MASERU – Significant proportions of citizens are experiencing worsening droughts and floods as an impact of climate change, according to an Afrobarometer 2021/2022 study. The study shows that despite the suffering and impacts climate change has on livelihoods, there are still people that do not understand what climate change is. It further states that while awareness of climate change varies widely across the continent, the majority of those who have heard of climate change say it is making their lives worse and want government to take immediate action to address the crisis, even if it comes at a high cost.
The study further reveals that few citizens are satisfied with the efforts to date of governments, businesses and industry, development partners, and ordinary citizens in fighting climate change, and most demand “a lot more” from these stakeholders. In an interview with Public Eye, Acting Director of Lesotho Meteorology Services (LMS), France Mokoena, confirmed that indeed most Basotho do not understand what climate change is.
Explaining the difference between weather and climate change, Mokoena stated that the weather is a prevailing short-term weather condition in an area on a particular time; the state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place, while what the country is facing now is the effects of climate change. He said since 2015 to date, the country has been having weather conditions that are different from the past and it has affected a lot of people in terms of agriculture and livelihoods in general.
“What most Basotho do not understand the difference between weather conditions and climate change. The difference between the two is a measure of time. Weather is the conditions of the atmosphere over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time. “When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather within the period of 30 years,” he clarified. Farmers have been showing concern on how the rainy season affected them last year, some losing their crops and livestock.
One local farmer, Rosemary Thejane, stated that as much as they do not fully understand what climate change is, it affects them as farmers – especially when there is drought, articulating that their crops die. “Climate change is still a term most of us do not understand because this is new to us. Sometimes when there are heavy rains, we lose a lot of our crops some even turn yellow and this makes us lose money, we plough to sell.
For me it doesn’t affect me that much because I have made ditches in the fields so that water can pass freely without destroying my crops,” she stated. Another farmer who told this publication that he has experienced the harsh impacts of climate change is Arone Moketa who is a wool and mohair farmer. He said heavy rains have seen his production of wool and mohair deteriorating over the years.
“With these heavy rains, our livestock is always in danger. Sometimes they die due to floods. Also we are unable to have a lot of wool and mohair because the mud ruins them. They do not come out as much and as beautiful as before,” Moketa said. A 2019/2020 World Food Programme study notes that Lesotho is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with droughts already affecting harvest yields and causing significant loss of livestock.
It says the climate is predicted to become warmer and dryer, making droughts and floods more frequent and intense. The study further articulates that with less snow on the mountains and an increase in run-off rates, soil erosion will worsen and deplete the soil of nutrients; and that Lesotho is experiencing a major food security crisis as a result of the El-Niño induced drought.
The study states that the situation has been made worse by successive years of crop failures, low incomes and high food prices as a result 41 percent of rural families are spending over half their income on food. It further shows that, over 30 percent of the Lesotho population across all 10 districts faced high levels of acute food insecurity until March 2020.
“More than 70 percent of the population in rural Lesotho is engaged in subsistence farming. Productivity has been deteriorating since the early 1990s because of unpredictable weather conditions, including inconsistent rains and persistent and recurring droughts,” states the study. According to the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology Ministry of Energy and Meteorology, the country will experience normal to beyond normal rainfalls this year starting from October to March 2023.