Lesotho Part 2: Keeping Soil at Home
This is Mrs. Musi, a preacher's daughter whose family has tried to tackle one of the biggest issues facing Lesotho: soil erosion. Now that may not seem like such a big deal and perhaps it's not, especially in the face of Lesotho's national HIV/Aids crisis in which 1/4 of adults have tested positive. But when you think about the fact that many rural people are growing their own food for survival in Lesotho, then it makes sense to think about the soil and its potential to sustain people, both their health and happiness.
Mrs. Musi was a school teacher and also took care of the farm with her late husband. The farm looks like many in Lesotho with corn and beans and all kinds of livestock set in a valley between the mountains. One day after a huge storm, Mr. Musi walked along a path and soon came upon a rushing river several meters deep. This river had not been there before the storm, but now it was rushing downhill, the color of the soil a few fields up. For lack of a better term, it was a watershed moment for Mr. Musi. He resolved that the soil rushing down all the way to the cape, to someone else's fields, should stay put. In Sesotho, these ravines that carry water and soil away are called 'dangas' and Mr. Musi was now going to be a 'danga mechanic.'
So he set out building rock walls which now number in the hundreds. His goal was to trap the soil, plant trees, and reclaim the land. And all of the earthmoving and rock placing had to be done by hand. He had no wheelbarrow, but instead moved his materials around with a sack tied to a rope tied around his waist. That was almost 20 years ago, and now what once was barren earth where soil eroded is now green ground. It was an enormous task. Mrs. Musi told us that there was one refrain that her husband repeated throughout his work: 'My God knows what I need.'
For us this was powerful story to hear. I'm no expert on this stuff, but I found Mr. Musi's project powerful because it is a story about someone whose impulse and effort were to nurture the ground rather than exploit it. And this nurturing was about seeing an immediate problem but having the patience to seek out a long term solution rather than a quick fix.