Landscapes for Wealth—Integrated Catchment Management for Lesotho’s Wetlands

A stream runs through the Maluti Mountains at sunset in Lesotho

Program Summary

The objective of this project is to help strengthen integrated catchment management (ICM) practices in Lesotho through targeted technical assistance, development of data tools, and strengthened knowledge exchange.


Lesotho’s wetlands are a critical productive landscape responsible for producing and supplying water across the region. The highlands of Lesotho generate waters that flow through neighboring South Africa and into Botswana and Namibia.  While Lesotho occupies only 3.4 percent of the basin area, it contributes over 40 percent of the total mean annual runoff (consumes less than 1 percent of the resources). Overall, Lesotho’s water sector contributes an estimated 8 percent to its GDP. Sustained land degradation, soil erosion, and increased demand on ecosystem services threaten the health of Lesotho’s wetlands and cost the country nearly 3.6 percent of GDP/year. A myriad of wetlands in the highlands are characterized by biodiverse and unique vegetation communities and store extraordinary amounts of water and carbon in their deep, peaty soils (up to 2.5 meters). 
Climate change – specifically increasingly severe droughts and floods – compounds the situation. Impacts from drought have led to diminished hydropower potential, reduced revenues from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) due to reduced stream flows, and temporary interruption of water transfers to South Africa. 


The activities under this PROGREEN proposal complement two on-going World Bank engagements:

  1. Lesotho intends to expand the existing 1,000 hectares under irrigation to 12,000 hectares with the support of the World Bank through Lesotho Lowlands Water Development Project - Phase II (P160672). This project aims to increase water availability and access to improved water supply services in two priority zones and to improve technical and financial performance of Lesotho’s Water and Sewage Company (WASCO). PROGREEN activities focus on ensuring the long-term security of this water through effective implementation of ICM.  
  2. The World Bank supports strengthening road safety management capacity and access to social services and markets in targeted rural areas of Lesotho through the Lesotho Transport Infrastructure and Connectivity Project (LTIC) (P155229). The Green and Resilience Road Infrastructure activities proposed in Pillar 2 below support ensuring that that catchment management and climate resilience form part of road development and maintenance.  

In addition, proposed activities create an entry point for the World Bank to engage with Government of Lesotho on a possible sustainable landscape management operation in the future.

[Expected] Results

Strengthen Governance and Incentive Structures: 

  • Review of Public Financial Management System. 
  • Assess the institutional framework and mapping of stakeholders (NetMap) and non-technical drivers for ICM. 

Green and Resilient Road Infrastructure

  • Review of Road and GoL’s Bridge Design Manual for gaps in ICM and Climate Adaptation. 
  • Landscape assessment for nature-based solutions to achieve resilient road infrastructure. 

Build Partnerships & Knowledge Base

  • Develop a series of virtual knowledge events to leverage and strengthen the ICM Coordinating Unit.