The University of Arizona

Using a political ecology framework to examine extra-legal livelihood strategies: a Lesotho-based case study of cultivation of and trade in cannabis

Julian Bloomer


Rural livelihood strategies that engage in criminalised activities and hidden economies are an important, yet understudied, aspect of achieving economic diversification.  This paper discusses findings from a project that examined the role and importance of cannabis cultivation, as a criminalised cash crop, in Lesotho.  The research employed a multi-strategy approach that combined qualitative and quantitative methodologies.  Cannabis income was found to play a very important role in economic and livelihood diversification in the study area.  The paper concludes that cannabis production, as an extra-legal livelihood strategy, should be viewed by policy makers using a livelihoods focus, rather than a criminal one, if rural smallholders are not to be further marginalised by drug control policies.

Key words: cannabis; Lesotho; political ecology; extra-legal livelihood

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