Life is mostly hard in the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, but the chronic droughts that seem to signal the unfolding impact of climate change are projected to become more severe, and could squeeze cultivable land from an already slim 10 percent to a mere three percent in 25 years.
"While other factors contribute to droughts and the shrinking of cultivable land, climate change exacerbates the situation," said a new UN Development Programme (UNDP) assessment of countries' progress towards achieving the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education by 2015.
Erratic weather, lack of access to agriculture inputs, soil erosion and high HIV/AIDS prevalence have all contributed to shrinking cereal production. In 1980 Lesotho produced grain enough to meet 80 percent of its requirement; by 2004 it could barely cover 30 percent of its needs, and output has been steadily dropping, according to the UN World Food Programme.
The UNDP report noted that adapting to climate change, which will affect food production, was urgently required to ensure all the MDGs are met, but this would take more money.
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The extra costs will arise from rapid interventions, like beefing up social protection and improving the capacity of any particular programme aimed at achieving the UN goals to adapt to capricious weather patterns. The report cited studies that tried putting a cost on making the MDGs "climate resilient" globally.
"Estimates set the cost of ‘climate resilient’ MDGs to be about a third higher than the conventional cost of meeting the MDGs — around US$100 billion a year for the next decade."
The report also looked at how and to what extent the 2006-08 food price crisis, the global recession, and rapid urbanization had affected the ability of countries to achieve the MDGs.
There is more bad news for Lesotho. In 2009 the global recession took out more than a million jobs in neighbouring South Africa, especially in the mining sector, a traditional source of work and income. Unemployment in Lesotho shot up from a high 23 percent in 2008 to 29.4 percent in 2009.
The report noted that "Progress towards the MDGs is expected to improve, as growth is recovering in many countries, but achievement of the MDG goals will be delayed."
Read the report: What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions