August Basson kneels beside a row of rich, brown soil in a field of newly-planted maize and plunges his hands into the earth. He carefully rubs the moist earth between his fingers.
“You see this, you see this!” His visitors crouch down for a closer look as Basson unearths a prize. “It is an earthworm!” he says with boyish glee. The tiny creature wriggles free of the dirt and dances in Basson’s calloused hands.
"This is a good sign. It means the land is beginning to heal.”
Basson, along with his wife Anita, originally came to the tiny, landlocked nation of Lesotho to preach. But he soon realised he was preaching to people with empty stomachs. Lesotho is a nation facing a dire farming crisis; once a bread basket, today the country can barely feed itself.
Known as the “Mountain Kingdom,” Lesotho, on a map, is like a thumbprint in the middle of the vast nation of South Africa. Mostly highlands—arid, rocky, and windswept—it is a breathtaking display of what one missionary here described as “devastating beauty.”
Basson steers his Land Rover off the road and across a field to the edge of a plot neatly cut into rows by an ox‐drawn plough. This farm was passed down from father to son. It will be passed down again if it lasts another generation. The rains are pouring heartily from the sky, but what should be a blessing in Africa, is here a curse. At the edge of the farm the land falls off into a gully, and the gully itself into a network of others as far as the eye can see. Popping an umbrella, Basson describes what is happening: