RWA Lesotho: Impact of mega projects to rural women and girls in Lesotho

Mega projects are believed to be initiated to bring transformation and economic growth particularly in places they take place in but this has been reality farfetched to affected communities who are rural people in most cases. People are promised jobs and development but mega-projects usually fail to deliver their promises leading to community strikes and disputes, DO strikes help to resolve disputes; they ultimately fail leaving communities divided.

Most of young girls’ dropout of schools due to unplanned pregnancies where these megaprojects take place because these megaprojects impose poverty and dependency due to landlessness. Mega projects take a lot of farming land without proper compensation from rural women this is linked to lack of the national standardized land valuation procedures and the absence of rural land registration system in the country. Phase 1 of the project, involving the construction of Katse Dam and Muela Hydropower Station (Phase1A) and Mohale dam (Phase1B), dispossessed more than 30 000 Basotho of their cropland and grazing land. The expropriation of land was executed without equitable/fair compensation and proper livelihood restoration plans.

The project submerged 1500 hectares of arable land, 1900 ha of cropland and more than 5000 ha of grazing land, exacerbating soil erosion and overgrazing as farmers were forced to cultivate on progressively sleeper slopes and graze animals in increasingly smaller and condensed areas. Even though we are on (Phase 2) the Polihali dam there have been long term concerns that communities did not get direct economic benefits or continued support where such benefits have been provided because of corruption. Many of these communities are without water, and in some, where the water supply from natural springs has been polluted while others have been destroyed due to lack of maintenance. It is said that only 40% of Basotho have access to water despite the big dam’s construction.

We should be aware that most of the workers in these areas are from other parts of the country and abroad, leaving the communities affected unemployed. Recently there has been an alarming increase of HIV and prostitution in Mokhotlong district where the construction of the Polihali dam is happening. Most girls are now dropping out of school and being married into early child marriages because the fathers of their children are providing for their families. 

As there is development made for the few elite the problems of rural communities especially rural women stays the same. There is enough proof that these megaprojects are not meant to bring change to the livelihoods of the rural communities but more problems and for them having a better life remains but a dream.

 Here are some of the major findings;

  • Lack of  community consultations
  • Female-headed families are mostly affected due to poverty
  • Exploitative sales, fraud and poor verification mechanisms
  • Councilors and local chief who are community negotiators have no capacity to negotiate
  • Land act protecting sales of land is not known in rurals
  • Women are not included in negotiations

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