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Key findings
  • Nearly six in 10 Basotho (57%) say pollution is a “somewhat serious” (19%) or “very serious” (38%) problem in their community
  • If environmental-protection policies threaten jobs and incomes, more than half (55%) of citizens would want jobs to be prioritised.
  • More than half (52%) of Basotho say the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean rests with local citizens. Far fewer would defer that responsibility to the national government (28%), traditional leaders (13%), or their local governments (2%)

Mining and quarrying are the backbone of Lesotho’s economy. The country’s diamond mines produce the highest dollar-per-carat value in the world. The mining and quarrying sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product grew from 8.7% in 2011 to 16.8% in 2019 before declining to 14.6% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Bureau of Statistics, 2021).

But large-scale mining can also be a mixed blessing for adjacent communities. A recent study found that environmental pollution and a perceived lack of benefits such as employment were key concerns for communities in diamond-mining areas (Lerotholi, 2021).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental governance, and natural resource extraction.

In Lesotho, findings show that a majority of citizens consider pollution a serious problem in their community, rating trash disposal and water-source pollution as their most important environmental issues. Most say the government is not doing enough to protect the environment and call for tighter regulation of natural resource extraction activities.

But a majority also believe that the benefits of natural resource extraction, such as jobs, outweigh negative impacts such as pollution. And if environmental-protection policies threaten jobs and incomes, more than half of citizens want jobs to be given priority.

Libuseng Malephane

Libuseng Malephane is the national investigator for Lesotho.