The Effect of Weather Shocks on Women's Labor Supply and the Income of Women-headed Household in Lesotho

This study examines the effect of weather shocks on labor-supply decisions and income for rural farming households in Lesotho. We examine how these shocks affect women and households headed by women relative to their male counterparts. We use the Lesotho Agricultural Survey data, merged with the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) data. We then employ a multinomial logit model of labor-supply choice as well as the Heckman selection models to study the income effects of these shocks. Our identification relies on the fact that weather shocks are plausibly exogenous once we control for time and community fixed effects. We find that women are more vulnerable to weather shocks and have more limited coping strategies than men. However, men have the option of intensifying their participation in relatively shock-resistant farming as a coping strategy in the presence of the weather shock. Drought increases the probability that men will choose farming, but it does not affect labor-supply choices for women. Therefore, more opportunities for women in rural non-farming sectors—tourism, for example—as well as increased access to and ownership of productive assets such as land would mitigate weather shocks as well as the additional effects of the pandemic.