By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – Lesotho has been challenged to speed-up efforts aimed at addressing the impending climate change effects confronting her.

These calls were made during the recent 44th Meeting of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) that was held in Maseru.

The country which does not put effort in mitigating the effects of climate change could potentially attract its devastating impacts. They include frequent and intense natural disasters, loss of agricultural productivity which results in food insecurity, displacement of populations and in some cases, conflicts could erupt due to fighting for scarce resources such as water and arable land.

Similarly, the country’s infrastructure remains highly vulnerable.

Gabriel Kpaka, LEG Chair said they have drawn the guidelines to guide the countries on what should go into their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and carry out their institutional arrangements going forward.

He said the NAPs expos create avenues for the LEG countries including Lesotho to borrow leaves from the books of the countries that have already drawn up their NAPs. The Chair further said they have country dialogues where they communicate with the countries directly to monitor the progress in mounting the instruments and identify the challenges they are facing in climate change.

He said the countries need to adopt the bottom up strategy when developing their instruments to bring everyone on board.

“From the Lesotho government, we are just trying to request them to have their NAP as quick as possible, because the NAP is kind of a Bible that you can look through whatever adaptation priority that you want to implement for the country to be resilient [against] the climate change,” he said.

For effective NAPs he emphasized that concerted efforts are needed in the country to come up with such instruments.

Established in 2001, LEG is charged with the mandate to offer technical support and support to the least developed countries (LDCs) to formulate and implement the NAPs and the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPAs).

The United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi underscored that Lesotho remains intensely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

She told the delegates that Lesotho is adversely impacted by the effects of climate change.

The UN Resident Coordinator stated that “its fragile ecosystems, predominantly reliant on rain-fed agriculture, are increasingly strained by erratic weather patterns, prolonged droughts, and changing precipitation trends.

She added: “These adverse effects ripple across the country, exacerbating food and water insecurity, threatening livelihoods, food security and undermining socioeconomic progress.

“I earnestly call upon the government of Lesotho to prioritize the expeditious passing of the Climate Change Bill. A robust legal framework is essential to guide and coordinate the nation’s efforts in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The passage of this bill will signal Lesotho’s commitment to addressing this global challenge and provide the necessary tools to drive impactful action.”

Mukwashi however noted that “regrettably”, Lesotho is among the two countries that have not yet completed their National Determined Contributions (NDCs), and has not finalized her NAP.

She then called on the government to prioritize the completion of these critical documents by the end of this year. She stressed the importance of having these, saying Lesotho needs to showcase her commitment to global climate action as well as aligns her national strategies with international goals.

“An opportunity to demonstrate this commitment and forge a united African stance awaits us at the Africa Climate Change Summit in September. This summit provides a platform for Africa to consolidate its position and present a unified voice on climate change,” she charged.

The Acting Principal Secretary of Environment, ‘Mabataung Khalane highlighted that due to climate change Lesotho is subjected to increased frequencies of the “extreme” weather such as drought, heavy rains, high temperatures in winter, cold temperatures in summer, strong winds.

“This extreme weather climate has adverse impacts on our economic sector, particularly on agriculture [and] food security, water resources as well as health,” she said.

To respond to these challenges, the acting PS said Lesotho developed various strategies that include the NAPA, in 2007 which was meant to address urgent and immediate adaptation needs with the guidance and support of the LEG.

Since then, she noted that several adaptation plans were approved, while some are still in the process to address the effects of climate change. In 2015, Khalane showed that Lesotho developed the NDCs.

It will also be recalled that in 2017, the country developed various instruments to address the impending issue of climate change and those include NDCs. Meanwhile, she said Lesotho is currently seized with updating these instruments and that exercise is due for completion by the end of this year. Also, in 2018, the guidelines and strategies were also developed to ensure adaptation to climate change but the progress has seemingly been slow.

She went on to state that Lesotho is finalizing the NAP that when complete will address the medium and long-term impact of climate change, adding that this exercise is expected to be completed in 2024.

Khalane said this will help to initiate the process of mounting the first Lesotho climate change bill saying this will be a “significant milestone”.

From the UN Climate Change Secretariat, Adaptation Division, Motsumi Maletjane said the LEG has presence in 46 countries across the world and meets twice a year, in those meetings, he said they discuss on how best to come up with the avenues for the LEG taking measures to adapt to climate change.

Maletjane said they ensure that each country boasts the adaptation plan.

He continued: “It is against a robust plan that you are able to implement the coherent and meaningful actions. The plan is one thing, that is just an instrument, unless we implement it then you won’t have the changes that you want.”

He highlighted that there is a need for support mobilization be it financial or technical that can then translate into countries effectively implementing the plans.

As most in Lesotho subsistence farming is practiced, when the rains come late these activities suffer adding that they are more frequent and intense than before.

“So, for Lesotho, the impact of climate change on food security, food systems as a whole is a big issue and that’s one of the bigger priorities that need to be looked into. Lesotho because of our terrain, our infrastructure, the topography of the country is very vulnerable and fragile to the extremes that happen whenever we have these extreme rains or precipitations, [they] come and wash away that’s why we have a lot of dongas.

“Land degradation is a big, part of it can be our own practices in terms of how we don’t manage our soil well, but also at the same time climate change exacerbate and exaggerates that because it leaves the barren soil with no vegetation because it gets dryer and when the rain comes it simply makes it worse leaving dongas everywhere.

“Another one that is big as well is regarding water, because we know how it is increasingly getting dryer these days. We have our legendary dams, Katse Dam and we are even building more and what do climate change implications have on these dams that we are building, are they still going to be maintained? We know that in the past few years Katse Dam has been going at the lower levels that we haven’t seen before, are we going to see more of these and if they happen what are we going to do?

“One more thing which is very important for Basotho and Lesotho is the livestock which is a very important part of the economy. Talking about these two, when we talk about agriculture, we talk about water, we also talk about the ecosystems, these are not just unique to Lesotho they cut across many countries in the world, even the developed countries their ecosystem gets affected and this leads to higher prices.”