‘Torch-bearing’ African leader rejects short-term climate fixes

Written by Alison Binney for the Global Landscapes Forum while employed as a science communicator at Econnect Communication

Lesotho prince: ‘Evidence at hand points at a landscapes approach as being the renewed opportunity for mitigating and adapting to climate change’

WARSAW, Poland (19 November 2013) — Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso has declared the need for all-inclusive climate solutions as a matter of “urgency” for his “suffering” nation.

Speaking recently to agricultural and forest experts at the Global Landscapes Forum in Warsaw, Prince Seeiso said: “The impact of climate change on livelihoods, food security and nutrition at the household level, and on the environment, has been absolutely devastating,” he said of Lesotho’s largely rural and underdeveloped population, which largely relies on agriculture for food and income.

“Sadly, [farmers] have had to sell off the meager physical assets they own, failing to feed their own families. Worse still, the aging farming generation has failed to attract the young as farming has become the business of the poor who depend more and more on handouts.”

According to the UN, about 40 percent of Lesotho’s 2 million people survive on less than US$1.25 a day.

Research has indicated that Lesotho’s landscapes have become more sensitive to the impacts of climate change because of overgrazing, overstocking, removal of trees for fuelwood, and repeated plowing of croplands.

“Heavy rains do not infiltrate easily into such degraded soils, and runoff takes with it vast amounts of nutrients, organic matter and rich top soil,” Prince Seeiso explained. “In the long term, declining groundwater levels in the entire region will reduce the availability of safe water for people, home gardens and livestock.”

Fundamental imperatives
In addressing the Global Landscapes Forum — held on the sidelines of the UN’s 19th Conference of Parties in Warsaw — Prince Seeiso said: “Short-term fixes that increase yields without safeguarding the environment are not sustainable, and future generations will pay most heavily.”

Enter the “landscapes approach” to development, the main focus of the forum. This landscapes approach seeks to integrate policy for multiple land uses within a landscape and to ensure equitable and sustainable management of that land.

“The policy environment at national and global levels has to be holistic — creating connectivity between people, agriculture, forestry, environment and trade. African farmers want to adapt to climate change, but lack the knowledge and financial resources to access climate-smart agriculture technologies.”

Prince Seeiso closed his address, saying, “Forestry and agriculture must be brought together to tackle climate change and food security. Only when we take a landscape approach, and look beyond farming at all the variables that affect our land, can we boost agricultural production while adapting agriculture to climate change and reducing agricultural emissions.”

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