Bid to contain impact of natural disasters



MASERU – The government has yet to implement anticipatory measures to swiftly respond to high-risk areas in the event of various mishaps. These include issuing early warnings to the public and developing sovereign risk insurance tailored to safeguard the interests of farmers and businesses with support from the World Bank. Promoting climate-proofing measures across all sectors will also be vital to mitigate the impact of environmental uncertainties.

This was noted by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Dr. Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, during her budget speech in Parliament last month. She said in recent times, Lesotho has experienced destructive natural disasters that have tested its preparedness and recovery capabilities. However, concerns persist among some farmers who feel that the government consistently makes promises but fails to execute them.

In a recent interview with Public Eye, Motšelisi Mokhele-Peete, President of African Women Farmers Allies (AWFA-Lesotho), emphasised the importance of government initiatives to educate farmers on various aspects of farming. Drawing from her own experience as a farmer, she stressed the need for education on topics such as climate change, shocks, extreme weather events, pandemics, and disease outbreaks. “The government should also engage and force relevant ministries and departments to work together to win the war. One major thing is that even if the government can execute these plans, educating farmers is the first step to take. “Putting all these things in place is a waste of time without education, or at the very least awareness campaigns. I am not sure or even convinced that this risk insurance will be of assistance.

“The subject of farming is close to my heart, and I get emotional because the government usually disappoints us,” she said. For her part, Mahlape Koali, Public Relations Officer of the Disaster Management Authority (DMA), highlighted some ongoing efforts. The DMA is currently collaborating with IACoV to provide assistance to community members, particularly those selected to receive aid, by providing water tanks. Koali also said that farmers have been supported with seeds, including various vegetables such as carrots and beetroot.

Furthermore, the DMA has aided these farmers by supplying shade nets to protect their crops during disasters, whether from excessive sunlight or heavy rainfall. Recent studies underscore a concerning trend in Lesotho over the past decades. The country has witnessed an increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme weather events, ranging from prolonged dry spells and recurrent droughts to intense rainfall, floods, hailstorms, strong winds, and early and late snowfall.Consequently, agricultural productivity has steadily declined, exacerbating severe and chronic food and nutrition insecurity for many households.

The agricultural sector in Lesotho faces numerous challenges, including severe land degradation, reliance on traditional agronomic practices, overgrazing, and significant climate variability. This situation has led to the loss of biodiversity, environmental degradation, and depletion of the country’s natural resource base, further intensifying the challenges faced by communities.Further research indicates that the impact of climate change disproportionately affects rural communities in Lesotho.

These communities rely heavily on agricultural production, rendering them more vulnerable to its adverse effects. Moreover, they are already exposed to additional vulnerabilities such as unemployment, chronic diseases, and malnutrition, particularly among women and children. The Disaster Management Act of 1997 plays a crucial role in disaster preparedness and response in Lesotho. This legislation establishes the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) and delineates its powers and functions.

It encompasses provisions for emergencies stemming from disasters, encompassing prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery measures. Responsibility for disaster management is shared jointly and separately between the DMA and district secretaries, emphasising the collaborative approach needed to address these critical matters.

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