FOOD security has improved for most households in Lesotho due to the above-average 2020/21 harvests, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has said.
However, situation will deteriorate in the coming months and even reach “crisis” levels by October 2021 as food stocks deplete and most households become dependent on market purchases, the network has warned.
FEWS NET is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides reports on the food situation in 28 countries including Lesotho.
In its latest report on the food situation in Lesotho this week, FEWS NET said the overall 2020/2021 grain harvests was 23, 5 percent greater than last year.
FEWS NET uses the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system which has different categories for the classification of the food security situation in different countries.
Countries in IPC Phase 1 are those with minimal food insecurity while those in IPC Phase 2 are said to be in a “stressed situation. Those in IPC Phase 3 are in a “crisis” while those in Phase 4 are experiencing a “famine”.
According to the latest report, “most of Lesotho is expected to face minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes between June and August 2021 as the recent above-average harvest significantly improves household food and income access”.
The report also indicates that the above-average harvests have not only reduced household dependence on market purchases but also helped stabilise maize meal prices between June and September 2021.
“Very poor households are benefiting from in-kind payments of grain for labour. Since the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, income from petty trade activities is increasing, particularly for households near urban areas where the market is more accessible.”
The report also notes that “remittances to Lesotho have been gradually improving since April as the South African economy reopened.
“According to key informants, many migrants are traveling back to South Africa for seasonal and permanent employment. However, the flow of remittances remains below average as the economy is yet to return to pre-Covi-19 levels. Additionally, the need for a valid Covid-19 test to cross the border is limiting many informal migrants and resulting in illegal border crossings.”
The food situation will however, deteriorate as the household stocks deplete over the coming months> it is expected to reach “crisis” levels by October 2021, the report indicates.
“However, as own-produced food stocks of very poor households deplete through August, ‘Stressed’ (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to return around September as households become increasingly market-dependent despite limited incomes.
“From October 2021 through January 2022, ‘Crisis’ (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected for very poor households as demand for market purchases and staple food prices seasonally increase through the lean season,” the report indicates.
Although the situation has been better this year, Lesotho and other southern Africa countries, have in the previous years, been receiving below normal rainfall due to an El-Niño induced drought. Vulnerable households have perennially received assistance from the United Nations agencies and other international donors to save them from starving due to poor harvests.