Fertility and its proximate determinants in Lesotho.
There is a belief that economic resources are growing at a slow pace such that they fail to meet the demands made by an increase in population. Because of the critical contribution fertility makes to the high growth rates of a nation it is important to understand factors behind its change. This study seeks to contribute to such an understanding by providing an assessment of fertility and its proximate determinants in Lesotho. It utilises data from the 2001 Lesotho Demographic Survey and the 2002 Lesotho Demographic Survey Supplementary Enquiry. The study reveals a moderate decline in fertility between 1977 and 2002 (from 5.8 to 4.5). This decline in fertility is attributable to a rise in contraceptive prevalence and an increase in non-marriage. The index of marriage declined by 27.5 percent between 1977 and 2002, from 0.69 to 0.50 and the singulate mean at marriage increased from 20 years to 24 years among females. Thus making non-marriage the greatest fertility- reducing factor in 2002. While, the index of contraception decline by 30.1 percent from 0.93 to 0.65 and the national CPR increased from 23.2 percent in 1991/92 to 43.9 percent in 2002. As a result contraception became the second greatest inhibitor of fertility. Though the actual effect of postpartum infecundability could not be determined due to non-availability of data, the study shows that in 1977 and 1991/92 the index of postpartum infecundability had the highest fertility-reducing effect in Lesotho. Moreover, the effect of sterility and abortion on fertility decline in Lesotho was found to be small. However, further research needs to address these factors as their effect could be masked by non-availability of data. It seems that further decline in fertility in Lesotho will be a result of an increase in contraceptive use and age at marriage. To promote these two the government should: 1) show a strong commitment both politically and financially, to limiting population growth through family planning 2) expand women's educational and economic opportunities.