Improving Rural Women's Coping Strategies in the Face of Floods and Droughts in Lesotho
Agriculture is vital to the livelihoods of many people in rural areas of Lesotho, where about 66% of the population resides, 85% of whom engage in smallholder farming. However, extreme weather events, including floods and droughts, have caused agricultural production and productivity to plummet over the last three decades. The 2015-16 El Niño drought caused a huge drop in grain harvest, leading to food shortages, high food prices, and many households facing food insecurity. As this uncertainty led more of the rural population to migrate to urban areas in search of employment, the overall structure of the economy shifted. Manufacturing, retail and services sectors now dominate over the agricultural sector, exacerbating the decline in agricultural productivity. Although the growth of non-farm sectors may provide opportunities for rural households to protect themselves against the effects of extreme weather events, many people in rural areas do not have the training and skills to benefit. Women may be especially vulnerable to weather shocks. Economic and cultural factors—such as customary laws that often restrict women’s access to productive assets, including land—prevent them from adjusting their labor supply, e.g., by increasing the number of hours worked or shifting to off-farm work. Understanding how rural farmers and households cope following extreme weather events, including men’s and women’s labor supply strategies in these situations, is essential for developing effective adaptation and social protection policies.