“Send a Cow” is a UK-based international development charity. Global Voices spoke with its Communications Manager, Azita Shamsolahi, about a live Twitter chat, #askLesotho, the group is organising this week.
Ndesanjo Macha (NM): Can you briefly tell us about yourself and your organisation?
Azita Shamsolahi (AS): Founded by farmers in the UK at the height of the milk crisis in 1988, Send a Cow is an international development charity. It works hand in hand with some of Africa’s poorest communities, providing a proven package of ongoing support and practical training, including farming skills, gender equality, sanitation, and money management—alongside livestock and tools—to ensure some of Africa’s most marginalised people have the confidence, knowledge, and skills to help themselves.
Within a few months, malnourished families are eating regularly and are able to pay for children to attend school. Within a year, farmers are diversifying their income streams to ensure they survive the hungry months and unexpected disasters like drought and food shortages.
Send a Cow currently works in seven countries in Africa. The charity has already lifted over 1.3 million people out of poverty and has big plans to give millions more the hope and the means to secure their own futures from the land.
NM: What is the main objective of #askLesotho Twitter chat? What time will it take place?
AS: #askLesotho gives people from around the world an opportunity to learn more about the current crisis in Lesotho and to speak to someone directly on the ground about the conditions and challenges they’re facing.
Twitter users are invited to join the conversation next Wednesday, February 24, between 12 and 1 p.m. GMT, using the hashtag #askLesotho.
NM: Who will be taking questions on behalf of your organisation?
AS: Send a Cow Lesotho’s Country Director, Manthethe Moipone Monethi, will be taking questions on the charity’s behalf.
About Manthethe, our Country Director: ‘‘I grew up in Lesotho. My father worked in the mines (in South Africa) and my mother took care of the household. I remember my mother was a member of a women’s group who did sewing and knitting to earn some extra money. I also remember she was learning bakery, as for a period there were always large multi-coloured cakes in the kitchen.
I always saw myself as a banker, which was very glamourous to me! But after finishing my studies in economics and accounting I went to work for an NGO and loved it. I often worked in the field managing programmes, and I’d feel rewarded at the end of the day when I’d spent it meeting people we’d worked with, as I’d seen their perspective on who they were and what they could achieve completely change, because of the intervention that had brought them hope…
When I think of my hope or vision of the future, it goes back to the reason I stayed on this career path in the first place and that is the people I meet along the way. I want households to be food secure and enjoy three nutritious meals a day. I want to see excitement and hope in people’s eyes as they see their situation changing, which will lead to them becoming more resilient to bad weather and climate shocks. I want to see families brought back together, sharing in their achievements and enjoying the freedom of being able to send their children to school, improve their household, and take care of their families.
Because if you have the means to take care of your family your whole situation changes. You are more hopeful, more confident, and every one of us deserves to feel that way.’’
NM: What is the current situation with the drought in the country?
AS: Lesotho is currently facing its worst drought in recent history. A second year of insufficient rain caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon has left families unable to plant their staple crops such as maize and sorghum, and water sources have dried up killing livestock.
The country recently benefited from a recent downpour but it has done little to ease the crisis. More than a third of the population is thought to be affected by the drought and the World Food Programme estimates that hundreds of thousands of people will require food aid in the coming year.
This drought is particularly devastating as around 80 percent of Lesotho’s population live in rural areas and agriculture is the main source of income for 60 percentof the population. Production of maize, the country’s staple food, has dropped by more than half compared to 2006 causing a deficit which has pushed up food prices. Right now, a third of Lesotho’s population are at threat of hunger and malnutrition.
NM: We understand the government has declared a state of emergency as a result of the drought.
AS: On December 22, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili declared a state of emergency and appealed for assistance from the international community. Lesotho estimates that it needs approximately $37 million USD to provide sufficient water, food, nutritional support, and medication to those most in need but the government has indicated that it has only $9.6 million to support these activities.
NM: Why do you think there is very little coverage of the food crisis in Lesotho as compared to other African countries, such as Ethiopia?
AS: This is an issue we’re hoping to explore in the Twitter chat. We believe it may have something to do with the fact that Lesotho is a little known country in the West whilst countries like Ethiopia have a long history of Western aid and support.
NM: How can people join the chat and send questions?
AS: Twitter users are invited to join the conversation by using and searching the hashtag #askLesotho between 12 and 1 p.m. GMT on Wednesday 24, February 24.
For those who can’t take part on the day, you can send your questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more about Send a Cow by following us on Twitter, @Sendacow, or visiting www.sendacow.org
NM: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
AS: Send a Cow has almost 30 years’ experience in sustainable agriculture and gender-equality training and believes that a long term approach which seeks to support and train farmers is the key to ending rural poverty. However, we have been shocked by the severity of this drought which is why we recently launched an emergency appeal for Lesotho. To find out more or to support the appeal, please visit our appeal page.