Drought, rising temperatures, and extreme weather pose risks to Lesotho

By External Source
Jun 18 2020 (IPS-Partners)

The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is a place of stark beauty; deep
canyons, majestic highlands, vertiginous hillsides, alpine
grasslands, sun and sky. Although no bigger than Belgium, it is a
critical watershed, giving rise to the headwaters – the ‘white
gold’ – that feed two of the major river systems of southern
Africa, the Senqu (Orange) and uThukela.

But, living in this mountainland comes with more than its fair
share of rigours, and small-scale farmers like Mrs Maitumeleng
Mabaleka struggle to survive. Land degradation and climate change
have upended traditional agricultural practices for her and many
others like her who struggle to make a living or grow enough food
to feed their children and build a better future.

“I have been selected to be a lead farmer in my village to
help other households with some advice on vegetable production and
food preservation. I have become an agent of change.” –
Maitumeleng Mabaleka, community leader.

The risks posed by climate change can mean the difference
between life and death, prosperity and poverty.

Drought, rising temperatures, and an increase in extreme
weather, are pushing people to migrate, and triggering new
conflicts. It is a roadblock to the country achieving the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reach their Nationally
Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.

With the support of the
UNDP
and funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF),
the Government of Lesotho is building innovative incentive
programmes its Reducing Vulnerability from Climate Change (RVCC)
project.

These incentives allowing farmers to rehabilitate and protect
their environment and foster climate-resilient agricultural that
will transform the way they plant crops, raise livestock and manage
their natural resources.

A story of hope

A community leader, Maitumeleng Mabaleka was provided a simple
shade net and drip irrigation for her household garden. With the
improved production on her half hectare household farm, she has
increased her annual income by US$2,000 by selling fresh produce
and preserved vegetables from her farm.

“In the past, my vegetable production was low due to drought
and sometimes insects, but now I am able to harvest water from my
roof and water my garden in an efficient manner using drip
irrigation – relatively new technology.” – Maitumeleng
Mabaleka

The surplus has been a boon for the family. Her husband, who is
retired, looks younger and healthier every day with all the
farm-fresh food on the table. To protect against future shocks –
everything from the next big drought to a catastrophic pandemic
like COVID-19 – Maitumeleng preserves some of her surplus with
bottling and solar dryers provided through the project.

Incentives work

Lesotho’s afro-alpine ecosystems are as fragile as they are
beautiful. Land and water resources are deteriorating because of
prolonged droughts. Ecosystems are being pushed to their limits by
over-cultivation, overgrazing, and over-harvesting, as communities
are forced to adopt coping measures that push the land beyond its
capacity. And the people of Lesotho, the Basotho, are
suffering.

This creates a vicious cycle that drives climate change and
increases of deeply-rooted poverty. Recent droughts induced by El
Niño are pushing even more Basotho into poverty and hunger, with
one out of three people facing acute levels of food insecurity and
more than half of the country living below the poverty line.

The incentive packages introduced through the RVCC project
encourage voluntary land rehabilitation. These packages started
with drought-tolerant seeds, agricultural equipment, and improved
livestock breeds. In exchange farmers are rehabilitating and
resting rangelands, they’ve improved water-harvesting capacity
and other sustainable land management .

The project is in the process of including cash transfers as
well as fuel-efficient stoves, solar power-packs and solar
cookers.

The project has trained local leaders such as Chief Shoaepane on
how to sustainably manage rangelands and wetlands.

“As an area Chief it was becoming difficult to govern these
days because the neighbouring communities were fighting over access
to better rangelands. Another major challenge was indiscriminate
burning of rangelands by herders, which is now gradually ending
because we are closely working with the government officials in
raising awareness about management of our resources. Now that we
participate in quarterly community-leader meetings and capacity
building opportunities, we work closely with livestock owners and
herders and encourage our communities to practice rotational
grazing and other sustainable land management practices.” –
Chief Shoaepane

According to the Chief, these improved practices have seen a
return of wildlife to the area, and are sowing the seeds for a more
peaceful and productive society.

“Our children will get to know some of the remaining wildlife
in the country following the extinction of some species. There has
been a reduction of violent clashes concerning village boundaries
and grazing rights.” – Chief Shoaepane

“Now that we participate in quarterly community-leader
meetings and capacity building opportunities, we work closely with
livestock owners and herders and encourage our communities to
practice rotational grazing and other sustainable land management
practices.” – Chief Shoaepane. Photo: Russell Suchet

Climate-smart enterprises

Mr Bataung Mafereka is an agricultural genius. Before the
project came, his tiny 5,000-sq-metre lot produced just US $800 a
year in vegetables and was often damaged by frost and hail.

With a new shade net and other tools, he earned US$1,667 in just
five months growing tomatoes and he has hired four workers to
support the new enterprise. With year-round growing capacity, he
and his team will switch to maize and beans later in the year to
earn more money.

“I have been empowered by this project to produce throughout
the year. This gives me competitive advantage over other regional
farmers who do not have the type of infrastructure and skills that
I now have acquired. Most of the youth in my village were forced to
leave and look for employment in the cities, but I will stay here
with my family to improve my village and prove that farming can
solve our economic problems.” – Bataung Mafereka

Sweet success

Female producers has been a key to the project’s
success—more than 75 percent of those who take part in the
project are women.

With the world bee populations under threat, some enterprising
producers are turning to beekeeping.

Mrs Mamorena Seqao has been beekeeping for a few years now, but
with better equipment and five new hives, she now makes US$1,600
per year from her organic honey, beeswax candles and propolis,
which is used in health supplements.

She sells mostly in neighbouring South Africa—a true
transformation from a local producer to an international
businesswoman on the rise in a field traditionally dominated by
men.

“South Africans like Lesotho products as they are produced
organically. This year I got so many orders for my propolis that I
had to buy from other local farmers and resell it to my
customers.” – Mamorena Seqao

The RVCC project is implemented by Lesotho’s Ministry of
Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation with support of UNDP and
finance from the Least Developed Countries Fund. Learn more at
www.ls.undp.org.

The post
Drought, rising temperatures, and extreme weather pose risks to
Lesotho
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Drought, rising temperatures, and extreme weather pose risks
to Lesotho