EU Erasmus – Letsema study tour and field school/seminar

Report on the EU Erasmus – Letsema study tour and field school/seminar held at BBCDC on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.  The schedule for the day’s events was as follows:

10:00 – 10:30Arrival, rest stop, tea/coffee and introductions.
10:30 – 11:30Walk about and full tour of the campus and interactive demonstration of activities.
11:00 – 12:30Panel Discussion on Visions of the Future: Letsema Outcomes Low carbon economy and prosperity.Decentralization and distributed energy.Water and climate change.Small is beautiful.Cultural renaissance…. Basotho in the future with peripheral prosperity.  New villages and settlement patterns; stretching space.  Winning the fight against climate change. 
12:30 – 13:30Lunch and departure.
13:30 – 13:40Drive through Mt. Moorosi Road Camp to sight see renovations and developments.


  • Energy Research Centre (National University of Lesotho)
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Natural Resources
  • Ministry of Energy
  • European Union
  • BBCDC: Students, SRC, Staff, Priest in Charge of Bethel Mission, Board members.

Summary of the Event: Everything went according to schedule with the weather being clear and pleasantly fresh because of rain just days before.  Sunny skies enabled excellent demonstration performance of all the solar energy systems on the campus.  The guests enjoyed tea first thing and had the opportunity to make a round of introductions and mingle.  Ivan Yaholnitsky led the group around the campus after the tea break.  The first stop was the workshop and display of the solar power system there.  Many good questions about performance, results and durability emerged. As the group walked down the lane much appreciation was shown for the general biodiversity and agro-forestry aspect of the campus. 

Next stop was the home of Mr. Yaholnitsky where several solar systems are in operation, including a stand-alone PV system, solar water heaters, biogas digester, solar bakery, greenhouse, driers, home workshop, and wind turbine.  From there the group proceeded to look at a sand dam in the stream which is about 50m to the East, and which supplies water for irrigation to a farm operated by his daughter.  A pump was running, powered by solar energy and sending water to sprinklers some 100m away with a 5-6m head.  The Minister of Natural Resources was extremely interested in the sand dam and water system and this part of the tour generated much discussion and enthusiasm.  The next visit was this farm just north of the campus, with display of some agricultural machinery, including a small grain harvester, a small tractor and potato digger made at BBCDC.  Attention was drawn to the linkages between food, water and energy and importance of landscaping for water use efficiency, and the Permaculture inspired farm design.   

The next stop was the living machine and waste water treatment systems, that was explained by one of the BBCDC staff members Mr. Motumi.  It includes a greenhouse, biogas digester and stepped waste water treatment system. From there the group continued some 200m to the South end of the campus where the Earthship and Solar Lab is located.  An evaporative cooling system powered by solar energy was operating in front of the Earthship.  A 17.5kW solar farm is located in between the Solar Lab and the Earthship. It includes agro-photovoltaic demonstration plots beneath, and the Solar Lab contains a power room with 10kW inverter, 20kWh Lithium-Ion battery bank and balance of system.  Further features of the Solar Lab were pointed out including the passive cooling package of white roof paint, ceiling insulation and solar chimney.  Despite it being a sunny and fairly warm day, the Solar Lab was palpably cool.  BBCDC also just completed a rural access feeder road of about 3km South of the campus, and this was also brought to attention because of its potential.

The discussion forum in the Earthship followed and introduced by Paola Amadei.  Ivan Yaholnitsky made a brief address to the assembly and then Ministers Hon. Mohlomi Moleko (Minister of Natural Resources), Hon. Professor Nqosa Mahao (Minister of Energy), and Hon. Dr. Ntoi Rapapa (Minister of Education and Trainin) took turns making a short 5-10 minutes comment on the morning’s events, study tour and broader relations to Letsema and ongoing programs.  Professor Zak Thamae spoke on behalf of NUL about the Letsema program and history of cooperation with BBCDC.  Father Benedict Makhata also expressed his appreciation for the proceedings and the need for poverty alleviation and spiritual growth.  Some questions and further dialogue wrapped up the discussion forum.  Lunch was served in the Earthship by students and staff of the food science and culinary arts department at BBCDC. 

Picture 1: Tea and introductions in the BBCDC dining room.
Picture 2: Study tour of the BBCDC campus, facilities and systems.  L to R in foreground: Honourable Minister of Education, Dr. Ntoi Rapapa; EU Ambassador: Paola Amadei; Honourable Minister of Energy, Professor Nqosa Mahao; Director of BBCDC, Ivan Yaholnitsky; Honourable Minister of Natural Resources, Mohlomi Moleko.
Picture 3: Evaporative cooling demonstration and solar power. 
Picture 4: Drone shot of BBCDC campus looking South.