Prioritising ecological infrastructure to maintain livelihoods and the Polihali Dam in Lesotho

Land degradation is a major issue in Lesotho and has implications for both livelihoods and government. Currently, ecosystem services are being lost through poor management practices and many of the dams in Lesotho are subjected to increased siltation resulting in reduced water quality and quantity and decreased revenue for government. In addition, increased soil erosion has detrimental effects on cropping and grazing rendering local communities more vulnerable to environmental change. Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project is currently underway and entails the development of the Polihali dam. In order to secure the maximum value of this dam and protect ecosystem services in the surrounding catchment, certain areas may require focused restoration efforts whilst others may require protection. Invariably, the resources available to implement restoration programmes are limited and thus a need exists to prioritise areas which will provide the best return on the investment – that being increasing the longevity of the new dam whilst simultaneously sustaining or improving livelihoods. The current study aims to develop and use a multi-criteria decision-analysis framework to guide this prioritisation process in order to achieve these objectives.