The climate of Lesotho is characterised by the occurrence of dry spells and wet spells over recorded time. These climatic fluctuations have had serious impacts on the environment. The impacts associated with dry spells include food shortages, famine, disease epidemics, invasion by exotic plants and destructive insects, dust bowls and the initiation of down cutting by rivers. The longest dry spell in the 200-year record occurred between 1991 and 1995. The occurrence of dry spells has been found to be correlated to the EL Niño phenomenon-an abnormal increase in sea surface temperature-while wet spells are related to La Niña conditions.

Lesotho is expected to experience a change in temperature and precipitation patterns, toward dryer and hotter conditions. In addition, the intensity and frequency of extreme events such as floods and drought are expected to increase, especially in the western and northern lowlands. The impacts of climate change in Lesotho will vary from sector to sector. Water resources will be affected negatively by the reduction of precipitation and increase in temperature. This will result in an increase in evaporation losses and a decrease in runoff and groundwater recharge. Rangeland conditions may deteriorate-and ultimately be destroyed-by changes in climate, leading to a change in the quality of livestock and livestock products. The present indigenous forests may change into semi-arid types, while agricultural production will decline, resulting in food shortages.

Lesotho is the only country in the world with all its territory above 1000 metres. Entirely surrounded by South Africa, it is situated at the highest point of the Drakensberg escarpment on the eastern rim of the South African plateau.

Lesotho is a landlocked with an area of about 30,000 km2 . The country is divided into 4 ecological zones: the lowlands (17%), the foothills (15%), the mountains (59%), and the Senqu River valley (9%). Economic activities are largely confined to the lowlands, foothills and the river valley, while the mountainous regions are more ideal for grazing and water resource development, especially hydropower development.

Lesotho’s population is essentially made up of one homogeneous ethnic grouping (Basotho), and is estimated to be 2 million. The population growth rate is 2.3%. Over 80% of the population in Lesotho reside in rural areas. GNP per capita is estimated at US$ 550, which is relatively high compared to other Eastern and Southern African countries. However, a significant portion (49.2%) of the population in Lesotho lives under the poverty line. The poor are more vulnerable to climate change since they do not have sufficient incomes to prepare and protect themselves from the adverse effects of climate change.

Related Content

Reducing Vulnerability from Climate Change in Lesotho's Foothills, Lowlands and the Lower Senqu River Basin

Lesotho is a mountainous, landlocked country located in Southern Africa, prone to natural disasters, and liable to drought and desertification. The country is already paying high premiums as a result of the impacts of global warming. This is evidenced by the increasing frequency of natural disasters, devastating droughts and emerging signs of progressive desertification. The fragile soil/terrain characteristics, erratic climatological conditions, difficulties of realizing the full potential of agro-ecological conditions, the growing level of poverty which is currently estimated at more than 50% of the households, and the relative deprivation of the inaccessible mountain region which makes up more than 60% of the country, ranks Lesotho as one of the most highly vulnerable developing countries.

In response to those vulnerabilities, the project seeks to mainstream climate risk considerations in the Land Rehabilitation Programme of Lesotho for improved ecosystem resilience and reduced vulnerability of livelihoods to climate shocks through i) Knowledge, skills and institutional capacity support land rehabilitation programme to factor in additional risks from climate change, increase resilience and reduce vulnerability; and ii) Climate change adaptation mainstreamed into local and regional development planning and finance.

Source: Lesotho UNDP Project Document (November 26th, 2014) and Lesotho - National Communication on Climate Change.

Level of Intervention: 
POINT (28.9325 -29.7584)
Primary Beneficiaries: 
The project aims to reach approximately 7,000 households in Lesotho's Foothills, Lowlands and the Lower Senqu River Basin.
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
8,398,172 (As detailed in the CEO Endorsement, 14 January 2015.)
Co-Financing Total: 
27,600,000 (As detailed in the CEO Endorsement, 14 January 2015.)
Project Details: 
Lesotho is a landlocked country completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. The land area of Lesotho covers 30,352 square kilometers dominated by rugged topography of the Maloti and Drakensberg mountain ranges. This position exposes the country to the influences of both the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans, with wide differences in temperature. The variations in topography and the microclimatological influences shape the ecological zones of the country: the lowlands, the foothills, the high-lands, and the Senqu River Valley.
Lesotho is generally known as a country that is one of the least forested in Africa, which leads to the country having less protection against climatic changes and natural disasters. The importance of the soil resource in Lesotho derives from the fact that close to 85% of the population derive all or part of their livelihood from agriculture. However, the suitability of these soils is greatly influenced by topography, the highly variable rainfall pattern that includes both droughts and floods, animal and human pressure, the cultivation of marginal lands, and poor land management practices, factors which have combined to expose the country to severe forms of soil erosion. It is estimated that the country losses close to 40 million tons of soil every year.  

The population of Lesotho is estimated at 2 million people (1996 census) a majority of which earns their livelihoods from agriculture. Many Basotho (Lesotho's majority ethnic group) pursue rainted agriculture and are thus highly vulnerable to climate change and variability. The agricultural sector accounts for about 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). It's the primary source of income - as well as an important supplementary source of income - for more than half of the population. The agricultural sector is subject to multiple shocks and stresses that increase household vulnerability. Climate change is one of the pervasive stresses that rural communities have to cope with. The situation is worsened by declining employment opportunities and rising staple food prices that adversely affect household resilience to the shocks brought by climate change.

The project will increase the effectiveness of the baseline being invested by the government on land rehabilitation and policy implementation (related to rangeland management and rural development), by increasing the resilience of the natural resources and ecosystems to climate-induced disasters; thereby reducing the vulnerability of the people dependent on these resources to climate variability and change. The LDCF portion of the project will finance the additional costs of maintaining natural assets and related agro-ecological and hydrological services essential to sustaining the productivity of the natural resources in the face of climate change. Community and District Councils will also be assisted to mainstream climate change considerations into local development strategies. Additionally, training communities to rehabilitate and manage ecosystems in a climate-smart manner will increase their resilience to climate shocks as well as improve their livelihoods through greater income-generating opportunities. Without the project, local communities and the ecosystems upon which they depend will be increasingly at risk from the impacts of climate change. 

The project will also provide practical tools, technologies and capacities for an adaptation programme that promotes ecosystem management by communities. This will be done through practical demonstrations over 50,000 ha to improve the maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem functioning, integrity and resilience. At least 7,000 households in the Mohale’s Hoek District will directly benefit from LDCF resources. These benefits will accrue because improved soil quality and ground cover will lead to increased water infiltration and reduced run off, as well as a decrease in soil erosion. These benefits include: i) improved water quality; ii) increased groundwater recharge; iii) reduced surface water runoff during intense rainfall events; and iv) mitigating the impact of extreme weather events and natural disasters. The combined effect of improved soil and vegetation cover will also increase rangeland productivity. In addition, rehabilitation of degraded rangeland and wetland ecosystems would increase the potential for local communities to increase or diversify household income by supporting alternative livelihoods generated by ecosystem goods and services. The development of sustainable alternative livelihoods would reduce the pressure placed on natural resources by traditional livelihood practices such as agriculture, thereby increasing the climate resilience of vulnerable communities in Lesotho. Strengthening the livelihood assets on which communities depend – such as rangelands – safeguards household income as households are less prone to – and in a better position to recover from – climate-induced disasters. In addition, the project will upscale the lessons learned to enable replication elsewhere in Lesotho. 

Source: Lesotho UNDP Project Document (November 26, 2014), Lesotho - International Food Policy Research Institute, and Lesotho - National Report on Climate Change

Expected Key Results and Outputs: 

Outcome 1. Increased technical capacity of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation and relevant departments to apply up-to-date climate science for the management of evolving risks and uncertainty linked to climate science. 

A geo-based climatic, agro-ecological and hydrological information system will be implemented to support better planning for climate change adaptation under the Land Rehabilitation Programme (Output 1.1), so will a socio-economics unit in the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation (Output 1.2)Climate-driven vulnerabilities in the Lithipeng, Khoelenya and Thaba-Mokhele Community Councils and cost-benefit analysis of specific adaptation interventions will be assessed (Output 1.3). And technical guidelines for these climate change adaptation interventions will also be established (Output 1.4).

Outcome 2. Communities empowered with skills, knowledge, partnerships and institutions for managing natural resources to reduce vulnerability to climate change and increase resilience of natural and social capital.

Training of technical staff of the District Technical Teams, Community Council staff and land managers on restoring and managing ecosystems and agro-ecological landscapes using a climate-smart approach (Output 2.1), as well as training of engineering, planning and monitoring sections of the MFLR on climate science will be done (Output 2.2)Local community members farmers, pastoralists and rural households) from Lithipeng, Khoelenya and Thaba-Mokhele Community Councils will be trained in construction and maintenance of climate-smart ecosystem rehabilitation and management interventions (Output 2.3). An operational inter-council land rehabilitation committees operational in Lithipeng, Khoelenya and Thaba-Mokhele Community Councils will be established (Output 2.4), so will a strategy for maintaining technical capacity in the MFLR and relevant departments (Output 2.5).

Outcome 3. Over 50,000 ha of land across the Foothills, Lowlands and the Lower Senqu River Basin rehabilitated through operationalization of the climate-smart Land Rehabilitation Programme.

Climate-smart ecosystem rehabilitation and management interventions in Lithipeng, Khoelenya and Thaba-Mokhele Community Councils implemented, including: i) protection of critical fens and bogs; ii) adoption of conservation agriculture and agro-forestry practices; and iii) strategic interventions in sensitive areas, including construction of check dams and rehabilitation of old gulleys and rills (Output 3.1)A long-term strategy for monitoring and evaluating climate-smart ecosystem rehabilitation and management interventions for the MFLR and relevant departments, including an experimental design to evaluate the impact of interventions using grass cover as a proxy for rangeland productivity will be established as well (Output 3.2).

Outcome 4. National strategies for rangelands and wetlands management strengthened by the integration of climate change/variability and ecosystem management.

Policy guidelines for incorporating climate science in the review/formulation processes of national sectoral strategies established by the Departments of Rangelands Management and Water Affairs (Output 4.1).

Outcome 5. NSDP mainstreamed into local development strategies to support the constituency-wide adoption of the climate-smart Land Rehabilitation Programme.

Strategy for improved coordination between regional and district development teams to reduce vulnerability to extreme climatic events in the Foothills, Lowlands and Lower Senqu River Basin established (Output 5.1)Revised local policies across productive sectors set up – particularly agriculture, infrastructure development, and rural development – include identified best practices for climate-smart interventions (Output 5.2)Policy recommendations for the integration of climate risk considerations into the Lithipeng, Khoelenya and Thaba-Mokhele Community Councils’ development plans, as well as the Mohale’s Hoek District development plan established (Output 5.3)Training on climate-resilient construction, climate-smart land use and water resource planning, and climate risk management for the relevant officials. Trained staff will include: structural engineers; urban and rural infrastructure planners; local authorities; district planning units; officers of the Ministry of Development Planning; and teaching staff from technical colleges and vocational training institutes (Output 5.4)Best practices and documentation on climate-smart land management in the Lithipeng, Khoelenya and Thaba-Mokhele Community Councils disseminated through existing national and international platforms (Output 5.5)

Source: Lesotho UNDP Project Document (November 26, 2014).

Monitoring & Evaluation: 

Project monitoring and evaluation (M&E) will be in accordance with established UNDP procedures and will be carried out by the Project team and the UNDP Country Office. Periodic monitoring of implementation progress will be undertaken by the UNDP-CO through quarterly meetings with the project proponent, or more frequently as deemed necessary. This will allow parties to take stock and to troubleshoot any problems pertaining to the project in a timely fashion to ensure smooth implementation of project activities.

The budgeted M&E activities and timeframe are as follows:

Inception Workshop and Report (Within first two months of project start up); Measurement of Means of Verification of project results (Start, mid and end of project during evaluation cycle) and annually when required); Measurement of Means of Verification for Project Progress on output and implementation (Annually prior to ARR/PIR and to the definition of annual work plans)ARR/PIR (Annually)Periodic status/ progress reports (Quartly)Mid-term Evaluation (At the mid-point of project implementation)Final Evaluation (At least three months before the end of project implementation)Project Terminal Report (At least three months before the end of the project)Audit (Yearly)Visits to field sites (Yearly).

Source: Lesotho UNDP Project Document (November 26, 2014).

Funding Source Short Code: 
Display Photo: 

Supporting Lesotho to advance their NAP Process

Status of assistance to Lesotho for their NAP process:

The NAP process was launched in Lesotho in October 2015 followed by a two day technical training, supported by NAP-GSP. In the opening session, the Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Lesotho, Ms Christy Ahenkora, reinforced the importance of national development planning to reduce vulnerability, build capacity and mainstream adaptation into all sector-specific development plans. The two-day training workshop in Maseru brought together around 30 national experts from various sectors and departments, including Health, Water, Agriculture, as well as members of the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC), media representatives, academic institutions and civil society. The training was delivered at the request of the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology by a team of facilitators drawn from UNDP and UNITAR, with support from the GEF-funded NAP-GSP.
During the COP 21, Government officials from Lesotho talked about their process and road-map development with the support of the NAP-GSP during the side event on 'The Work of LEG in supporting the LDCs on NAPs and NAPAs', 1st December 2015. The main requirement for NAP support expressed by the Government of Lesotho is to develop the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into existing national development planning process. NAP-GSP can support coordination to develop plans which are mainstreamed into line ministries and sectoral plans, through in-country capacity building and training.
Some capacity-building and training has already come  from Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP) in Lesotho. NAP-GSP will build on this support through additional training provision and wider multi-sector capacity building in-country. The Central Planning Ministry (CPM) has developed medium term and long term planning processes to 2017. The Government of Lesotho expressed the need to have a mainstreamed planning process which is consistent and formal - a clear structure for all sectors - led from the CPM and mainstreamed into all the sectors of Government, embedded into existing planning processses.
The Government of Lesotho CPM has developed a 5 year plan - 2012/3 to 2016/7 – ‘National Strategic Development Plan’ - which incorporates climate change mainstreaming into the plan into all sectors. Adaptation projects proposals are also included. NAP-GSP can provide support to develop these proposals into projects.
A Lesotho Government delegation attended the NAP-GSP Africa Regional Training Workshop (Anglophone) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2014.


Level of Intervention: 
Key Collaborators: 
POINT (27.482299767666 -29.312315210888)
Funding Source: 
Project Details: 

Lesotho's climate change adaptation experiences - overview:
Presented by the Lesotho delegation at the NAP-GSP Africa Regional Training Workshop (Anglophone) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2014

Project Status: 
Programme Meetings and Workshops: 

19 October 2015, Maseru, Lesotho: Lesotho officially launched their NAP process in October 2015. This was followed by a two day technical training on NAPs supported by the NAP-GSP. The two-day training workshop in Maseru brought together around 30 national experts from various sectors and departments, including Health, Water, Agriculture, as well as members of the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC), media representatives, academic institutions and civil society. The training was delivered at the request of the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology by a team of facilitators drawn from UNDP and UNITAR, with support from the NAP-GSP.

> Read more

Display Photo: 

Lesothos’s National Strategic Development Plan – May 2012

The National Strategic Development Plan extends from 2012-13 to 2016-17 and serves as an implementation strategy for the country's National Vision 2020. The plan recognizes vulnerability to climate change as one of the 7 key challenges faced by the country and consequently strategizes a number of actions including biodiversity conservation and integrated land and water resource management as ways of combating it.