How does climate change affect you?
The two determinants of the impact of climate change in Lesotho are the degree of exposure to climate change stresses and the underlying sensitivity of the natural and social systems. Exposure includes climate variability both within and between years, the frequency, magnitude and duration of extreme climate events (draught, floods, frost, hail storm, winds, heat waves, cold snaps), and long term climate change (rising temperatures, changing rainfall regimes FAO, 2011). The impacts on land-based economic activities and associated livelihoods are usually significant, through effects on critical natural resource such as soil and water. Drought is a frequent scenery in the temperate climatic zones including Lesotho, especially in winter and spring when the level of precipitation decreases. Several studies revealed that in dry soils, the activities of soil microorganisms decreases tremendously, and as a consequence, soil biology is further reduced.
The suboptimal, spatial and erratic distribution of rainfall and recurring droughts and rising temperatures experienced in the southern lowlands and highlands further reduces available soil moisture during times of inadequate rainfall. The high proportions of high altitude rangeland, thin and highly erodible soils of varying fertility, make the country particularly sensitive to climatic events. Longer dry spells punctuated by heavy rainfall events have disastrous consequences for the escalation of soil erosion.
However the positive side of climate change lies in the fact that it brings about production of crops on areas that did not grow before, and hence affects the sector in a positive way. On the other hand, climate change brings about high concentration of carbon dioxide, hence higher crop production as crops need more CO2 for higher productivity. Various factors are required for plant growth irrespective of climate change e.g. light, Co2, water and mineral nutrients. The highest yield can only be achieved if all these factors are provided at the optimal levels. In farming situation, interactions between mineral nutrients and environmental factors are very important. Under field conditions, the interactions, between water availability and nitrogen supply is of particular importance. Example: large supply of nitrogen in combination with low soil moisture causes the depression of yield in maize, particularly in Lesotho where maize is a staple crop.
What can be done to adapt to climate change?
It is clear that in order to adapt to climate change, Basotho need to view their resources (soil and water) management practices differently, and start conserving them for the future generations. As they do that, they need to introduce improved production system which will; (i) reduce and reverse soil loss; (ii) improve soil chemical, physical and biological properties; (iii) increase water infiltration and reduce evaporation from the soil and (iv)protect vast and degraded watershed particularly in the mountain areas.