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Climate Change destroys the heart of the community: Mukwashi

By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – Not only the effects of the climate change are seen on the immediate environment and the ever-changing weather patterns, the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi believes if not enough is done to address them, they could  plunge the country into many societal problems causing many social ills and increasing the vulnerability rate in Lesotho.

She has recently made calls for the passage of the imminent Climate Change Bill and also urged for collective efforts to fight this problem.

She holds that climate change has a devastating impact that goes beyond the environment encroaching on the socio-economic conditions of everyday life.

“As the UN, we are trying to urge the government to speed up the finalization of the National Determined Contributions (NDC) because this is really important, it covers all aspects of climate action. We are also urging the government to really speed up the approval of the NAP (National Adaptation Plan), and this plan is really what puts into place what needs to be done, how, where by who, what resources are needed.

“So, we need this, and of course we need the Climate Change Bill itself because it is really important,” the UN Resident Coordinator appealed.

From the UN perspective, Mukwashi said climate change should be seen in light of the Sustainable Development Agenda in terms of the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) arguing that when there is a scarcity of resources, there are tensions.

She continued: “Things like unemployment, things like violence… you know we have to look at the entire backdrop including issues of gender based violence (GBV), sexual rape against women, against girls, issues of high unemployment especially against young people who are not employed, issues of food security, just the basic ability for people to be productive, to be able to feed themselves, [and] all this things are impacted on by climate change.

“Climate change destroys the heart of the community. It destroys the ability of people to actually go out and produce food,” she underscored, adding that the Prime Minister’s talks on implementation and production say collective efforts are needed to help Basotho and the country.

The Principal Secretary (PS) at the Ministry of Defence, National Security and Environment, ‘Mabataung Khalane said several adaptation plans were approved, and some are in the pipeline.

She said in 2015 the country developed the NDCs.

In 2017, the country developed various instruments to address climate change and those include NDCs.

The PS has said Lesotho is at the moment in the process of updating these instruments; the exercise which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

 The SDG 13 calls for an urgent action against climate change and its impact.

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the countries had committed to protecting the planet from degradation and to taking urgent action against climate change. The Agenda recognizes climate change as “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and it is perturbed about “its adverse impacts [as they] undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development”.

“When you go to the rural areas, when you look at the different districts, the type of land degradation that we have, the impact of climate change, we need to appreciate that people in those communities are doing a lot of work to try and rehabilitate the ecosystem but they need support. It’s not that they are just sitting there, they are not, the women, young people, the men in these are really trying; they are planting trees, they are closing up the gullies, and they are trying to make sure that for example they are not overgrazing the animals, they are allowing the land to regenerate and be rehabilitated,” she commended some communities for taking action to preserving the land and ecosystem.

She mentioned that some of the wetlands have been damaged, underscoring the importance of protecting them as they are the source of water. 

Sometime this month, on 18th and 19th the world leaders are expected to convene at the UN Headquarters in New York, under the auspices of the General Assembly where they will review the progress on the implementation of Agenda 2030. Lesotho’s Prime Minister will be part of this Summit.

She showed that Lesotho’s fragile ecosystems, largely dependent on rain for agriculture, and are becoming increasingly strained by unpredictable weather patterns, protracted droughts, and changing precipitation trends.

“These adverse effects ripple across the country, exacerbating food and water insecurity, threatening livelihoods, food security and undermining socioeconomic progress. What’s more, the consequences of climate change in Lesotho have far-reaching implications that extend beyond its borders, we have seen its impact across the region.

“Many neighboring countries depend on Lesotho’s water resources, making the issue of water scarcity a shared concern. The water originating from the highlands of Lesotho sustains agriculture, industry, and livelihoods downstream. It is a stark reminder that the impacts of climate change know no borders and require regional collaboration to ensure sustainable water management for the entire region,” she stressed.

A strong legal framework, she says, is essential to guide and coordinate the nation’s efforts in mitigating and adapting to climate change. According to the UN Resident Coordinator the passage of this bill will signal Lesotho’s commitment to dealing with this global challenge and provide the necessary tools to drive impactful action.

She said it is regrettable that Lesotho finds herself among the two countries that have not yet completed their NDCs and have not finalized their NAPSs. She urged the government to prioritize the completion of these crucial documents by the end of this year, underscoring the urgency that the country should be seen as involved in global climate action as well as aligning her national strategies with international goals.

“An opportunity to demonstrate this commitment and forge a united African stance awaits us at the Africa Climate Change Summit in September. This summit provides a platform for Africa to consolidate its position and present a unified voice on climate change. Lesotho can play a pivotal role in shaping this collective approach, advocating for the unique challenges faced by our continent, and championing innovative solutions.

“Preparations ahead of COP 28 which will be held in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), later this year, have already started, this is a milestone year to take stock of what it is that needs to be done so that we are able to achieve Agenda 2030, yet another opportunity to showcase to the world how Lesotho will shift gears, from planning to implementation,” she said.

The experts have warned that the country continues to experience severe drought conditions over the years, and this does not bode well for food security that the country aspires to achieve.

While in South Africa at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) 15th Summit, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres called on the world leaders to act in solidarity and also underscored the need for a sense of urgency in what he called future defining areas.

Guterres said the first action is to “save our planet”.

“Developed countries have a particular responsibility and so they …deliver on 100 billion USD promised to developing countries on the loss and damage funds, on doubling adaptation finance, on replenishing green climate funds and on plans…” he said adding that Africa must be considered a priority in all these crucial commitments.

The UN Secretary-General also emphasized that every country has a role to play, proposing what he referred to as the climate solidarity pact.

According to the ‘Climate Risk Country Profile’ report on Lesotho compiled by the World Bank, Lesotho’s climate is generally classified as temperate with alpine characteristics.

“The country experiences hot summers and relatively very cold winters. Temperatures tend to be lower than in other countries at similar latitudes mainly due to the higher elevations. Four distinct seasons are recognised, with large fluctuations in temperature and very erratic rainfall.”

The report further says “Lesotho has fragile ecosystems because of its topography, type and rain pattern, erodibility of soils, land use patterns and other habitats such as bogs and sponges. The productivity in major crops and animals has declined significantly in recent years due to poor land and rangeland conditions.

“Temperature increases are affecting infrastructure sensitive to temperature extremes such as roads. Rainfall and temperature changes are impacting agriculture and food security and extreme weather events are affecting tourism and livelihoods that depend on the sector and have caused human and livestock deaths, property damage, and loss of crops.”

Amidst the fluctuating weather patterns that visit Lesotho from time to time, Mukwashi said Basotho needs to thrive.

“That’s why it is important for us as the UN to be coordinated, it is important for the government to be coordinated, it is important for all of us who wants to support Lesotho to provide that leadership and walk not ahead of but walk side by side with the people of this country so that they can do better.

“I think we can do better; I really believe so,” she said.

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