Mngcunube has not engaged in the sort of disasters commonly thought of such as floods, earthquakes and the like. But for the poor in Southern Africa much of life continuously verges on the brink of disaster through lack of income, heath services, rain and the like. In this way we have become involved with a disaster management/intervention in Lesotho, a public works imitative in South Africa aimed at the chronically unemployed in rural areas and with rural water supply in the Eastern Cape and Lesotho.

C-SAFE Lesotho

In May 2005 it was clear that Lesotho would again experience a shortfall in national agriculture stocks, particularly in the Southern Lowlands, the Senqu River Valley and the Foothills, where an estimated total of between 500,000 and 700,000 people were at risk of suffering from hunger in 2005-2006. Limited employment opportunities and a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate also play a pivotal role in food access in Lesotho.

In response, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CARE and World Vision (WV) joined together to form the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Emergency (C-SAFE) in order to improve household food security among targeted households. Mngcunube acted as an implementing partner for CARE within this consortium. Food was to be delivered to over 200 000 households with 4 500 metric tons of food (86.2 kg of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil) per participant per month – many of whom lived in remote mountain areas – in return for which he households ha to develop productive assets.

This mostly involved homestead gardens in order to increase the small-scale productive capacity of participant food insecure households. Participants incorporated double digging and keyhole garden technology at the household level. Beneficiaries acquired all the skills necessary for construction and maintenance of homestead gardens, which provided increased food security while improving nutrition (micronutrients) for vulnerable households.

As can be imagined this was a huge task in areas with poor road and telecommunication systems that required precision timing and very tight monitoring and security. Mngcunube was commended for the way it carried it its function across the Districts of Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing.

  • 5,382 Households successfully completed 9 Homestead Gardens training module.
  • 5,382 Keyhole Gardens, Hafirs and Compost Pits constructed.
  • 26,900 Trench Gardens constructed.
  • 95,400 m2 of improved garden space created on homesteads.
  • 43,000 m3 of additional seasonal water storage created on homesteads.
  • 3,554 MTs of commodities provided to vulnerable households in the form of FFA.

CARE Lesotho reported that this work achieved the following short term impacts:

  • Food-for-Asset food rations have significantly assisted vulnerable households to meet their basic food needs during a prolonged period of food insecurity.
  • Large scale technical skills transfer is actively being applied toward enhanced productivity by participant households.
  • Enhanced utilization and more efficient application of limited physical spaces adjacent to houses toward productive (gardening) purposes.
  • Increased vegetable production yields at household level being achieved as compared to traditional garden plot practices (e.g. increased productivity/harvest and increased # of cropping cycles/year).
  • Greater variety of vegetable production at household level, translating (by proxy) to increased diversification of diets and enhanced consumption of micro-nutrients.
  • Vegetable production surpluses achieved by many households generating additional cash income utilized for additional food and non-food livelihood needs.
  • Reduced water consumption requirements for maintaining gardens during dry season & overall reduction in labor required for irrigating garden plots.
  • Reduced labor intensive practices allows households with labor shortages (chronically ill and elderly) to actively participate in and benefit from productive activities at home.
  • Significant levels of replication by non-participants (un-documented) as well as additional expansion of garden spaces by participants without food assistance.
  • Decreased incidence of begging and theft within targeted communities.
  • Improved levels of collaboration and social cohesion among targeted communities.

Community Works Project

This was part of a major national initiative of the South African Government aimed at getting at least some work experience and income opportunity for those in areas – especially rural areas – where there is no real prospect of formal employment for other than a very few. So this is not a case of a sudden disaster but for the majority of families there is no prospect of anything in life other than – at best and for those old enough – some form of meagre monthly state grant. Their whole lives are a disaster in these terms. Those who participated got paid a small amount for carrying out activities that benefited the community in some way. Many said that this was the first chance they ever had to get money and make something of their lives while acquiring useful skills.

We began working on CWP in the Eastern Cape in 2009 and continued to do so until early 2013. We covered 7000 participants at the following sites: Sikhulile (2000); Thusong (1000); Lukhanyo (1000); Siyazenzela (1000); Mhlontlo (1000) and Manyano (1000). From 2012 we began operating sites in the Free State as well: this started in Naledi District with participants and then in Mohokare and Letsemeng Districts with participants each. These were built up over time so that by mid-2013 they reached 3500 participants.

The type of outreach in which Mngcunube
was involved was as follows:



Homestead gardens fenced


Frost covered gardens

1 690

Maize potholes made (Hectares)


New garden HH added

17 433

Seedling nurseries built


Packets of seed packaged

6 000

Community gardens built


Total schools supported in any way


Total clinics supported in any way


Total crèches supported in any way


Total water tanks/ stands built


Total cemeteries cleaned


Total persons cared for under HBC


Roads built (metres)

12 050

Knitters trained


Water Development

The overwhelming need for life in a rural area is for water because there is almost never a piped supply. Many households see women ‘sentenced’ to trudging for hours just to keep the family with water for drinking, cooking and washing. Gardens come second in this race which is a drawback. Livestock have to fend for themselves. So use of the available water resource is imply vital.

Our work in this regard includes the following:

Water development for 30 villages in the then Herschel district (now Senqu) of the Eastern Cape, reaching over 3 000 households. Gravity led systems in some cases delivered water from several kilometres away. This was done as part of a wider rural development project with major community participation and we trained and equipped community based workers as small businesses in water development and windmill repair.

We have worked in the Mafeteng District of Lesotho on water provision across 183 villages, schools, clinics and shearing sheds where we repaired 982 pumps (boreholes, water pumps etc.) to the benefit of nearly 40 000 households. We estimated the cost per household at an average of R 88 though the actual cost was met by Anglo Gold Ashanti.

As with our livestock work this was done by experienced field staff. They had access to a small workshop and a field trailer where smaller on site repairs could be handled and for carrying new pipes and other parts. A local team was trained to take over the project as a small business and did so, thus making for sustainability. Although the work in Lesotho did not involve building or repairing small local dams this could easily have been included if required.

Also in Lesotho, we capped springs for village water and for village nurseries in the Katse dam area of Lesotho.