Scaling up climate-smart agriculture in Lesotho

Lesotho’s agricultural system faces a growing number of climate-related vulnerabilities scaling-climate-smart-agriculture-lesotho-1140x500with drought, floods, pests, and extreme temperatures occurring more frequently. In response, the Government of Lesotho is collaborating with the World Bank to integrate climate change into the country’s agriculture policy agenda through the Lesotho Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plan (CSAIP).

Through a process that combines modeling approaches and consultations with stakeholders in the public and private sectors, civil society, and farmer groups, the CSAIP evaluates context-specific opportunities for scaling up CSA in Lesotho.

The Lesotho CSAIP has identified climate-smart agriculture (CSA) investments that offer the greatest potential to transform Lesotho’s agriculture into a more productive, resilient, and low-emissions sector. It provides evidence that shows that the adoption of CSA offers multiple wins: increased productivity and incomes; enhanced food security and dietary diversity; reduced impacts of climate change on agricultural produce; and improved commercialization, employment opportunities and rural livelihoods. The CSAIP shows that CSA can also reduce soil erosion, generate carbon sequestration, conserve biodiversity, and provide other public goods that accrue to society — well beyond the farmers engaged in market transactions alone.

The current agricultural production pathway in Lesotho focuses on extensive animal grazing and expansion of agricultural cropland to keep pace with food demand for the population. The pathway is characterized by agricultural support for a monoculture cropping system dominated by maize. This pathway is largely unsustainable and depletes the land resources on which production relies on over time.

The CSAIP offers two complementary pathways for scaling up CSA in Lesotho. The first is the commercialization pathway that entails focusing on commodities for which the country has distinct comparative advantage like horticulture, potato, and aquaculture; developing the country’s irrigation to its full potential; and developing linkages that connect smallholders to export and domestic markets.

The second pathway is the resilient landscape pathway, that combines modern scientific practices such as improved crop varieties with the traditional Machobane farming system, a farming system that combines the use of crop rotation, relay cropping, and intercropping practices with the application of manure and plant ash to conserve soil moisture and replenish soil fertility. The resilient landscape pathway primarily focuses on investing in sustainable landscape and integrated catchment management, and strengthening local institutions to enhance landscape resilience, that is, the ability of the landscape to sustain desired ecological functions, native biodiversity, and critical landscape processes over time in the face of changing conditions and multiple stressors.

The commercialization pathway is often more profitable; it requires larger farm sizes takes up less land for the same amount of production, creates more jobs, produces more food calories, and offers Lesotho the potential to export horticulture, potato, and vegetables. It also requires strong market-oriented agricultural policies for it to be successful.

On the other hand, a resilient landscape pathway is often more effective in controlling land degradation and delivers about ten times more carbon benefits compared to commercial agriculture. Thus, compared to the commercialization pathway, the resilient landscape pathway could potentially benefit more from climate finance which can come from a variety of sources including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) funding mechanisms, multilateral and bilateral funds, national and regional climate funds, and private-sector investments.

The Government of Lesotho is already implementing the recommendations of the Lesotho CSAIP through the second phase of the Smallholder Agricultural Development Project (SADP 2). SADP 2 supports transformative interventions for agricultural productivity and resilience at farm and landscape levels; provides solutions at institutional level to ensure the sustainability of agricultural outcomes; encourages commercialization that would contribute to improved livelihoods; and promotes better nutritional outcomes towards improved human capital development.

Protecting smallholder farmers from falling into poverty in the event of climatic shocks and giving them the tools to thrive are important objectives in the partnership between the Government of Lesotho and the World Bank.