Devastating drought forces premier to seek assistance from development partners
PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has declared a state of emergency due to the prevailing drought and asked development partners to help combat the situation.
In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Dr Mosisili said Lesotho was experiencing one of its worst droughts in recent history due to El Niño—a periodic climatic phenomenon characterised by inadequate rain in some parts of the world and floods in others.
Under El Niño, parts of South America experience heavy rainfall, while dry conditions prevail in Australia, south-east Asia and southern Africa. El Niño used to occur in varying degrees of severity after every five years, but since the 1990s, has become more frequent due to global warming.
Lesotho is expected to experience the worst effects of the drought between 20 December 2015 and 20 January 2016.
“Lesotho is no stranger to drought which periodically occurs, causing havoc to water sources, agricultural production, food security and the environment, to name but a few,” Dr Mosisili told the nation.
“In the recent past, drought incidences occurred during the years 1998-1999, 2003-2004 and 2007-2008 and the most recent one in 2012-2013.
“However, all indications attest to the unequalled severity of the current drought. We will all recall that the country experienced predominately dry conditions in February 2015.”
Dr Mosisili further said the inadequate rain resulted in a 21 percent decline in food-production since 2013-2014. The poor harvest, he added, was particularly hard on communities which depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood.
He further noted the affected communities have required humanitarian assistance from August 2015 until the next harvest which normally begins in May 2016.
“Although the whole country is affected, the situation is worse in the lowlands and foothills where most of our arable land is located,” Dr Mosisili said.
“Other effects of the prevailing drought include widespread water-shortages, which cause long queues and acute water-rationing in many areas.”
The premier further said the situation was becoming even worse for animals which he noted are already dying in large numbers due to lack of drinking water as most rivers have dried up. Because of the dry conditions, Dr Mosisili said rangelands had become susceptible to wildfire outbreaks.
“It is also worth noting that women and children, people with disabilities and the elderly, are the worst affected as they bear the brunt of travelling long distances to collect water for domestic use as sources continue to dry up.
“We also bear witness to the fact that the majority of farmers have failed to cultivate any crops this summer due to inadequate soil moisture.
“This prevailing situation is ample proof that we should once again expect a very poor harvest for the 2016-17 cropping season.”
Dr Mosisili said it was against this background that he was forced to declare the current severe drought a state of emergency.
“Against this background, I am obliged to declare a state of drought emergency in Lesotho and to call upon our development partners and all the friends of Lesotho to assist in efforts to regress the situation,” Dr Mosisili said.
“In doing so, I wish to express government’s resolve to do all in its power to ensure that preparedness measures are activated immediately and to ensure that in future, our communities are not subjected to the vagaries of the same effects again. “
The premier also said the government had already established both ministerial and technical committees to boost the capacity of the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) and coordinate mitigation efforts.
Dr Mosisili further said water would be ferried by tankers to communities in direstraits as part of government’s resolve to address this problem.
He further said those in desperate need of food would be helped; adding: “We make a clarion call to our partners and friends to supplement and replenish these needed resources most urgently.
“Equally important will be technical and logistical support to ensure that adequate food parcels and drinking water reach the needy expeditiously.”
For the medium to long term, Dr Mosisili said government was devising strategies to ensure water and food security for both human and animal consumption.
These strategies, he said, included fast-tracking the lowlands water project which would supply water to most lowland areas with the precious liquid for both consumption and irrigation purposes.
The premier also revealed that plans were underway to construct small dams and clean rivers and dongas throughout the country for the collection and storage of water. He also said government was devising ways to exploit underground water to strengthen domestic water-harvesting strategies and intensify conservation agriculture.
“In conclusion, allow me to reiterate government’s resolve to reduce the adverse effects of the prevailing drought. Government views this declaration as a temporary measure to mitigate the drought impact on the populace.
“As indicated earlier, government requires more assistance from our development partners and friends of Lesotho to supplement our own national efforts and to translate into action, plans for addressing the prevailing drought situation in the country robustly.”