It Takes a Village – Part 1

Toward the end of April, the MAF Lesotho program participated in a “Letsema” for the first time. A Letsema is a partnership to complete a project for the good of the community. People come only expecting a meal in compensation for their labor. If you feed them—they will come. Such was the case for the community of Lebakeng.

Repair work begins on the Lebakeng airstrip in Lesotho.

Repair work begins on the Lebakeng airstrip in Lesotho. Photo by Matt Monson.

Lebakeng is a village that is ONLY accessible on foot, by horse or by airplane; as a result, this is one of our most frequently used airstrips. Should you live in Lebakeng and have a medical emergency, you would:

  • Go to the Lebakeng Clinic. This could be anywhere from a 15-minute to a six-hour walk, depending on your proximity. If clinic workers aren’t able to provide the care you need, which is likely if it is more than medication requested…
  • You’ll need to walk down to the river about 30-45 minutes.
  • Cross the river in boat—boat being a generous description.
  • Walk to the nearest road another hour or so to hail a taxi/bus for a two-hour drive to the closest city, Qacha’s Nek. If you miss the taxi, which comes once daily, you’ll have to wait until the following day, likely without accommodation and exposed to the elements as there isn’t anything there by the road. Temps overnight in the mountains have already dropped to freezing as the winter season approaches.
  • Once in Qacha’s Nek you’ll get public transport to Maseru, another 8–10 hours in a minivan holding 16 passengers.

In other words, the absolute fastest time you would reach the care you need, WITHOUT THE AIRPLANE, is 16 hours minimum. It is more likely to take 36–48 hours due to the infrequent transportation to and from Qacha’s Nek. The flight from the Lebakeng airstrip to Maseru is 40 minutes… a significant difference!
For the Basotho people who live in Lebakeng, the airstrip is a matter of life and death. But deep ruts were making the strip unsafe and causing undue wear and tear on our planes. Closure was a definite possibility…

to be continued.

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