Poverty in Lesotho
Lesotho is a small, mountainous nation surrounded entirely by South Africa. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, Lesotho has been plagued by political instability and slow economic development. A high prevalence of HIV further complicates efforts to end poverty in Lesotho. Despite an attempted military coup in 2014, conditions have been improving in the country in recent years. Here are 7 factors that affect poverty in Lesotho.

7 Factors Affecting Poverty in Lesotho

  1. Agriculture: Sixty-six percent of Lesotho’s population lives in rural areas where the economy is largely based on small scale agriculture. Many of these people engage in subsistence farming, meaning they rely on a good harvest to be able to feed their families. The success of each harvest makes a huge impact on the lives of millions in Lesotho. A drought from 2015 to 2016 crippled poverty reduction efforts for the next few years, proving the delicacy of this system.
  2. Gender: Households run by women have a poverty rate of 55.2%, compared to 46.3% for households run by men. This is because women are typically denied the same opportunities as men in Lesotho’s highly patriarchal society.
  3. Urbanization: Poverty in Lesotho is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas. Urban areas have a 28.5% poverty rate while rural areas face a 60.7% poverty rate. Despite Lesotho’s economic development in recent years, most improvements have been made in urban areas while rural areas have been left behind.
  4. Education: Achieving a college education is extremely rare in Lesotho – only 4.4% of people live in households with someone who has gone to a college or university. Those that do receive higher education have a low poverty rate of 8.7%.
  5. Government programs: Over the past 20 years, the government in Lesotho has been working with international organizations to expand protections for the poor and increase economic opportunity. As a result, the national poverty rate decreased from 56.6% to 49.7% from 2002 to 2017.
  6. HIV: Poverty and HIV are clearly connected in Lesotho. Almost 24% of adults are living with HIV and treatment is essential to stopping the spread and helping these people live normal lives. Lack of resources and awareness means that on average only 57% of people with HIV are currently getting help. This directly impacts their quality of life and makes it harder to land above the poverty line.
  7. NGOs: Though poverty in Lesotho is an important issue for the country’s government, NGOs are stepping in to fill gaps. Many international nonprofit groups such as Caritas Lesotho operate in the country. Caritas Lesotho is a group which seeks to help individuals escape poverty by teaching them technical skills. They focus on vulnerable children and teach them a trade such as farming or woodworking. Groups like Caritas Lesotho are slowly helping to improve the economic situation in the country.

Examining the causes of poverty in a country is essential in deciding how best to address the issue. It is clear that poverty in Lesotho will continue to be an issue for many years. However, the country is on the right track and will improve as education and economic opportunity increase.

– Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in lesotho
Lesotho, a small nation in southern Africa, is continually improving its access to healthcare systems. Still, even with greater access to healthcare services in some of the areas that are more difficult to reach, long treks and expensive rides are necessary to receive essential care. Due to the state of remote villages being located far from hospitals, patients are not able to receive help immediately in case of an emergency.

Lesotho is also the only country in the world that has its entire elevation above 1,000 meters, which means the terrain may be harder to navigate and maneuver. The life expectancy for Lesotho averages around 53 years for both males and females and deaths under 5 occur 8.1% of the time. However, despite all these limitations, Lesotho has remained committed to improving the well-being of its citizens. Partnerships with private companies, expansions to the hospital network and increased government funding to aid programs have all been policies implemented to invest in Lesotho’s health infrastructure. These five facts about healthcare in Lesotho are integral to understanding the country’s changing health structures and transition out of poverty.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Lesotho

  1. Lesotho is at an elevated risk for HIV and Tuberculosis, consistently ranking in the top 20 countries by an estimated absolute number of incident cases. Predictions estimate that less than half of the approximate 12,000 cases of HIV/TB co-infected patients are even diagnosed each year, much less treated for their symptoms. Estimated TB incidence is about 724 per 100,000 individuals in the population, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reports. Understanding that the necessary objective is to expand TB testing and treatment coverage, Lesotho is working to increase and optimize its GeneXpert equipment to meet the demand.
  2. Partners in Health, known locally to the people of Lesotho as Bo-mphato Litsebeletsong Tsa Bophelo, works directly with the government of Lesotho to reform and improve the healthcare infrastructure system as a whole. After a government invitation in 2006 to aid in Lesotho’s response to the HIV epidemic, Partners in Health expanded a primary healthcare program to reach over 90,000 people at mountain clinics in remote areas of the country. Partnered reform for HIV/TB co-infection began in 2014, with Partners in Health as the primary adviser to the government of Lesotho. Thus far, the expansion of health systems has reached more than 70 health centers and about 40% of Lesotho’s population. With special focuses on maternal and child health going forward, Partners in Health looks to continue Lesotho’s health development.
  3. One of the most unique government healthcare services in Lesotho, the Flying Doctor Service, provides aid by plane to rural areas. However, even in these hard-to-reach mountainous areas, the Flying Doctor Service does more than provide treatment. In addition to emergency medical service, the service also implements healthcare programs and brings essential medical supplies like vaccines to areas in need. The Flying Doctor Service uses Cessna 206 single-engine planes, stocked with stretchers and first aid kits, to deliver care to the people of Lesotho. Even countries like Ireland have supported the Flying Doctor Service in Lesotho, committing to provide flights to Lesotho to assist the aid efforts.
  4. Public-private partnerships have been an essential part of Lesotho’s healthcare development in the infrastructure department. The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank has recently been working with the government of Lesotho to develop hospitals and health centers around the mountainous regions. The Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital in the country’s capital, Maseru, was recently developed and opened for patients. Replacing the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, where infrastructure was debilitating and services were poor, the new Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital is truly world-class. With state of the art operating rooms, a maternal ward, nursery, Intensive Care Unit and other services, the new hospital built with help from a $6.25 million grant from the World Bank Group.
  5. In 2016, the maternal mortality rate in Lesotho was about 618 deaths per 100,000 live births. Though this mortality rate is favorable when compared to the 2014 statistic of approximately 1,024 deaths per 100,000 live births, it is still too much too high for Lesotho. This exceptionally high maternal mortality rate is a result of the poor services provided during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery (especially to those in rural areas of Lesotho). Postnatal care is also imperative to ensure the safety of the mother and child after delivery but only around 62% of mothers and 18% of newborns receive the recommended treatment.

In the fight against poverty and for a stronger healthcare system, Lesotho has much work to do. There has been progress on the infrastructure front and with public-private partnerships but many services to the rural population still lag behind what is necessary. However, with continued government support and increased foreign aid, the healthcare system will continue to develop and Lesotho can become a country that provides a robust healthcare system for its growing population.

– Pratik Koppikar
Photo: Pikist

Lesotho is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy in southern Africa. Formerly known as Basutoland, the country was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966, after gaining independence from the U.K. Following a period of political instability and turmoil, Lesotho is now at relative peace, and its level of homelessness is low. Even still, homelessness and housing are issues that Lesotho’s government must address.

Effects of Rapid Urbanization

As in many developing countries, homelessness in Lesotho reflects one downside of urbanization and development. Lesotho went through a period of rapid economic growth in the last two decades. From $775 million in 2002, Lesotho’s GDP rose to $2.739 billion in 2018. Lesotho’s population has increased rapidly, as well, growing to more than 2 million in 2018 compared to 837,270 in 1960. Lesotho’s economic growth seems largely a result of its economic ties with South Africa. However, Lesotho’s poverty rate still stands at 49.7%.

Following Lesotho’s economic development, rapid urbanization has contributed to homelessness. According to the World Bank, the urban population in Lesotho rose from 3.512% in 1960 to 28.153% in 2018. This increase means that urban development in Lesotho has proceeded uncontrolled, overcrowded and unplanned.

Shortage of Infrastructure and Housing

According to UN-Habitat, recording Lesotho’s urbanization rate is a challenge. This is partly because different agencies within Lesotho’s government disagree on what constitutes an urban area. The Department of Lands, Surveys and Physical Planning, which is responsible for town and regional planning, defines an urban area as any area that has legal proclamation. On the other hand, the Bureau of Statistics defines an urban area as any administrative district headquarters or other settlement of rapid growth where people engage in non-agricultural activities. Such inconsistencies seem to contribute to unplanned urban expansion in Lesotho, which leads to insufficient infrastructures for water, sanitation, energy resources, transportation and social amenities.

A shortage of formal housing also contributes to homelessness in Lesotho. The Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation (LHLDC), a major state-owned developer, is mainly responsible for supplying homes in Lesotho. While LHLDC delivered an estimated 76% of formal housing in Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, U.N.-Habitat notes that LHLDC has not supplied adequate rental housing for low-income residents. In its report on Lesotho’s urban housing, UN-Habitat points out that the housing market in Maseru is saturated with expensive two-bedroom houses. The LHLDC tried to reduce prices by lowering construction standards. However, the organization’s high building costs, along with rising land prices in Maseru, limit LHLDC’s ability to help Lesotho’s homeless.

Help for the Homeless

There are certain organizations working to alleviate homelessness in Lesotho. Habitat for Humanity launched a vulnerable groups housing program in 2001, servicing seven of the country’s ten districts. Primarily, Habitat for Humanity helps build two-room homes to house orphans, the elderly and persons with disabilities. In addition to building homes, the organization educates and trains prospective homeowners on inheritance rights and legal rights, to protect against property grabbing. Meanwhile, AVANI Lesotho Group, a hotel in Maseru, commemorated World Homeless Day in 2016 by providing food for homeless children.

Homelessness in Lesotho is defined by unplanned rapid urbanization and a lack of affordable housing for low-income residents. By addressing the country’s homelessness problem, organizations like Habitat for Humanity and AVANI Lesotho Group are creating hope for a better future for the citizens of Lesotho.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in LesothoIn the country of Lesotho, a mountainous region landlocked by South Africa, there are two playing fields, although neither one of them results in a fair chance of winning a life away from poverty’s grasp. Instead, the two fields paint similar pictures of poverty with contrasting colors. The first field, the lowlands, is statistically less impoverished than its towering companion, the highlands. Agricultural impacts are not the only factor impacting poverty. Here is some information about the impacts on poverty in Lesotho.

Agricultural Impact

According to UNICEF, 82% of children living in the highlands are multidimensionally poor compared to 53% of children living in the lowlands. This is due to the fact that the natural landscape of the lowlands is more suitable for agricultural endeavors as opposed to the rocky, mountainous terrain of the highlands. Since the majority of Basotho, the proper term for the country’s natives, grow their own food, a season of drought could greatly impact not only the current year’s harvest but future harvests as well because seeds would not reproduce for the Basotho to use the following year. Children lacking food and proper nutrition also increase student growth. In 2014, stunting impacted approximately 88,900 of 275,000 Basotho children. Stunting can result in a compromised immune system and poor cognitive performance which adds an unnecessary barrier to childhood education and future employability.

Educational Impact

One of the impacts on poverty in Lesotho including both the highlands and the lowlands is the absence of proper and consistent education. School is free for elementary-aged children. However, after these years, children have to purchase school uniforms to continue their education. This pulls many children out of the cinder-block classrooms and back into their homes. At home, they must often care for younger siblings or other abandoned children even though they have yet to reach puberty.

Allison Barnhill of Reclaimed Project, a nonprofit that partners alongside local churches to educate, equip and care for orphaned children, spoke with The Borgen Project saying, “Education is a huge part of it [poverty]. If you want to grow up and change the country, you have to be educated.” Reclaimed Project acknowledges this need by providing uniforms and school supplies to children in its program. These children also receive educational training outside of the classroom after each school day at one of Reclaimed Project’s orphan care centers. The care centers are located in two different highland villages and allow students to grow forward. Later in 2020, Reclaimed Project plans to open a skills training center to teach high schoolers and local Basotho basic computer, mechanic and sewing skills.

HIV/AIDS Impact

Another of the impacts on poverty in Lesotho is HIV/AIDS. It is easy to tell if a family does not have the means to purchase school uniforms. However, there is a type of poverty the Basotho people face that others cannot see. It is invisible and inescapable. HIV and AIDS fell upon the country of Lesotho in the 1990s, creating a wave of economic and social destruction. Currently, it affects 74% of children under the age of 2 with 23.2% of adults affected. Many victims of the disease are Basotho who once held steady jobs and now must succumb to treatment interventions.

Unfortunately, Basotho culture still highly stigmatizes this disease. Medical clinics, which predominantly serve people infected by HIV and AIDS, have specific days when people come to receive treatment. Therefore, if others witness a Basotho walking towards the clinic on this given day, they might assume that he or she has HIV or AIDS. This makes the unknown known and creates a social scar. To prevent this from happening, some Basotho willingly choose to avoid treatment and risk death to maintain their social standing. Overtime, refusing treatment can result in the inability to work, further lengthening the downward economic spiral of poverty.

Fortunately, with the passage of time comes the gradual reformation of these ideals. Within a five-year time span, the average percentage of full acceptance of Basotho living with HIV increased by 3.5%. This indicates that community acceptance is improving. However, HIV/AIDS treatment funding is limited and a burden on the government of Lesotho. In fact, the government funds less than half of Lesotho’s HIV/AIDS response. The majority of funding for HIV/AIDS reform comes from international resources. Therefore, the country relies heavily on the generosity of middle-income countries and nonprofits.

Future Impact

Speaking on the many dimensions of poverty, Barnhill stated that, “The issues are always compounding. If you’re living on the brink, it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge.” Fortunately, by 2030, the number of people living near the edge should reduce as the World Bank works with the Government of Lesotho to reduce extreme poverty. Even though poverty plagues the country of Lesotho, the country has come a long way from its roots. Lesotho continues to grow forward, creating branches of prosperity and leaves a budding of hope.

– Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Chatham Kennedy

Tuberculosis in Lesotho
On May 13, 2020, Lesotho confirmed its first case of COVID-19, making it the last country in Africa to contract the virus. The country now has to make a difficult decision on how to take charge of the situation. In short, the government has its work cut out for it.

But COVID-19 is not the first disease that the country has had to fight off. For years, Lesotho has been at war with tuberculosis, an incredibly infectious disease that acts similarly to COVID-19. Although Lesotho’s fight with TB may not be over, it has certainly made great strides towards ending the epidemic its citizens are living in.

Tuberculosis in Lesotho

Lesotho is a country in Africa that South Africa surrounds on all sides. It is a developing country home to approximately 2.11 million people. Currently, Lesotho ranks second in the world for people with tuberculosis, with an estimated 724 cases per 100,000 people—about 15,276 people in total. In Lesotho, tuberculosis is particularly harmful to those with HIV, as 73% of people who contract tuberculosis also have HIV.

Tuberculosis is the leading fatal infectious disease in the world, and it kills more than 1.6 million people worldwide each year. TB is an airborne disease: it transfers when a person breathes contaminated air droplets from an actively sick person. If untreated, active TB can be lethal. However, 90-95% of infected people do not actually show symptoms. Most tuberculosis is treatable, as the success rate of treatment in Lesotho is around 77%, but the country has seen a rise in MDR-TB or multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. As the name suggests, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is immune to the common medications for TB. According to the National Center for Infectious Diseases, MDR-TB affects about 10% of people with smear-positive TB or around 1,000 people. The stronger strain of the bacteria requires that doctors develop more creative treatment options.

Treating Tuberculosis

Although the tuberculosis epidemic has significantly impacted life in Lesotho, the country has not stopped its ongoing war with it. Trained community health workers treat and supervise several patients from the patients’ homes. These workers give injections as well as monitor the side effects of treatments. Patients who become dangerously ill go to Botshabelo Hospital, a place that specializes in MDR-TB in the capital of Maseru.

The CDC also partnered with Lesotho in 2007 to help fight the infection. Since then, it has been working diligently to bring peace. The CDC helps the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s efforts towards HIV and TB treatment by improving health information systems, preventing transmission of HIV between mother and child, increasing the capacity in laboratories and giving counseling and testing for those HIV has affected. It also works with the ministry on diagnosis and treatment of the many variations of TB infecting the country. Altogether, the CDC has lowered the TB mortality rate to just 46 deaths per 100,000 infected.

Global Resilience

As a whole, the world has made phenomenal progress in its fight against tuberculosis. Global efforts have saved more than 50 million lives since 2000. Furthermore, global aid is actually is one of the best investments in the public health industry, as each dollar that goes towards TB relief yields $43 back.

Even though Lesotho is facing much loss, including those from its new COVID-19 cases, the country has stayed resilient amid hardship. Lesotho continues its ongoing war with TB, and it will not stop until there is no disease left to fight. The people of Lesotho show the world each day what true bravery looks like as they work towards a new, tuberculosis-free era.

John Pacheco
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small, mountainous African kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s population is 72 percent rural and 80 percent are engaged in the agricultural sector, which has suffered greatly due to recent droughts, climate change and failed harvests. Lesotho is classified as a lower-middle-income country; however, 57 percent of its two million residents live below the poverty line. Here are eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho to know.

8 Facts About Living Conditions in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS – In 2017, 23.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 in Lesotho had HIV, 320,000 people were living with HIV and there were 4,900 AIDs-related deaths. NGOs such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO have been working with Lesotho’s government to fast-track HIV prevention, testing and treatment. In 2017, 80 percent of people living with HIV in Lesotho were aware of their status, 74 percent of people with HIV were on treatment and 68 percent of people on treatment were virally suppressed.
  2. Tuberculosis – Around 405 out of 100,000 people suffer from tuberculosis (TB). This is one of the highest tuberculosis rates in southern Africa. This airborne bacterial disease is a huge public health crisis in Lesotho and is seen as a co-epidemic with HIV/AIDS. The crisis has narrowed substantially from the TB rate of 695 out of 100,000 people in 2007. Progress is being made, but there is still much to improve upon in terms of public health and living conditions in Lesotho.
  3. Access to Clean Water – The Highlands Water Project raises millions of dollars annually for Lesotho by selling water to its neighboring countries, primarily South Africa. Still, around 18.2 percent of people in Lesotho do not have access to clean drinking water. Many must walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be in working order. The Metolong Dam Project is a promising project to help increase clean water accessibility. When completed in 2020, it is predicted that water supply will reach 90 percent of the district Maseru and sanitation coverage will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Food Insecurity – Drought in Lesotho combined with two successive crop failures, low incomes and high costs for food left more than 709,000 people in “urgent need of food assistance” from 2016 to 2017. The food insecurity crisis worsened with a steep reduction in harvest for Lesotho’s main crops of maize, sorghum and wheat between 2017 and 2018. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to reduce hunger in Lesotho by supporting more than 260,000 people affected by drought with monthly food distributions and cash-based transfers during the low-yield season.
  5. Stunting – One in three children under 5 years old are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a major problem in Lesotho’s population that affects children the most. Many NGOs focus on alleviating child hunger caused by poor living conditions in Lesotho. UNICEF provided support to 1,750 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped 2,560 families start home-based gardens with vegetables to create a stable, healthy food source. In addition, the WFP currently provides free healthy school meals to more than 250,000 children in 1,173 of Lesotho’s primary schools.
  6. Housing – Around 70 percent of Lesotho residents live in substandard housing conditions with issues ranging from overcrowding to lack of toilets. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity operate in Lesotho to build homes for vulnerable populations, but individuals also can have a large impact on housing and development. A winning proposal by Javed Sultan for Climate CoLab laid out the success in building affordable and climate responsive homes for the elderly in Lesotho. Innovative and cost-effective building in Lesotho has the potential to help many people in housing poverty.
  7. Sanitation – Access to proper sanitation facilities has increased every year since 1994. In 2015, 30.3 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities that included flushing systems, ventilation latrine pits and composting toilets ensuring hygienic separation from human waste. In 1994 only 22.6 percent had this level of sanitation. This shows that progress is being continually made to improve this area of living conditions in Lesotho, but there still is much to accomplish.
  8. Education – In 2010, Lesotho established Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law. The net lower basic enrollment ratio increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2010. Lesotho also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with 85 percent of people over the age of 14 being literate. The Government of Lesotho allocates 23.3 percent of its annual budget, or 9.2 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, on the education sector showing its commitment to improving its education system.

These eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho show that there are still major issues including epidemics, water, hunger and sanitation crises that need to be further addressed. However, progress is being made to improve living conditions on many fronts due to the collaboration of charitable organizations and the Government of Lesotho.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Lesotho
Lesotho is a small landlocked country with a population of over 2 million surrounded by its much larger neighbor, South Africa. The rural population accounts for 75 percent of the total population with about 40 percent of the Basothos living there involved in the agricultural sector. This sector, despite experiencing declines in production in recent years remains a central part of the nation’s economy.

Lesotho has a GDP of $1,141 per capita which categorizes it as lower to middle-income country with a 3 percent economic growth rate in the past three years. This progress can be attributed to the performance of textile manufacturing and as well as the agricultural sector after it recovered from the 2015 and 2016 droughts. However, this progress was thwarted by the rand/dollar depreciation. Unemployment, high level of inequality and poverty remain an issue for Lesotho reflected by 2017 estimates that indicate 51.8 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line.

Long-Term Strategies to Improve Credit Access in Lesotho

The government of Lesotho has been creating strategies to meet the goal of improving access to financial services for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in order to alleviate the aforementioned challenges including extreme poverty. One of the main strategies outlined by the central bank of Lesotho is attaining higher savings and investment ratios. The report shows that achieving this goal has results of economic growth and an increase in employment as well as food security.

However, given that more than 50 percent small and medium-sized enterprises lack access to credit in particular, it would be essential to work on widening that resource further to augment the overall economic growth in Lesotho. One of the main interventions used to achieve this improvement is called a public credit guarantee scheme (CGS).

This strategy involves resolving the lack of financial history records which poses a risk, through third-party credit risk mitigation to lenders. This is because the scheme allows for a part of the losses to be absorbed by the loans given to small and medium enterprises, in exchange for a fee. Moreover, this solution is particularly viable in developing nations such as Lesotho as it is growing to cover more than half of the developing world already.

This is increasingly relevant in agriculture, one of the biggest economic sectors, which has not yielded as much contribution to the economy due to the fact that most of the people involved still practice subsistence farming. The government attributes this lag in diversifying and increasing agricultural productivity to credit market failure, lack of access to information and technical support, restricted market integration and climate change.

Furthermore, the sector is marked as high risk and low return by the financial sector, a label that can potentially be reversed with the development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises through improved access to financial services including credit access in Lesotho.

Importance of Credit Access in Lesotho

Given its potential to accelerate economic growth, improving access to credit access in Lesotho has the ability to significantly augment big sectors such as agriculture. Creating a strong financial sector that increases credit access in Lesotho can have the effect of strengthening the 40 percent of the population involved in agriculture in its transition from subsistence farming to advanced agriculture by allowing the ability acquire the technology as well as the technical support that is lacking.

The work towards creating a financial sector that could meet these development objectives has had challenges due to inadequacies in technical and entrepreneurial skills as well as the lack of proper documentation of financial records. Although this poses an issue with increasing credit access in Lesotho and creating an inclusive financial sector as a whole, without a strong foundation of a stable, liquid and efficient financial sector, the nation will continue to have challenges in creating sustainable growth.

Bilen Kassie
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to Lesotho
Situated wholly within the country of South Africa, the small country of Lesotho is a member of a very rare group of countries which exist completely within the borders of a separate state. Lesotho’s population is roughly 2 million, and its geography is mainly highland. At its $1,160 GDP per capita, it is classified as a lower- and middle-income country by the World Bank. While it may seem as though this African monarchy should not demand the foreign aid of large developed countries, due to its relatively small size (about the size of Maryland) and population, quite the opposite is true. Here is a look into how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho.

Economic

The U.S. is Lesotho’s largest trading partner with Lesotho sending 43.9 percent of its total exports to U.S. shores. Lesotho’s exports are mainly constituted of clothing (40 percent) and diamonds (22 percent).  Provided that these commodities are valued in the U.S., the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho because it will continue receiving exports at the current rate, which will likely grow given increasing development. Furthermore, Lesotho also gets 93 percent of its imports from South Africa. As Lesotho benefits from foreign aid, the market for South African goods increases. So investing in this small country could potentially benefit a much broader population in South Africa. With the U.S. being South Africa’s third largest import source, this could potentially increase as the prosperity of Lesotho grows.

Regional Security

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has made global political stability a priority in its foreign policy. Like many decolonized nations, Lesotho has had much violence in its short existence. In 1966, Britain released its colonial rule on Lesotho, and the country was founded as a monarchy. However, in 1970, the country’s first Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan suspended the constitution, exiled the king and ushered in a 23-year-period of authoritarian rule, complete with multiple coups and political repression. In the last five years, there have been armed clashes between the police force and the military. Unrest in Lesotho has involved South Africa in the past, and if Lesotho were to receive foreign aid, the benefits in political stability would also permeate South Africa.

Health

In Lesotho, 24.6 percent of the adult population (15-49 years old) is infected with HIV/AIDS, compared to an estimated 18 percent of adults in South Africa. This staggering percentage, nearly a quarter of the population, is the second highest prevalence of the disease in the world. Young people make up a sizeable portion of this population, along with 13 percent of young women and 6 percent of young men in the country being HIV positive.  The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho by achieving its goals for HIV/AIDS reduction and the improvement of global health. Lesotho is a key benefactor of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is a U.S. governmental global initiative for the reduction of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. PEPFAR would surely benefit by an increase in foreign aid funding.

Despite Lesotho’s small and landlocked status, it represents an area in which U.S. foreign aid can be utilized to help Lesotho’s people and benefit the economic, political and medical goals and interests of the United States.

– William Menchaca
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in Lesotho

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a mountainous country in sub-Saharan Africa. Only around 10 percent of lands have agricultural potential, but most of them are degraded. Frequent droughts, irregular rainfall, occasional flooding and the severe climate conditions significantly influence the ability to produce sustainable agriculture in Lesotho.

Due to water and soil erosion, overgrazing and severe land degradation, at the end of 2017, Lesotho needed external food assistance. Extreme weather lowered the annual agricultural productivity. Food security has thus become one of the most crucial issues in Lesotho. In recent years, various international institutions, such as the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), have been continuously offering help to improve sustainable agriculture in Lesotho.

On Sep. 29, 2017, the World Bank financed Lesotho’s Smallholder Agriculture Development Project with $10 million to develop market output in Lesotho’s agriculture sector. The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility implemented the project in 2011. This project aims to aid smallholder farmers in exploring the agriculture market and boosting productivity.

In an interview with Lesotho Times in October 2017, Mahala Molapo, the Minister of Lesotho Agriculture and Food Security, said Lesotho’s agriculture sector was at a turning point. Molapo said the nation has made a mega-plan, which focuses on the chain process from agricultural input supply to the market. Lesotho would cooperate with different stakeholders to further develop sustainable agriculture in Lesotho.

“The ministry understands that our agricultural sector is vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Molapo said. “Through our extension services, we will continue working with partners to support climate-smart agriculture.”

In the 1950s, Joseph J. Machobane developed a sustainable agricultural system called the Machobane Farming System (MFS), which is a simple, low-input technique based on an intercropping and localized application of organic manures. In 1991, the FAO incorporated MFS into its two agricultural programs in Lesotho. Under the traditional agricultural system, the general family needs 1.2 hectares to assure food security. Under MFS, however, the average family only needs less than 0.5 hectares to solve food problems.

In December 2004, IFAD implemented the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Program in Lesotho. This program aimed to improve food security and family nutrition, and it has trained farmers in field crop, fodder, pest and disease control and irrigation techniques.

In October 2012, Lesotho suffered a food insecurity crisis, which caused 725,215 people to need food aid. In response to this crisis, the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security launched a three-year cycle program named the Emergency and Resilience Program to promote conservation agriculture and ameliorate nutrition in Lesotho. From 2012 to 2014, this program supported more than 18,500 households.

For next steps, the FAO, IFAD and the World Bank will work to continuously strengthen sustainable agriculture in Lesotho, including:

  • Monitoring frameworks for Integrated Water Catchment Initiatives.
  • Applying the mega-plan as a long-term blueprint.
  • Training more farmers conservative agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture in Lesotho can be achieved with the persistent efforts of organizations like these. As Molapo says, “We are at a turning point and I believe with hard work, partnerships, strong systems and innovation, the vision of a food-secure Lesotho is within reach.”

– Judy Lu

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in lesotho

In the middle of South Africa lies the small, mountainous country of Lesotho. The landlocked country, also known as the Kingdom of Lesotho, gained independence from British rule in 1966.

Lesotho is a poor country with a gross income of $570 per capita and a life expectancy of 51 years for men and 56 years for women. Infrastructure in Lesotho has its strengths and weaknesses; while the country may lack secure road infrastructure, it has one natural resource that has proved profitable through the years.

Road Transportation

The main transportation infrastructure in Lesotho is an 8,000 km road system, which accounts for 70 percent of the country’s transport system. The vast majority of the roads are made of gravel or earth; a smaller percentage is paved. The gravel and earth roads are often vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and the hilly, winding roads make navigating through Lesotho quite difficult. One of Lesotho’s biggest issues with road transport is a lack of safety. The country has an exceptionally high number of road incidents, especially in poor weather conditions.

In 2010, the Lesotho government elected to participate in the Decade of Action for Road Safety initiative developed by the United Nations. Member states are to adhere to the five pillars of the initiative, which are road safety management, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer road users and improved post-crash response. The initiative will focus largely on improving the quality of existing roads and building more paved roads throughout the country.

The project aims to decrease the number of road incidents by 50 percent in 2020, the final year of the initiative.

Water and Dams

As far as providing potable drinking water, Lesotho is comparable to most other countries in southern Africa. Lesotho does reasonably well with providing water to the rural population; however, issues of access and distance to drinking water still remain. However, with Lesotho’s numerous rivers, the country has no shortage of water overall. In fact, the water may prove profitable in the very near future.

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project was established by the signing of a treaty between South Africa and Lesotho in 1986. The initiative relies on the creation of numerous dams along the Lesotho rivers and tunnels that will deliver water to South Africa. The dams will also provide hydroelectric power for Lesotho.

The project was established by the signing of a treaty between the two countries in 1986. Phase I of the project, which was completed in 2003, involved the construction of two dams: the Katse and the Mohale. The second construction of Phase I was a hydropower station that will provide hydropower energy to improve the access to and quality of electricity throughout the country. Phase II is still in progress and its projected conclusion is not until 2024.

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project should benefit the overall infrastructure in Lesotho and contribute to the country’s income. Taking advantage of this abundant resource can be of great benefit to the country’s impoverished people and improve their lives greatly in the future.

– Danielle Poindexter

Photo: Flickr