Lesotho Homegrown and Homeowned
Lesotho is not a funder darling. The limited donor funds that exist remain in Maseru, the capital, and rarely reach the remote mountain villages. Touch Roots Africa (TRA) was created to change this. In 2004, a group of Basotho former Save the Children U.K. staff, acted on their vision to strengthen care and support for orphans and vulnerable children in Lesotho. They created TRA to build capacity of indigenous groups, operating as part non-governmental organization and part consulting firm.
For us at Firelight, this was a real opportunity. We wanted to find solid rural grassroots organizations to grant to, but our lack of Sesotho skills was an obstacle. Basotho community-based organizations (CBOs) understandably preferred to submit applications in their own language and it made sense to fund a local group who could make this possible. We approached TRA, who had been a grantee partner for some time, with the idea of acting as intermediary for grant funds to reach these small groups.
TRA is able to reach approximately 80 Lesotho community-based organizations who are members of the NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child (NGOC), an umbrella organization for child rights. Their 2-part trainings cover child protection, psychosocial support, advocacy, and organizational development. They are also able to provide mentoring and technical support for individual organizations. Not only are they able to build infrastructure and connect remote local community-based organizations to capacity raising ideas and systems, they connect them to each other and make support possible when community leaders could be easily discouraged.
This partnership and its community-based approach to capacity building that doesn’t rely on foreign consultants allows us to support local techniques and groups that encourage the Basotho people to thrive and respects cultural traditions. This March, Firelight program officer Aili Langseth visited TRA and said, “TRA has been able to provide tailored support to small groups, going beyond organizational development to help where organizations are really struggling.”
Langseth gave an example of community groups struggling with grief and coping from loss in their programs due to HIV and AIDS. TRA was able to coordinate training on psychosocial support that gave staff the tools to respond and help their community heal from loss. What Langseth heard from the small community-groups supported by TRA confirmed the powerful role they have been able to fill, one group told her, “TRA is growing. When TRA grows, the country grows.”
As TRA increases its role as an intermediary organization, it is learning about grantmaking, the tools that will increase group’s capacity, and their relationships with community-based organizations have deepened. It’s opportunities like these that remind us that local, community-based solutions are the most sustainable and make the highest impact.