Why Drought-resistant Farming Could Be a Feminist Act in Lesotho

Author: Ryan Lenora Brown | Published: January 3, 2017

Maleloko Fokotsale’s garden isn’t very photogenic. From a distance, it looks like little more than a jumble of rocks and dirt piled high beside her neat fields in the rolling hills outside Lesotho’s capital.

And it wasn’t easy to build – there were stones to be hauled and trenches dug, dirt and leaves and fertilizer to be layered delicately like sections of a parfait.

However, this “keyhole” garden – so named for its unusual shape, like the body of an open-mouthed pac man – has a crucial advantage over the fields that surround it. It uses far less water to produce a given quantity of vegetables, helping subsistence farmers here to weather one of the worst droughts of the past century, which is now barreling toward its third year across southern and eastern Africa.

But for farmers like Ms. Fokotsale – also the chief of this small village – building a drought resistant garden gave her another, less obvious benefit, too.


Like most women here, hours of Fokotsale’s days are peeled away collecting her family’s water – wheelbarrows full of it – from nearby streams and wells. So for her, making farming more resistant to drought isn’t only a way to grow more in a parched season – it eases her domestic burdens. And that’s an effect that’s likely to continue long after this drought passes.