Rural Self-help Development Association (RSDA) has been registered as a non-government organisation (NGO) in Lesotho since 1991. RSDA works with local small-scale farmers, the government, and other NGOs to eradicate hunger and improve the livelihoods for the Basotho people in the rural communities. The goal seeks to be accomplished by facilitating help to self-help, and by making the rural population able to implement sustainable farming by providing technical guidance among other things. RSDA implements projects for several donors and partners such as Action Aid, SIDA (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) under UN, USAID (The United States Agency for International Development) and Denmark Lesotho Network.
The project group within DLN
The project group consists of the following DLN members: Anders Hedegaard, Signe Hedegaard, Maria Clausen, Nis Kloppenborg Skau, Max Schröder, Anne-Marie Erikstrup, and Line Kaspersen. The members of the group communicate via e-mail, Skype meetings, and face-to-face meetings. The contact to RSDA is maintained by the exchange of e-mails, via conference calls, through quarterly reports, and monitoring visits to Lesotho.
DLN and RSDA’s cooperation
The contact between DLN and RSDA originally came about, when Anders Hedegaard and former member of the project group Karen Steffensen both worked in Lesotho.
DLN and RSDA’s projects have been and still are geographically centred within two of the most drought-affected districts in Lesotho: Mafeteng and Mohales Hoek.
DLN and RSDA began their formal partnership back in 2005, where a grant was approved by Civil Society in Development (CISU – through which it is possible to seek funding for projects by Danish associations in collaboration with local partners in developing countries).
The grant was for DKK 961,682, and the project ran for two years from 2005-2007. The project was entitled “Building capacity of small scale farmers through water harvesting and vegetable production”. As a result of the project 116 water harvesting tanks were built in Mafeteng and Mohales Hoek, and the first steps of introducing the farmers to lobbying and advocacy were taken. Both DLN and RSDA viewed the project as highly successful, and both partners were interested in continuing with the collaboration.
The second joint project took place in 2011-2013 and was entitled “Strengthening small scale farmer producer groups in Lesotho” with a budget of DKK 1.769.214. The purpose of the project was in part to strengthen the capacity within RSDA, and in part to focus directly on strengthening the capacity of 40 farmer groups in the two aforementioned districts in Lesotho. The aim was to strengthen both the internal organisation of the farmer groups as well as their ability to cooperate and network with local and national decision makers. The 40 farmer groups had established 3 umbrella-organisations, which also needed strengthening and training in advocacy and other methods with the purpose of building their capacity and thereby making them capable of affecting the farmers circumstances of life more effectively. Finally, work was done for the training of trainers to ensure sustainability and the sharing of knowledge and experience among the farmer groups. As a direct result of the project two of the umbrella-organisations have been successful in obtaining financial funding, and a training centre was built in Phamong, where the local umbrella-organisation holds meetings, seeds are sold, and there is a surrounding garden, which can be used for demonstrating agricultural techniques.
DLN and RSDA wish to continue their partnership of capacity building farmer groups in Lesotho. The joint mission continues to be to support farmer groups in Lesotho in their efforts to affect their own circumstances of life. The vision is to create farmer organisations across Lesotho that are capable of exerting their influence on local and national decision makers like it has been the case for Danish (powerful) farmer organisations.
Therefore both DLN and RSDA hope that it will be possible to continue the collaboration for the period of 2015-2017/18 with a third project: “Strengthening the organizational capacity of farmer associations emphasizing the skills within lobby and advocacy”. But DLN and RSDA agree on the fact that such an ambitious vision demands perseverance, stability, and capacity, in order for the third project to become a success. It was therefore decided that it would be necessary to strengthen the cooperation prior to a third project through a so called Partnership activity, with the purpose of strengthening RSDA’s capacity to support the farmer groups and their umbrella-organisations. An application was made for a Partnership activity and applied for at CISU. A grant of DKK 498,000 was approved, and the project will be running from January 1st till December 31st 2014. Within this time frame RSDA’s strategy for cooperating with the farmer groups will be analysed and adapted to suit the current needs of the farmer groups.