Providing Lesotho's Children with Keys to the World

This is the story of our efforts to end the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, inadequate education, and early death
in a remote rural community in Lesotho, Africa, by providing quality education and life skills
to the young children there. Join us on our journey ...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pueblo West Laptops

This is a follow up to a post written last week. For quite a while now we have been discussing with Pueblo West High School the possibility of receiving some of their used student laptops. They are Dell laptops, not XO, and we plan on transitioning the older students in Lesotho to these computers to help them attain marketable computer skills using Windows-based programs. A few weeks ago we found out that Pueblo West will be donating 25-50 Dell laptops to the L2L project! The computers are to be used for students in the Nohana School. Pueblo West students have raised over $1000 to pay for shipping the laptops to Lesotho - they want to be sure the laptops get to the school. The Dell laptops will be stored temporarily until there are sufficient solar panels in place at Nohana Primary to charge and use the laptops efficiently.We are currently working on figuring out what programs to install on the laptops for students to use and learn.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

International Aid Really Makes a Difference in Lesotho

International aid works.
If you don’t believe that, check out this New York Times article: The article documents how international aid has been very effective in slowing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Lesotho and elsewhere. Business for coffin-makers in Lesotho is down as much as 70% from a few years ago, thanks to a concerted international effort to provide better diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Still, there is much more work to be done in the area of prevention, changing attitudes and practices that lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Laptops to Lesotho is trying to help change attitudes and sexual behavior by providing better education and opportunities to the young people of Lesotho.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

50 Dell Laptops Received Today

Today, Sherrie Howey picked up 50 Dell laptops from Pueblo West High School, in Pueblo West, Colorado.  PWHS is replacing all their student laptops and donated 50 of the old ones to Laptops to Lesotho. 

A very special THANK YOU to Principal Martha Nogare, the Pueblo West Board of Education, and the students of PWHS who helped raise over $1000 to ship the laptops to Lesotho.

Project Evaluation Meeting

On Monday 09 July 2012, Janissa Balcomb, Fortunate Gunzo, and Sherrie Howey held a conference call via Skype to discuss the project evaluation.  Janissa will be sending out a draft brief this week to interested parties for comments and suggestions. 

Why an evaluation is important
  • We want to determine if the approach we are using is effective and if there are ways we can improve it.
  • We need to determine if the project is successfully meeting our objectives or not.
Short-term aims: to evaluate
  1. project implementation process
  2. student academic achievement
  3. student computer-related job skills
  4. role of the computer program within the school curriculum
  5. views about the project
Data for short-term aims 2-4 will be collected by L2L volunteers.  Fortunate and Sherrie will be brainstorming methodology for these aims and will meet again in August to draw up details. 
Data for aims 1 and 5 will be collected by independent outside people.

Long-term aims: to evaluate
  1. long-term impacts on students, including
    - education (highest level achieved)
    - employment (income level, job type and level),
    - finances (annual income, net worth, debt)  
    - societal (status in the community, size and quality of social network),
    - family (marital status, number of children), and
    - health (psychological stability, risky behaviors , physical condition, and longevity).
  2. long-term impact on teachers, including- skills acquired or improved on, such as computer proficiency, teaching skills, language and math skills, and interpersonal communications, 
    - formal education (highest level achieved), 
    - employment (income level, job type and level, location of employment),
    - finances (annual income, net worth, debt)  
    - societal (status in the community, size and quality of social network), 
    - family (marital status, number of children), and
    - health (psychological stability, risky behaviors , physical condition, and longevity
Data for both long-term aims 1 and 2 will be collected by independent outside people.

We hope to have 1-2 control groups for comparison, one at a school with no computers and possibly another school with computers that were deployed using a more traditional approach (i.e. computers are deployed with little or no preparation of the human resource prior to deployment, training and support is minimal or short-lived, and no effort is made to provide supporting educational materials or to incorporate the computers into the existing curriculum).

Janissa, Fortunate, and Sherrie will meet in September to finalize the evaluation plan. We hope to begin implementing the evaluation process and collecting data starting in January 2013.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Meeting with Pueblo West High School Principal Martha Nogare

L2L Director Sherrie Howey met with Martha Nogare on June 27th. 
Here are notes from that meeting:
  • Pueblo West High School (PWHS), with the approval of the Board of Education, is donating 25 to 50 Dell Latitude D630 laptops to the L2L project.
  • The computers are to be used for schools in the Nohana Mission.  This includes Nohana Primary School and Nohana Secondary School.  (Sherrie did not ask yet if that also includes Kokobe Primary. 
  • Principal Nogare made clear that this is happening because of Matlabe and that PWHS wants 'his' kids to benefit.   
  • The laptops will be picked up from PWHS by L2L on Wednesday July 11th.
  • The money the PWHS students have already donated to L2L ($717.16) is to be used for shipping. They have raised an additional $357.89, as yet to be delivered to L2L, and they want it to be used for shipping as well. They really want to be sure the computers get to the schools.
  • Principal Nogare understands that the computers won't be sent to Lesotho until L2L raises enough money to install solar power to charge the PWHS laptops.  Until the solar power system is in place, the laptops will be stored in  the U.S.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Food Crisis in Lesotho

Food security goes from bad to worse

MOHALE'S HOEK, 26 June (IRIN) - Initial estimates of the damage to Lesotho's already ailing agricultural sector - caused by a year of too much rain followed by a year of too little - suggest that an unprecedented number of small-scale farmers harvested nothing this year.

Heavy rains and flooding [ ] cut Lesotho's maize production by nearly half during the 2010-11 farming season, causing the price of maize meal to increase by 24 percent between March 2011 and March 2012 and putting a heavy strain on the 40 percent of the population already living in extreme poverty.

The 2011-12 season began with a prolonged period of drought which caused many small-scale farmers not to plant at all rather than gamble scarce resources on crops that would be vulnerable to frost. [ ]

As a result, what should be a time of plenty has become an extension of the pre-harvest lean season for many. The precise number in need of humanitarian assistance will only become clear when the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) completes its annual food security and vulnerability assessment at the end of June, but a crop forecast by the Bureau of Statistics has already estimated major declines in both total area planted and yields. [ ]

"It's actually worse than last year, and we thought last year was the worst," said Matseliso Mojaki, the DMA's acting chief executive. "Maybe those heavy rains washed away some of the soil nutrients so even those who managed to plant didn't get a good yield."

According to the crop forecast, the overall area planted in the 2011-2012 agricultural year decreased by nearly 40 percent from the previous year and the total expected production of maize, the staple crop, fell by 77 percent. Yields of sorghum and wheat have also declined significantly.

Survival for many of Lesotho's subsistence farmers has been precarious for years as soil erosion resulting from poor farming practices, HIV/AIDS and increasingly unpredictable weather have all taken their toll. Although 82 percent of Lesotho's population of 1.8 million engage in some form of agriculture, the amount this contributes to the country's GDP has declined from 25 percent in the 1980s to 10 percent in the last decade and 7.7 percent following last year's floods, according to the Bureau of Statistics.

The cumulative effect of two poor or non-existent harvests on top of years of slowly declining productivity has pushed more and more Basotho to start employing what Hassan Abdi, a programme officer with the World Food Programme (WFP) describes as "negative coping mechanisms" such as selling off assets, taking children out of school and reducing meals.

Makhahliso Chabeli, a subsistence farmer from the country's southeastern Mohale's Hoek District, has sold off one cow a year over the past four years to pay for her childrens' schooling. But following a particularly disastrous farming season and left with just three cattle, she doubts her three younger children will complete secondary school.

No equipment for ploughing

Others in Chabeli's community have already sold all their livestock and some have started selling their furniture and even their land, while many of those that still have land cannot afford to farm it.

"We have two fields, but we haven't farmed for three years now," said Thato Hatsi, 19. "We don't have the equipment to plough."

In a normal year, Hatsi's mother labours in her neighbours' fields for an income, but in a year in which so few planted, even this work has dried up.

Abdi of WFP noted that many rural dwellers have resorted to moving into the country's urban areas. "You're seeing abnormal numbers of people in town with nothing to sell, just begging," he told IRIN.

For Chabeli and Hatsi there is some temporary relief in the form of emergency food assistance through WFP which is reaching 40,000 people in the two districts of Mohale's Hoek and neighbouring Quthing.

About half the beneficiaries, including 64 households in Chabeli's community, are earning their monthly rations of maize, pulses and vegetable oil through a Food for Work programme that encourages participants to work on projects that will benefit the entire community. Chabeli's community elected to work on shoring up a `donga' (ravine caused by soil erosion) that contributes to recurrent flooding in the area.

"There's a lot of hunger," said Kelebone Sephelane, who along with Chabeli was chosen by the community to help supervise the four-month project. "We're thankful for this project, but there's nothing to do after July [when it ends]. We're pleading for it to be extended."

However, Abdi said an extension would depend on WFP finding additional funding which was likely to take several months.

Climatic shocks

In the long term, addressing Lesotho's chronic and increasing food security will mean helping subsistence and smallholder farmers prepare and adapt to increasing variability in rainfall linked to climate change.

In a paper released last year, [ ] the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that climate-related stresses have long been prevalent in Lesotho, but "What has changed in recent times. is the apparent increasing frequency, magnitude and duration of climatic shocks, leaving little or no time to recover from the last event."

Mojaki of the DMA admitted that the country was still in the process of developing strategies to deal with climate change and associated natural disasters. "Most of the time we're reacting to shocks as they come," she told IRIN. "I think we do need a long-term strategy, but at the moment implementation due to lack of resources is the problem."

She noted that the national disaster management fund had been empty for several years and that her department's budget was a mere US$106,000 in 2011, rising to $710,000 this year.

Pilot programme

FAO together with the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation recently completed a two-year pilot programme to strengthen farmers' capacity to adapt to climate change in three areas of the country. In Mabalane village in Mohale's Hoek, which is one of the driest parts of the country, Moorosi Nchejana was one of 40 local farmers selected by the community to participate in the project. His experiences with poultry farming, growing fruit trees and collecting rain water to irrigate a vegetable plot are being closely watched by the rest of the community.

So far, the installation of a rain water tank and drip irrigation system at Nchejana's homestead has been the difference between growing just enough vegetables to feed his family and having a surplus to sell and pay for other necessities. At a cost of just under $200, the system is relatively cheap, but still beyond the means of most of Nchejana's neighbours.

"Most people would want it, but most wouldn't be able to afford it," he commented.

The extent to which such projects can be scaled up to other parts of the country and prove sustainable will depend on government buy-in and long-term budget allocations, notes the FAO paper.
This report is online at: