Youth in Lesotho - a vital partner in understanding and engaging in national water issues

Youth are an integral partner in managing water issues – this was evidenced through the participation of over 30 youth that participated in the SADC Water Week held at the Maseru Sun Cabanas Hotel in Maseru, Lesotho from 21-23rd April, 2015. The event proved that engagement of youth in water management issues makes it possible for the youth to understand their roles as possible stewards in water management affairs. Held under the theme “From Vision to Action”, the youth were able to make personal commitment to solutions practicing better water management.

The Water Week in Lesotho is a part of a current Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) programme aimed at gathering input in all 15 SADC member states towards the formulation of the fourth phase of a Regional Water Programme. The SADC Water Weeks are jointly organised by SADC and the Ministry responsible for Water in the Member States in collaboration with the Global Water Partnership Southern Africa, working through the Country Water Partnerships in each country.

The youth, emanating from secondary schools, youth associations, and young water professionals brought enthusiasm, energy and creativity to the debates that demonstrated the youth’s keenness in developing a sense of place and learning to take responsibility for their own impact on water management issues. The participation of the youth enabled them to actively provide input to a national action plan.

Subsequently, the youth participated in the consultation meetings where they were able to be actively engaged in the RSAP IV recommendation process. The consultation meeting was officially opened by the Minister of Water, who in his opening remarks acknowledged the possible contribution of the youth in managing water affairs in the country. He pointed out that although Lesotho considers water to be its ‘white gold’ because of the huge revenues it brings to its national coffers through bulk sale of water to the Republic of South Africa, and soon to other SADC countries such as Botswana, Lesotho still has challenges when it comes to water issues. It is in trying to address these water issues that the government has seen it fit to set up a dedicated Ministry of Water. It is  hoped that the Ministry will be able to address the water issues that the country is currently facing through joint efforts with key stakeholders, including the youth.

The youth’s participation in the SADC water week in Lesotho came after a 2 month youth scoping study that identified the various youth groups in the country, and their level of engagement. The study, which was carried out by the Lesotho Water Partnership identified the various youth groups in the country, and their level of engagement. The study results confirmed that although a number of youth activities existed in Lesotho, particularly with non-governmental organisations, there was uncoordinated action on activities, thus resulting in less action and impact. As a result of the scoping study, selected actively involved youth were able to take part in the youth forum and national consultation thus making valuable contributions to the regional Water programme.

By the end of the event, key forum stakeholders such as the Ministry of Water, agreed to a continued investment in youth.  The over fifty stakeholders that attended the consultative forum were able to collectively agree that continued partnership with the youth brought great progress in understanding how to manage national water resources. Participants agreed that it is crucial to involve its young citizens in national development issues. There is a need for a unified voice and resources designed to help the youth investigate problems and devise solutions to managing water resources.  Furthermore, there was consensus to developing and supporting partner collaborations that improve the knowledge and skills of young water professionals. Through the interaction with youth, many stakeholders were encouraged to continue using their extensive experience to providing needed leadership to the youth.

Read more:
Sunday Express. “Delegates Welcome New Water Ministry” [26th April, 2015]
2.       Lesotho News Agency. “ Media to attend training on Water Issues” . [17 April, 2015]