LESOTHO – Literally in the middle of the largest economy in Africa, Lesotho is plagued with extreme poverty. The small mountain kingdom relies on both agriculture and migrant work to survive. These days, however, low yield and climate change, as well as drops in demand for migrant workers in South Africa, have taken their toll.
Despite ties to the South African economy, including pegging the local currency on the South African rand, almost two thirds of Lesotho’s population is at or below the national poverty line. As migrant work becomes less available, communities are forced to rely even more heavily on subsistence farming and agriculture, which represents 17 percent of the country’s GDP. Without the extra income from labor opportunities outside the country, the majority of small-scale farmers depend on 1.5 ha of land to produce enough food for themselves and the marketplace.
Predictably, the demand for higher yield from the land has led rural Lesotho people to engage in practices that cause intense environmental degradation. Unable to afford technologies that increase the yield in a sustainable fashion, rural folks either over-farm or over-graze mountainous regions that result in even worse conditions for the next year. Almost one third of the rural population lives in extreme poverty, while access to improved water sources is declining over the years.
The good news, however, is that the crisis in Lesotho is reversible. Investments in mountainous irrigations systems and high yield technologies, such as aeroponics, the process of growing plants without the use of soil or an aggregate medium, will no doubt pay dividends by creating a more stable economy. By directing development aid to solidify a sustainable agricultural base for this small kingdom, developed nations may also create a market economy for their own goods.
For their own part, the people of Lesotho have begun addressing the issues related to food security and poverty as a national crisis. The government, over the past few years, has worked to implement an official poverty reduction strategy with a forward vision up to 2020. For a more comprehensive reading on the subject, the relevant government document can be found here.