and Maintenance
Ntate Thabang Mpokathe, Director of QEF, will train the farm staff on the operation and maintenance of the system. Ntate Kometsi, Assistant Farm Manager, is responsible for weekly maintenance checks and reporting and/or repairing irrigation issues, as needed.

The St. Camillus Centre for Orphans and Children is directly involved in the planning, implementation, management, monitoring, and reporting of the irrigation project.  Sister Julian, Director of St. Camillus Centre, manages all aspects of the project. St Camillus collaborates with our consultant, Ntate Mpokathe, Director of QEF to ensure adequate resources are available and that all St. Camillus staff is well trained to maintain the irrigation system after implementation. 100% of the income from produce sales is used to maintain the non-profit, charitable activities and operations of the St. Camillus Center, which includes the orphanage, sponsoring foster children, providing sustenance to the needy, and the farm.  The sale of the produce will enable the Centre to reduce its dependence on funds from international NGOs and charitable organizations as well as improving the quality of care and support for those individuals now served.

St. Camillus has recently joined a coalition of local farmers, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, who meet monthly.   Leaders from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Commerce facilitated a meeting, which included both farmers and a coalition of local produce vendors.  Local vendors in the 3 district capitals near the St. Camillus Centre expressed strong interest in purchasing local produce. The coalitions and the Ministry of Agriculture are very motivated to reduce the dependence on the import of produce from South Africa and are identifying mechanisms to better plan and coordinate crop rotations, pricing, and sales management. The benefits to the community are clear: improved crop management to serve local nutritional needs, better sale prices to the local community, and overall strengthening of the local economy due to increased employment.

This project has been fully funded by an anonymous donor.

This project has been completed.  To see the results, CLICK HERE.