Lesotho is a small, mountainous nation surrounded entirely by South Africa. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, political instability and slow economic development have plagued Lesotho. 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 seven factors that affect poverty in Lesotho.
7 Factors Affecting Poverty in Lesotho
- Agriculture: About 66% 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.
- Gender: Households that women run have a poverty rate of 55.2%, compared to 46.3% for households that men run. This is because women are typically denied the same opportunities as men in Lesotho’s highly patriarchal society.
- 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 occurred in urban areas while rural areas have been left behind.
- 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%.
- 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.
- HIV: Poverty and HIV have a clear connection 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.
- 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 that 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