Cli­mate change: The gen­der per­spec­tive

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis -

LE­SOTHO is en­dowed with a lot of wa­ter sources. The vast high velds with nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion dom­i­nate the coun­try. Eighty­five per­cent of Le­sotho’s pop­u­la­tion lives in the ru­ral ar­eas and of these, 70 per­cent de­pend on agri­cul­ture and live­stock. The ru­ral ar­eas of the highly moun­tain­ous coun­try, its high plateaus and steep slopes are pop­u­lated with herd boys and girls. In the 1980s, rivers flowed with clean wa­ter. It was easy for the wom­en­folk to fetch wa­ter and it was also easy for live­stock to drink be­cause wet­lands and small wa­ter sources popped up ev­ery­where.

Vul­ner­a­bil­ity to Cli­mate Change Le­sotho is a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of a coun­try con­sid­ered highly vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate-re­lated chal­lenges.

As one of the least de­vel­oped coun­tries, it is over-re­liant on rain-fed agri­cul­ture for food pro­duc­tion and has a large poor ru­ral pop­u­la­tion en­gaged in un­di­ver­si­fied sub­sis­tence farm­ing.

Vul­ner­a­bil­ity in Le­sotho is char­ac­terised by high pop­u­la­tion pres­sure on the avail­able arable land and nat­u­ral re­sources, frag­ile and sub­stan­tially de­graded soils, high lev­els of food in­se­cu­rity and poverty and lack of in­fra­struc­ture which im­pacts on the abil­ity of the pop­u­la­tion to deal with severe weather con­di­tions

In re­cent years Le­sotho has been hit by waves of drought and floods, the El Nino of 2015-2016 and heavy rain­fall in win­ter. Graz­ing lands have shrunk since the nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion has been re­duced. Wa­ter sources have ei­ther run dry or are yield­ing less wa­ter than be­fore. Poor san­i­ta­tion as well as min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in ru­ral Le­sotho pol­lutes rivers. A ma­jor fa­tal blow for the ru­ral com­mu­nity of Le­sotho is the di­ver­sion of wa­ter sources and rivers to im­ple­ment the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Projects thereby leav­ing com- mu­ni­ties with fewer op­tions for wa­ter for do­mes­tic use and live­stock. Rivers that sup­ply the LHWP have be­come prop­erty of LHWP be­cause rights to their wa­ter have been ac­quired by the project. The com­mu­ni­ties that re­lied on these rivers have been de­prived of their rights.

Cli­mate change and vi­o­lence against women and girls

It should be clearly un­der­stood that women and men will be dif­fer­ently af­fected by cli­mate change and it is in that con­text that de­bates re­gard­ing gen­der per­spec­tives and the in­volve­ment of women in ad­dress­ing cli­mate change have arisen. Men and women are dif­fer­ently vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change im­pacts due to ex­ist­ing in­equal­i­ties such as their roles and po­si­tions in so­ci­ety. Ac­cess to re­sources and power re­la­tions af­fect women’s abil­ity to re­spond to the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

Women in Le­sotho, like all women in devel­op­ing coun­tries do most of the do­mes­tic work which un­for­tu­nately has been made even more dif­fi­cult by the cli­mate change. Their work in the fields to pro­duce food for the fami-

the fam­i­lies re­quire rain and enough wa­ter sources.

Women and girls now have to walk to fur­ther dis­tances to fetch wa­ter. Since they also look af­ter live­stock, they have to take these with them to drink wa­ter and to graze.

This ex­poses them to vi­o­lence such as rape, mar­riage by ab­duc­tion and child mar­riage. They are also ex­posed to vi­o­lent love pro­pos­als which some­times re­sults in un­wanted preg­nan­cies.

CON­FLICT OVER NAT­U­RAL RE­SOURCES RANGELANDS — Le­sotho is dom­i­nated by com­mu­nal graz­ing sys­tems. Due to over graz­ing, rangelands were clas­si­fied as ei­ther in poor (25 per­cent) or in fair (75 per­cent) con­di­tion in 2001.

Fu­ture pre­dic­tions of low and de­layed rain­fall un­der cli­mate change im­plies a pos­si­ble loss of nu­tri­tious grass va­ri­eties, with se­ri­ous con­se­quences for live­stock pro­duc­tiv­ity thereby weak­en­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion by an av­er­age of 55 per­cent to 65 per­cent each year (Le­sotho Me­te­o­rol­ogy 2001).

WA­TER SUP­PLY — The ru­ral Le­sotho pop­u­la­tion is de­pen­dent on sur­face wa­ter. Gen­eral Cir­cu­la­tion Mod­els (GCMS) pre­dict that due to cli­mate change, lower pre­cip­i­ta­tion pre­dic­tion is likely to re­sult in a re­duced sur­face and sub­sur­face runoff.

This im­plies that at the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion growth rate and lev­els of ser­vice, stress lev­els in wa­ter sup­ply could be reached ear­lier (Le- sotho Me­te­o­rol­ogy 2001).

It’s been over 10 years since the above pre­dic­tions and now the ef­fects are be­ing seen. Ru­ral Le­sotho has wit­nessed many cases of con­flict over re­sources.

As nat­u­ral re­sources get de­pleted and the pop­u­la­tion grows, con­flicts arise in Le­sotho over mostly wa­ter and graz­ing lands.

Women and girls get caught up in these con­flicts and tend to be vic­tims as the out­comes of res­o­lu­tions of­ten leave them strug­gling for re­sources to keep fam­i­lies go­ing.

Out­comes of con­flict res­o­lu­tions over re­sources are de­ci­sions made with the ex­clu­sion of women who are very much af­fected by such de­ci­sions. Such de­ci­sions are made by men.

To men­tion a few ex­am­ples, in the Kao area in the ru­ral part of Butha-buthe district, the vil­lages of Ha Shishila and Hale­phat­soane have a con­flict over range land.

The village of Liqhobong has a con­flict with the Liqhobong mine which has di­verted its wa­ter flow to an­other village called Motete both in ru­ral Butha-buthe.

The Me­to­long wa­ter project is an­other ex­am­ple where Le­sotho has ex­pe­ri­enced a con­flict over re­sources. With this project, wa­ter has been di­verted from wa­ter sources that sus­tained ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to sup­ply Maseru.

Dur­ing the El Nino-in­duced drought, Me­to­long com­mu­ni­ties and the other ar­eas where Me­to­long wa­ter pipes pass through, broke these wa­ter pipes.

They had to fetch wa­ter some­where as wa­ter sources were dry and com­mu­nity taps which are mostly sup­plied by nat­u­ral wa­ter sources had no run­ning wa­ter.


ABOVE 1.5 DE­GREES? Le­sotho is a small coun­try with lit­tle arable land. The arable land has been de­clin­ing for five decades now. Fig­ure 1 be­low shows the de­cline from 1962 to 2013. With ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, any­thing above 1.5 de­grees will mean more topsy-turvy weather pat­terns which could re­sult in loss of more arable land, rivers and un­der­ground wa­ter.

This means that poverty will re­main the or­der of the day. While the United Na­tions is fight­ing child mar­riages, the by-prod­uct of cli­mate change which is poverty will con­tinue to drive more and more fam­i­lies to marry off their chil­dren to re­duce their bur­dens of sup­port­ing them.


The govern­ment of Le­sotho has re­sponded to cli­mate change but has left out the gen­der per­spec­tive in the mat­ter. The fol­low­ing are ef­forts made by govern­ment to­wards mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change:

(1) In line with the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCC) guide­lines Le­sotho has pre­pared a Na­tional

Adap­ta­tion of Pro­gramme of Ac­tion (NAPA) to re­spond to the im­me­di­ate needs of ad­dress­ing the coun­try’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to cli­mate change

(2) Through the Na­tional Adap­ta­tion Pro­gramme of Ac­tion, a num­ber of pro­grammes in agri­cul­ture, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, health and land use and forestry which were de­signed to re­duce the harsh ef­fects of cli­mate change on Ba­sotho have been found to be ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures as the coun­try moves to­wards adap­ta­tion to the im­pacts of cli­mate change.

It is sad that poor devel­op­ing coun­tries which joined the in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion band­wagon not too long ago are suf­fer­ing and ac­tu­ally mak­ing an ef­fort to re­v­erse the harm caused by de­vel­oped coun­tries over the years.

Per­haps it is easy for poor coun­tries like Le­sotho to catch on fast on the in­for­ma­tion about cli­mate change. It may be easy for them be­cause they de­pend on these re­sources that are de­plet­ing for sur­vival.

It may be easy for them to at­tempt to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion be­cause they see their sources of life dy­ing and they are seek­ing for an­swers as to why this is hap­pen­ing.

But for those who have done the great­est dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment it may be unim­por­tant to worry be­cause they are rich and can in­vent and buy any tech­nol­ogy to sus­tain their lives.

But for the sake of those who can­not af­ford ex­pen­sive life­styles, for the sake of women and girls who are also work­ing to­wards bet­ter­ing their lives and for the sake of the di­ver­sity of the world…save the planet.

le­sotho: arable land, per­cent of land area (World Bank)

Vil­lager fetch­ing wa­ter from bro­ken wa­ter pipe.

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