African Composers Edition

Online publisher of African compositions


The exact ‘year of famine’ referred to in the text is not known, but the Basotho have suffered famine regularly, every few years, throughout their history: first as a gathering of clans under Moshoeshoe I in the earlier nineteenth century, then through the regimes of subsequent rulers, and also since Lesotho’s independence in 1966, right up to the present day. The reason is that it is a small land-locked country with a population of only 2 million, that much of its land is mountainous and not arable (much of the arable land was taken by their enemies during the wars of the nineteenth century), that the climate is extreme - severe winters, summer rains that often come too late - and lastly, that the Basotho are mostly subsistence farmers who farm very small plots. This means there is no ‘excess’ on a neighbour’s plot to tide people over - if famine affects one small area, it affects everyone - and when crops (beans and cabbage) are not abundant, people cannot sell the excess to buy other essentials. In addition, climate change is making the risk of famine higher every year. Thus the time-scale of this song in terms of the past it refers to is not as long as people in Europe or America - or other countries - might think.



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