Few people in the tiny, mountainous kingdom of Lesotho manage to make a living from their rocky land. Traditionally, men have sought work in South Africa, yet employment opportunities have dwindled dramatically in recent years.
However, parts of the country are now dotted with keyhole gardens – the pioneering vegetable-growing method that we introduced to Lesotho. These gardens produce food throughout the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter, so families can eat better and earn an income.
As farmers discover their effectiveness, they pass on the knowledge to their neighbours. And so on and so on. With our ongoing support, they’re also pulling together to find new markets and other ways of making an income.
While sustainable farming is our focus in Lesotho, we also provide some poultry, rabbits and goats. Milk from dairy goats is considered particularly healthy for those with HIV/Aids – around a quarter of Lesotho’s adult population.
“I discovered that when you use your hands in agriculture, it’s better than when you’re hired by somebody. I thank your donors – with sustainable agriculture, you can get out of poverty.”
If you met Tsui Tlali you might mistake his endless enthusiasm for someone with an easy life, but this is far from the truth. Like many farmers living in the harsh climates of Lesotho, life is a daily struggle. This is something that Tsui knows all too well, who started out life as a humble herd boy but has gone on to be a local hero helping others work their way out of poverty.
“It was a very difficult life being a herd boy; you are all alone with only a dog for company. It was difficult eating; only having one maize meal a day and nothing to go with it. When the thieves came they would just push my shelter down and steal my animals and when the rains came my mud shelter would just wash away”
From the challenges he faced as a herd boy, Tsui moved to be a miner with its own daily dangers. Narrowly missing death, an accident to his leg made it impossible for him to carry on and he was forced to do back breaking work in the fields always wishing that he could provide more for his family.
“At this time all my 10 children would often go for days without eating, sometimes three days without seeing anything to eat. The chief of the village told me about Send a Cow. He described what Send a Cow was doing. I saw that their work was very useful to me, and I wanted to register. After I joined, I saw dramatic change. I discovered that when you use your own hands in agriculture, it’s better than when you’re hired by somebody”
Despite having cows and goats before joining Send a Cow Tsui knew nothing about the power of manure. But since Send a Cow’s, training he has learnt how to harness the power of compost to get the absolute most out of the land he has.
”Since joining Send a Cow I have become serious about using manure and I can grow all sorts of vegetables. We have so much we even opened our own shop which we started by selling two tomatoes and two carrots from our keyhole garden!”
As well as the shop that sells vegetables, paraffin and soap to the local community, Tsui has been made a Send a Cow peer farmer, teaching other farmers how to transform their land and livelihoods as he has done.
“Because of the training from Send a Cow, my children never go hungry and I can afford school fees, clothes and books. I am so proud to be able to pass on my knowledge to others as I know this means that each family I teach can go to bed having eaten like me!”