Farmers clamour for climate change cushion

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MOKHOTLONG – Farmers in the Mokhotlong district are demanding the establishment of a government fund to compensate farmers that lose their produce due to extreme climate change impact, leading to food insecurity. Food insecurity is a growing concern globally, with two billion people subjected to moderate to severe food insecurity in 2019, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, it is noted that human-caused climate change exacerbates impacts inducing food insecurity.  Findings further show that climate change contributed to a decline in self-sufficient households in Lesotho by 50 percent and caused a decrease in the average household purchasing power by 37 percent in 2017.  While climate change did not create food shortages by itself, findings suggest that it made a bad situation a lot worse by hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

Speaking to Public Eye, a Mokhotlong farmer Majakisane Tšita notes that due to extreme weather conditions that the country is experiencing farmers are losing most of their crops and livestock. He said recent heavy rains have destroyed their grazing lands, wetlands and degraded land. Tšita said these have pushed farmers out of business because, apart from their livestock that die from hunger and extreme weather conditions, the lost crops and their soil were swept away by heavy rains.

“Our grazing lands are being destroyed by water and the land is turning into dongas, as a result our livestock is dying and we have nowhere to plant any food. Farming is our only means of survival and without the produce we are doomed, we need assistance from the government. “We have seen other countries compensating their farmers who lost produce due to climate change impact. It is only here in Lesotho that the government is not assisting farmers in any way,” he said.

He, however, appreciated warnings from the country’s meteorological services on weather conditions to be expected stating that the alerts have saved them from losing the remainder of their produce. “It is a critical time where we have to make informed decisions in terms of shearing and moving our livestock to save them from death due to extreme weather conditions,” he stated. The struggles faced by farmers as a result of extreme weather conditions were echoed by ’Mahopolang Mokotleng, a farmer from Tlhanyaku in Mokhotlong.

Mokotleng said she has lost a lot of livestock and crops to heavy rains that the district experienced last December. She said her fields were swept away by the river while her goats and sheep died in the same month and, as a result, she struggles to look after her family as she does not produce any food anymore and her livestock produces much less wool and mohair compared to past years.

She also stated that warning on weather conditions saved her from making decisions that would have put her livestock in jeopardy. “It is shearing season now and most goats and sheep are yet to give birth. It is very important that one be aware of what sort of weather is coming to avoid shearing the livestock only to experience a snowfall soon after,” she said. These, the farmers said during a capacitation engagement where they were reminded of climate change impacts and how they can look after their products despite extreme weather conditions.

The meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Forestry in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) under the Improving Adaptive Capacity of Vulnerable and Food Insecure Population (IACOV) project in Lesotho at a capacitation workshop in the district this week. Rammolenyana Lethaha from the Lesotho Meteorological Services warned the farmers to expect heavy rainfalls this season. They were advised to pay attention to weather warnings so that they can make informed decisions on what to plant and when to shear their livestock.

The farmers appreciated information shared on the issues of climate change but stated that despite the knowledge, they still lose a lot of their products to extreme weather conditions. Lesotho is one of the least developed countries in southern Africa with a precarious food security balance. Almost all of its main staple maize is produced within a single climatic region of southern Africa – 30 percent domestically and 70 percent imported from neighbouring South Africa.

In 2007, a severe drought in both Lesotho and South Africa upset this shaky situation triggering a dramatic drop in crop yields and a steep spike in food prices. The situation has worsened in the past three years which has seen the country experiencing heavy rainfalls that led to a similarly dramatic drop in crop production. However, Lesotho is hands-on in addressing the impact of climate change, rehabilitating its land and capacitating its people to ensure that they are resilient.

The country, which is experiencing severe land degradation and food insecurity, has been implementing sustainable projects on land rehabilitation and food production that not only help restore its natural resources, including water and grass, but also ensures that communities are able to produce their own food for consumption and commercial purposes, despite extreme weather conditions. The efforts are in line with a call from the Heads of State and Government meeting at the United Nations’ global conference on land that the international community takes urgent action to stem the loss of lives and livelihoods that communities all over the world are experiencing due to the increasing and devastating impact of desertification, land degradation and drought.

These efforts are pushed with the help of the four-year IACOV project, financially supported by the Adaptive Fund to the tune of M150 million. The project is executed by the Lesotho government through its Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation and the LMS – and implemented by the WFP. The project seeks to address the barriers to climate change adaptation by strengthening capacity of the government on early warning signs while ensuring that optimal knowledge and utilisation of climate information are tailored to community needs.

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