Bumming around in Lesotho, the “Kingdom in the Sky”

Again, we are pretty fuckin’ late at publishing this video. However, you have to know that while travelling Lesotho we weren’t even intending to make a video about this. Consequently, we didn’t film a lot, produced super bumpy scenes and ended up with an altogether limited pool of material to chose from. For example, it never once crossed our minds to shoot our awesome 4×4 baby with its rooftent all folded up or any other camp scenes… And out of respect for the local people, we didn’t film during the Solar Mission either. But despite the pretty much worst preconditions for editing, the video still turned out quite decend. At least our humble selves think so.

Curious to get feedback from you guys! Enjoy 🙂

Liked it? Glad you did. Have you seen our last video about our trip to Cape Town? No? Then check it out HERE.

Yes, we are Fairtrade!

We did it! The Save80 Climate Protection Group is now officially the first Fairtrade carbon credit producer organisation worldwide! Furthermore, it adds an additional country to the family of Fairtrade by being the first project in Lesotho!

Wait…? Carbon Credits? Fairtrade? Save80? Explain, please!

So as Gesa already explained in “The Save80 Project” post, the reason why I´m here for is a climate protection project using an efficient stove called Save80. During the last year, the two companies atmosfair and Solar Lights were working intensively on the first carbon credit project implementing a new standard together with Fairtrade which is commonly known for the fair trading of coffee, tea, chocolate, fruits and much more stuff.

At this point I would like to give you a brief introduction to what is called carbon credits and the work of atmosfair (the German project partner I´ve been working for). With our world mainly consuming fossil fuels and therefore increasing emission due to the rising energy consumption, the awareness of Climate Change has become a constantly growing political issue over the past 20 years. And as carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas, its reduction has become the main objective to fight Climate Change.

Therefore, there is a limited market for carbon credits which regulates the emissions of our industry in a way that you have to pay for your pollution in buying those carbon certificates. Basically you pay a certain price per ton (1 ton = 1 credit) of greenhouse gas emission. Well guess what, these certificates are way to cheap and not as rare as it might sounds.

NGOs like atmosfair work with a different system. First of all, they stand for avoiding, reducing and only then compensating emissions. To start working with them changed my perspective on carbon offsetting. Well, I guess I didn´t really have a clue about it in the first place but I´ve heard a lot of criticism which I was curious to talk about. As a briefly introduction the principle of carbon offsetting is to reduce your carbon footprint by saving greenhouse emissions somewhere else. This so called “somewhere” else mainly takes place in countries of the global south. For the Lesotho project I´m working on right now, DHL payed a subsidy for efficient stoves to reduce the consumption of firewood and therefore the emission of carbon dioxide. But that´s a topic for another day, or for the comment section – you decide if you want to know more about carbon offsetting! For a better understanding of what coffee, tea and chocolate now have in common with carbon credits, check out the clip below:

Well, it´s still really abstract because you can´t buy them in a shop like usual Fairtrade products. But it´s now the Fairtrade standards applying to this producer organisation, the so called Save80 Climate Protection Group, giving them the ability to start their own projects and raise from a customer to an equal project partner. Furthermore, all participating project partners have to be approved by Fairtrade standards to be able to produce, trade or use the first Fair Carbon Credits.

For more information, check out the joint press release by Fairtrade and DHL or our project website at atmosfair.

“Christmas Eve” or “Escaping Disaster”

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Spending Christmas in Lesotho was very UNchristmassy. As a matter of fact, our car broke down that day. This time, we didn’t hit a pothole but heard some worryingly scraping noises when breaking plus, the whole jeep pulled strongly to the left side. Of course, we were driving down some 2.000m slope at that point :/ But we made it to the next lodge in tense silence and once more, jacked up the Pajero. I can honestly say that I learnt a lot about cars this trip… With Michael on the phone and ten locals watching us, we finally found the root of the problem: 1(!) single screw was missing. But an important one: FYI, wheel suspensions only consist of two big screws per tire and as soon as one is missing, the other one could fall out shortly after. You can imagine that the resulting loss of control could lead to a rather nasty accident. Not a pretty thought. Lucky us.

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Caution: This is Monkey Land!

dsc01792_fotorFor us, it wouldn’t be a perfect holiday without some decent, sweaty hikes. And with our 4×4 (see last article), we didn’t have any problems getting deep into the Lesotho and SA mountains. When it comes to hiking, I never really know what there is to write about it but rather let the pictures speak for themselves. The ones beneath are from three different tours. Please check the subtitles or contact us directly if you’re interested in the exact locations.

What I do want to explain is the title of this post: It was in the South of the Drakenberg Mountains and we were walking along a sunny grass plateau when we heard loud bellowing. It was kind of nerve-wrecking to hear those noises so close to us without being able to identify their source. The fact that the sound echoed at the cliffs only made it mightier. But soon enough we spotted our first Baboon.

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The Solar Mission

After the first joy of reunion had abated and we had sorted out all necessary preparations (getting the car ready, buying groceries, packing up all gear, …) we set off to the first half of our road trip on day 3. For the next week, we would be travelling Lesotho and the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa.

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Our trip first took us to the Malealea area around Christmas. A lovely lodge awaited us, as well as a – long time overdue – horse ride. When it comes to horses and me, all girly prejudices become true: I love them. I’ve been horse-riding for about 5years as a teenager and I’ve been missing it ever since. And by horse-riding I don’t mean dressage or longeing but western-style trail riding. One day, I’d love to do a horse trek over a few weeks (gotta put that on my never-ending bucket list, now that I think about it…).

So you can tell that I was excited as a 10year old when we went horse-riding in Malealea. For Sebastian, however, it was only the 2nd time on horseback but he seemed to be a natural (as he always is when it comes to sporty activities…). I mean, he was unable to make clear to Brown Sugar, his pretty gelding, who the boss was but come on, at least he never fell off and was comfortable enough to trot which is more than you can expect from a beginner. Speaking of beginners – our route was definitely NOT for beginners but led us through the deepest valleys, up the steepest mountains and along the most precipitous hillsides. One false step of our wiry horses and we would have tumbled down some canyon into our deaths. Luckily, our mounts were sure-footed enough to always find the right way – pew!

 

But why did we do this?? Well, as I said before, we were on a mission: Michael had asked us to deliver some solar lamps to a remote village and we figured that we preferred to reach it by horse rather than carry everything ourselves. What an adventure! With a sore butt and stiff legs, but very much alive, we reached the settlement after a few hours and were greeted warmly. The families of Ha Machakela village are also part of the Save80 project (see the last article in the archive to learn more about it) and already knew Sebastian. To whoever completes the repayment of the stove, Michael offers the purchase of a solar lamp (again through microfinancing); this is how the selling of the stove and the lamps is connected. Here are some of the technical details of the SunKing (also see http://www.greenlightplanet.com):

  • 36h of light
  • 2 USB ports for cell phone charging
  • 3 different light intensities

So all in all, a pretty cool lamp and very useful for people who live without electricity. It took longer than expected for all the new owners to show up (some were on their fields and had to be called first) but then, the handover went smoothly and Sebastian explained the technical details to the proud owners while I took some photographs and played the clown for some of the kids. I just love how you can make people laugh without speaking the same language: pulling funny faces just works with children all over the world. Please note that all pictures were taken with the permission of the locals. In addition, we want to encourage you to pay attention to the fact that the huts (as poor as they may look) often offer unexpected comfort inside. Yes, many people here are poor compared to the Global North, but we really don’t want to deepen prejudices (e.g. the one of the starving children and families sleeping on clay soil in rudimental huts – it’s not like that everywhere!).

 

Check! Mission completed! We hauled ourselves back on our horses and took a less dangerous route back, stopping shortly at a waterfall. I would have loved to stop for a swim (FYI, our long-sleeved clothes on the pictures have two reasons: 1) the sun burns with a crazy intensity on this altitude and 2) it’s simply not appropriate to run around half-naked in the villages, especially not when you are working). My favourite game on the way back was to lead my skinny gelding Blue close to Brown Sugar who didn’t seem to like my horse at all. As soon as I was next to them, Brown Sugar would immediately fall into a trot and determinately move away (a cursing and swaying Sebastian on its back) – I never got tired of that view 😀 However, I stopped this mischief when dark clouds began to gather in our backs. Rumbling thunder made us spur our horses into a trot while we kept glancing back nervously. My parents told me from an early age on: If there’s a storm coming, get down that bloody mountain quick and look for shelter ASAP. And that principle is even more important here because Lesotho is the country with the most lightning strikes in the world! Electrical thunderstorms here are craaazy and often appear out of nowhere. Sadly enough, it’s not uncommon that people die (remember, there are barely any trees on these rough tablelands and Lesotho’s altitude is an impressive 1400-3482m above sea-level).  Fortunately, our timing was absolutely flawless: 5min after we had reached the lodge, the sky opened up and a heavy downpour started, followed by hammering hail. Lucky us! I would not fancy getting stuck in that Armageddon scenario with a nervous horse beneath and a deep gorge next to me…

All in all, a very fantastic day! However, we would be sore for a couple of days after this 😀 Did that stop us? Hell no. But read about our next trail-running and hiking sessions in the next posts…

The Save80 Project

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One of the 162 stove user groups in Lesotho

It’s about time to explain a bit more about Sebastian’s project here in Lesotho. Basically, he and his project partner Michael sell very efficient stoves to local people in the rural areas. And indeed, this thingie is truly magic! The Save80 was designed by a German engineer and the name derives from the fact that you save up to 80% of firewood compared to cooking on traditional three-stone fires. At this point, you have to note that one of Lesotho’s major environmental problems is the vast logging (followed by erosion –> loss of farming and grazing areas –> heat periods, droughts etc.) so this project is not only focusing on enhancing the life quality of the Basotho but also on sustainable climate and environmental protection.

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