Lesotho -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
The Housing Need
Mitemitemi is a widow. She and her four children have been living cramped in this two-roomed house for several years.
Mitemitemi can now look forward to occupying her new, spacious, HFHL house, while her son, his wife and their baby move into the old home.
Lesotho (La-SUE-too) is a small country, roughly the size of Belgium. It is often referred to as “The Kingdom in the Sky” and for good reason – it is home to the majestic Drakensberg and Maloti Mountain ranges with several peaks surpassing 10,000 feet. In fact, the lowest elevation in the country is still above 3,000 feet making it the world’s highest “minimum elevation” of any nation on earth! We like to say that every road in Lesotho is a scenic route, and it’s true – no matter which direction you head from the capital city of Maseru, splendor continues to unfold with each passing curve. Nestled in the palm of South Africa, Lesotho shares strong economic ties with its neighbor but is proud of its unique political, cultural and social identity.
High altitude and autonomy, however, bring distinctive challenges to Habitat’s work in Lesotho. During the winter months (May through August), snow often covers much of the mountain ranges and makes working outdoors difficult. Since only one half of 1% of Lesotho is forested (only Libya has less), obtaining coal, kerosene or straw for heating becomes the top priority for both urban and rural families living in stone or brick houses with no insulation. And having strong economic ties with South Africa does not mean to infer that the Lesotho economy is expanding. Challenges in the textile and agriculture sectors, and the high prevalence rate of HIV/Aids makes it difficult for families to afford safe and decent shelter. These dilemmas encourage many families to migrate to larger cities in search of stable employment.
In many instances, arriving in the capital with little money and even less formal training, it becomes problematic in trying to find work and housing. Families end up living in overcrowded, unsafe and unhealthy conditions. As many as fifteen families may share one latrine and children play near open sewage. Women are particularly vulnerable since they have no inheritance rights, and little hope of ever having a place to call their own. The Ministry of Local Government reports that more than 45,000 units of decent, affordable housing are needed to resolve the current crisis in the capital district alone!
Habitat for Humanity Lesotho
Habitat for Humanity Lesotho (HFHL) launched its program in 2001 and is primarily building houses in Khubelo, on the outskirts of the urban capital, Maseru. The block and brick homes utilize a corrugated iron roof and consist of two to three rooms, or 28 and 43 sq. meters respectively. All houses have a detached latrine.
Since snow accumulates for several weeks at a time in rural areas, Habitat has partnered with World Vision in reaching out to one of these remote locations – Mohales Hoek – where HFHL is providing technical support for the construction of 150 homes for low income families in need of safe and decent housing at affordable prices.
HIV/Aids is rampant in Lesotho where over 40% of females aged between 25 – 39 are infected. UNICEF estimates there are over 100,000 Aids orphans living in Lesotho and this number is expected to increase significantly in the years to come. Since 2005, HFHL has been providing shelter for children and youths in this category while a partner agency, SOS Children’s Village, attends to the health, education and food security needs. There are currently plans underway to expand this project.
HFHL works in close partnership with other groups committed to reducing poverty housing, including the Ministry of Local Government. The MoLG has assisted HFHL in locating land for housing at reduced costs and has expressed interest in becoming more active in advocacy on behalf of women and children for secure tenure and inheritance rights. In cooperation with UN Habitat and the Maseru City Council, HFHL is an integral part of the National Urban Support Team dedicated to eradicating informal settlements by the year 2020. HFHL also participates in the World Habitat Day sponsored by UN Habitat and the MoLG.
Real Life Story
Mitemitemi’s husband died in 1999. Although she works in the informal sector of petty trading, Mitemitemi (my-temi-temi) relied on her husband work as a mine surveyor to supply the bulk of the families needs for their four children. Her eldest child, a son, is now married and is starting his own family but continues to live at home as is often the case for young couples here. All six of this extended family lived in a two room house while they are constructing a three room house sponsored by Habitat. Realizing their vulnerability, HFHL and SOS have worked in partnership to provide decent housing for this family, and education (books, tuition and uniforms) for the children. The new home will be located on the same plot as the former house (which will continue to stand and provide housing for the married son) since it has been owned by this family for 11 years and has beautiful views of the Maloti Mountains in the front and “Lion’s Head” in the rear.
Although Mitemitemi has no formal job, she breeds pigs to generate income for her family. The elder son has formal training in mine surveying like his father, but work is hard to obtain for young men. HFHL is proud to partner with low-income families like Mitemitemi’s who are in need, yet are willing to contribute labor and locally available material toward construction of their own homes. Through partnership with self-reliant families and other agencies, HFHL seeks to eliminate poverty housing, and in particular, to provide vulnerable children with safe and adequate homes.
Location: Southern Africa (surrounded by South Africa)
Climate: Warm summers (Oct – Mar); cold winters (Apr – Sept)
Population: 1.8 million
Economy: Subsistence agriculture; livestock; textile industry
Government: Parliamentary with a constitutional monarchy
Religion: Christianity; traditional beliefs
Languages: Sesotho; English; Zulu; Xhosa