CANNABIS CULTURE – The two nations are Africa’s cannabis pacesetters and both countries are increasingly brawling over access to water to nourish their cannabis crops. Is the conflict destined to play out continent wide?
Even before the advent of cannabis cash crop, both South Africa and Lesotho have historically been involved in water security tensions. In a 1998 war between them, gun battles centered around the control of a strategic fresh water reserve. By geography, the tiny Kingdom of Lesotho, home to around 2 million residents, due to its high elevation, provides much of the freshwater South Africa’s commercial heartlands needs under a $15mn per year agreement. Recently Lesotho, which is expanding farmland to cultivate and export cannabis for medicinal purposes, is clamoring to keep more of her water for herself because she is experiencing climate-change-induced droughts, her water reserves are dwindling and her farming needs are growing.
Cannabis farmers on both sides of the borders tell Cannabis Culture that they are worried because – water which they desperately need to secure the crop – will increasingly get weaponized as climate droughts make it a dwindling resource.
“A big volume of our water is pumped to South Africa, and we have drought here in Lesotho, what shall we irrigate our small but cannabis farms with in ten years to come?” says Fraser Molokote, leader of the Thaba Chu Cannabis Growers association, an informal lobby of a dozen Black cannabis farmers growing small plots of cannabis in Katse Village in the Lesotho Highlands.
Most of the Katse Dam’s waters gets sent over across the border to South Africa.
Ravishing drought has hit the water-rich Lesotho Highlands district in the last decade. The United Nations Development Programme warns that ‘Drought, rising temperatures, and extreme weather pose risks to Lesotho’.
“There is so much competition for water supplies between the farmers of all kinds here in the Lesotho Highlands, including us cannabis farmers, households, and our neighbor South Africa to which most of our water is pumped. We can’t keep supplying South Africa with our water or our cannabis farms won’t get prioritized future severe droughts”.