FAO and the GEF

Partnering for sustainable agri-food systems and the environment

From surviving to thriving in a climate changing world


Nearly 75% of Lesotho’s population lives in rural areas and relies on rain-fed agriculture for their food, nutrition, and livelihoods. Climate change is adversely impacting agriculture in Lesotho, pushing many people in rural areas closer to the edge of poverty and hunger.

Among Lesotho’s smallholder farmers, there is inadequate knowledge and access to tools to help adapt to climate change, to reduce vulnerability, and increase resilience. As a result, an increasing number young women are leaving farming, choosing civil service or migration to South Africa in search of stable livelihoods.

But Mapaballo Khooanyana chose to stay and focus on agriculture. Khooanyana, a 32 year old farmer and mother of two, has been farming vegetables on her small piece of land for many years while her husband worked as a teacher in the city. In the past, most of her harvest of cabbage, tomato, green pepper and butternut squash was used for household consumption. Any extra production brought in a mere LSL 500 (USD 160) per 3-month planting season. With the right training from FAO, Mapaballo increased her income nearly tenfold and moved from surviving to thriving!

For over two years, Khooanyana dedicated her time to increasing her resiliance to the changing climate through trainings on seasonal vegetable production, soil preparation, pest management and irrigation techniques provided by the project, “Strengthening Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation through support to Integrated Watershed Management”. Funded by the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and implemented by FAO, the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation (MFRSC) project also supported the construction of a shadenet production facility and a drip irrigation system to create appropriate micro climate conducive to plant growth. The trainings, combined with the new shadenet production facility, allowed Khooanyana to stand resilient to the increasing number of hot days that would otherwise adversely affect her crop's productivity. 


(Left) A view of the drip-irrigated cabbage farm in the shadenet production facility. (Right) Peach tree seedings dug-up and ready for sale. © FAO/Lekholoane Lekholoane

Khooanyana also dedicated a part of her land to produce fruit tree seedlings and sell to the Ministry of Forest for distribution across the country. The seedlings will support smallholder agro-forestry farming systems and can improve household food security in the country with access to healthy and nutritious foods. With her diversified and improved production, she is now earning up to LSL 20 000 (1 300 USD) per planting season – nearly a tenfold increase in income. The profits from her vegetables, fruit tree seedlings, and poultry enabled Khooanyana to support her family and become a small entrepreneur.

To maintain productivity, she hired permanent and seasonal employees for the farm, opening up livelihood opportunities in her community. Seeing Mapaballo’s example has inspired other women and youth in the village to embark on vegetable farming. She said, “Vegetable production on large scale has impacted other women and youth in my village, because they no longer spend most of their time collecting wild vegetables and save transport money because they no longer have to travel to town to buy vegetables. Most of them have embarked on vegetable production.

In addition, the LDCF project supported the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in establishing 12 nutrition clubs in the Mafeteng district to promote healthy eating habits, at individual and household levels. “Nutrition has quite improved in my village,” said Mrs. Mapaballo, who was among the 126 members who learnt about food handling, preparing and preservation.

The project also introduced several savings and lending communities that have helped many women in the village by providing credit at a mutually agreed rate. Being empowered by the support from the project, over 270 women were able to send their children to school, purchase seeds for vegetable production and meet other household needs. Khooanyana took a further step and recently opened a bank account to invest her savings. “I’ve never felt desperate to seek another job, I am satisfied with farming.”

From a struggling subsistence farmer to an entrepreneur who has created employment opportunities for her community, Mapaballo’s journey was difficult. However, her trust in the opportunities provided by farming never wavered, and she is on a path to resilience despite a changing climate.