Investigating the links between cash-based shock-responsive social protection and anticipatory actions for drought in Lesotho

Drought in Lesotho is one of the most recurrent climate hazards that continues to affect lives and livelihoods, with severe impacts on the economy. Given Lesotho’s high vulnerability to climate change social protection programmes and their delivery systems could be important tools to build in emergency procedures and mechanisms to be able to respond flexibly and quickly to shocks. This study has been undertaken to understand the role of existing social protection (SP) programmes in the country in mitigating drought impacts and to scope the feasibility of such programmes for taking anticipatory action. The study analyzed which programmes have been used in the past for shock responses and which have the potential to be used for future drought shocks. The study follows a qualitative approach of research, with a combination of primary data collected through interviews and focused group discussion, and secondary data collected through extensive desk reviews.

The study finds that the Child Grants Programme (CGP) is the most used programme for responding to shocks, primarily due to the comparatively accurate, updated, and extensive data available in the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA) for targeting households with children. Other programmes like the Old Age Pensions (OAP), national Public Works (“Fato-Fato”) and Public Assistance (PA) have been used by different actors to respond to socio-economic impacts arising from Covid-19.

The findings reveal that four groups are most vulnerable to droughts and in need of support as they are currently not covered by national safety nets: a) old people between 60–69 years of age are not covered by the OAP and are not included in national Public Works or CfW projects; b) subsistence farmers who rely heavily on rain-fed agriculture; c) unemployed adults, particularly youth; d) pregnant and lactating women. In terms of shock response and acting in anticipation, there are two entry points within the social protection system in Lesotho. Firstly, Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCTs) can be distributed in advance either through the CGP, OAP or the PA and expanded vertically using top-ups, or by creating waiting lists of beneficiaries who are particularly drought-sensitive and expanding the UCTs horizontally to increase coverage temporarily during the shock. The Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) district offices, auxiliary social workers based in community councils and the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) can be key players in generating these waiting lists through community-based targeting methods. Secondly, national Public Works programmes can make use of the long-term nature of slow onset hazards like droughts, and build infrastructure that maximizes the harvesting of limited rainfall through check dams, farm ponds and infiltration lines, etc.

The study finds that national Public Works programmes are popular among the community because they provide seasonal employment, and communities express the desire to work for their communities rather than to receive hand-outs. 8 Investigating the links between cash-based shock-responsive social TRACK II protection and anticipatory actions for drought in Lesotho.

With regards to coordination among actors, interviews with most in-country stakeholders – including the MoSD, Disaster Management Authority (DMA), UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) – revealed a high level of interest and enthusiasm in collaborating towards the further integration of forecast-based action with social protection programming.

This study recommends that national level consultations with relevant stakeholders should take place soon to jointly find ways to implement some of the existing outputs of the programme in Lesotho funded by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Operations (ECHO), including harmonizing transfer values, targeting, updating the NISSA database and developing an early action protocol along with a scalability framework. The formation of a national SP Technical Working Group to coordinate the next steps could be a good starting point.

Resource Type

PDF, 1.43 MB







Content Type

Feasibility Study


Social Protection