By: Thandiwe Kubere

The government of Lesotho, with financial and technical support from the green Climate Fund (GCF) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), officially launched the project to formulate a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) the previous week, to build the country’s resilience to climate change.

The Ministry of Defence, National Security and Environment and other stakeholders including development partners, private sector and non-governmental organizations are engaged in the NAP aimed at reducing the impact of climate change in the country. The NAP process aims to lessen vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change, especially in least developed countries, through strategic planning based on projections for future climate change. The Plan is a custodian of the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) under the Ministry Natural Resources.

Giving his opening remarks, UNEP Task Manager Gift Gewona declared climate change as a global crisis which knows no borders. He said, “The consequences of this phenomenon, from rising temperatures to extreme weather events and shifts in the ecosystem, are felt worldwide. Lesotho, despite its small size, is not immune to these changes. As a beautiful and unique nation, it faces significant challenges in the wake of climate change, and our collective response to these challenges is of outmost importance.”

Climate variability and the need to adapt to related risks and impacts have gained growing momentum and global awareness over the years. The level of engagement on adaptation globally is a testament to the gravity of the risks posed by climate change in countries’ economies.

“Climate Change poses a number of risks for regional economic development goals. Increased frequency of floods, cyclones, and droughts may damage infrastructure, destroy agricultural crops, disrupt livelihoods and cause loss of life. In Lesotho, where close to 70% of the population relies heavily on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry, the impacts of variability and change will challenge the country’s efforts to realize its vision of inclusion and prosperity”, said Gewona.

He further noted that guided by the best available science, which require stimulation of future risks, noting that human-induced climate change means the future will look quite different and many risks will be mediated by ecosystem variables; soils, water, tree and rangeland productivity, forest fragmentation and fire risks and others.

Gewona indicated that the NAP process presents an opportunity to address gender inequalities. By acknowledging gender differences in the process. Efforts can be made to empower women as agents of change since they are major contributors in household and livelihood security.

Despite Lesotho being a very low contributor in causes of climate change due to its little to zero emissions, it stands to be among the worst hit countries to suffer the effects. Climate change acts as a risk multiplier for development, magnifying the root causes of existing challenges. A number of studies revealed that in the coming years, Lesotho is likely to become hotter and drier and will continue to experience extreme events like droughts.

Due to changes in climate, Lesotho’s winters are cold and dry with no active vegetation growth, further increasing the precious soil’s vulnerability. All pillars of food security including availability, access, utilization, and stability are already compromised. Despite 80% of the population living in rural areas, their capacity to grow food beyond simple homestead gardens is severely limited by the topography and soil structure, (Help Lesotho, 2022).

Climate no doubts threatens water resources, food security, health, infrastructure, ecosystem services and biodiversity and other sectors of the economy. Governments worldwide are seeking ways, placing adaptation at the heart of their national climate pledges (NDCs), and creating stronger links with policy and planning processes including National Adaptation Plans. They are also seeking to better assess the economic risks associated with climate scenarios, and to prioritize investments to minimize damage.

Given that the effects of climate change and environmental degradation fall most heavily on the vulnerable and less privileged, Lesotho, similar to other developing countries, sought ways of strengthening social and economic resilience to the effects of climate change.

Climate change is therefore a measurable reality and Lesotho is especially susceptible to its impacts. The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) for climate change resilience provides a common vision of climate change adaptation and climate resilience for the country, drawing from the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) and the country’s Sustainable Development Goals.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Defence, National Security and Environment, the programme aims to reduce vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change, through strategic planning based on projections of future changing weather patterns. “The three year project, funded by the GCF to the tune of USD$2.7 Million will support Lesotho in formulating NAP, with a particular focus on strengthening institutional, technical and financial capacities to ensure that medium to long term adaptation needs are addressed.

The Director of Lesotho Meteorological Services, Mr. France Mokoena, indicated that Lesotho is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with extreme weather events, frequently resulting in damage to property and infrastructure, outbreaks of diseases and loss of lives. He noted that the goal is to facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation in a coherent manner, into relevant, new and existing policies, programmes and activities, in particular development planning and budgeting processes and strategies, within all relevant sectors and at different levels.

The NAP is an important step for adaptation in Lesotho as it: Acts as a common reference point for climate change adaptation efforts in the short term to medium-term, providing guidance across all levels of government, sectors and stakeholders affected by climate variability and change; provides a policy instrument in which national climate change adaptation objectives for the country can be articulated to provide overarching guidance to all sectors of the economy; Facilitates the degree to which development initiatives at different levels of government and business integrate and reflect critical climate change adaptation priorities, and thus inform resource allocation by the various stakeholders towards climate change resilience.

It also supports the country in achieving international obligations by defining the country’s vulnerabilities, plans to reduce such vulnerabilities and leverage opportunities, outlining the required resources for such action, whilst demonstrating progress on climate change adaptation.

Despite the country’s advances, vulnerable groups including the elderly, sick, children and disabled, will be affected the most by climate change. Therefore, systematic changes are required to minimise the impacts of climate change. Technological advances that consider social and economic factors can assist in making these transformative changes.

Climate change has the potential to impede the country’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while posing risks to opportunities for socioeconomic development. There is increasing international recognition that strong and sustainable socioeconomic development can reduce vulnerability to climate change and ensure resilience (UN 2016; Chaudhury 2017). Thus it is important to adopt ways of reducing the adverse effects of Climate change.