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New harvests, although reduced, bring some relief to food insecure poor households

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Lesotho
  • April 2013
New harvests, although reduced, bring some relief to food insecure poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The end of the lean season ushered in some relief as many poor rural households are now accessing food from their own harvest. Food insecurity outcomes through June are projected to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) throughout the country as food needs for poor rural households continue to be supplemented with humanitarian assistance.

    • As suggested by recent satellite imagery showing stressed vegetation conditions, dry spells and poorly distributed rainfall from late January through March has negatively impacted crop growth and development (Figure 2). These factors, in addition to the late start of the season and armyworm infestations, are likely to have a negative impact on crop yields for the 2012/13 main harvest. 

    • With the 2012/13 main harvests expected to be lower than anticipated at the beginning of the agricultural season in October, poor rural households are likely to deplete their food stocks within three months of harvest. In the presence of humanitarian assistance, Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected among poor rural households from July through September.





    • Dry spells and poorly distributed seasonal rainfall, mostly pronounced in the high productive areas of the northern and southern lowlands.
    • Reduced yields and production for the 2012/13 agriculture season.  Also, the quality of maize grain is likely to be poor because of pest damage.

    Projected Outlook through September 2013

    With many poor rural households accessing food from their own production and supplementing this with humanitarian assistance, food insecurity outcomes are expected to have improved, resulting in Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) acute food insecurity outcomes from April through June. Humanitarian assistance that is being distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) and its partners is targeting poor households in Qacha’s Nek, Thaba Tseka, Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek, Mokhotlong and Mafeteng districts. Although the main harvesting activities are likely to start in mid – April, the majority of households across the country began accessing food from the green harvest in late March. In March, about 123,000 people received over 1,700 MT of food items through the vulnerable group feeding, Food for Work, and Cash for Assets programming. Approximately 1,900 MT of food assistance is planned to be distributed to about 132,000 people in the six targeted districts in April. This assistance is expected to continue to fill in any food gaps in poor rural households.

    For many poor rural households, food harvested from the 2012/13 main season is likely to last no more than three months. Area planted for many poor households was reduced this season because many only managed to plant at the end of December and early January due to the late start of rains and limited access to agricultural inputs. This delayed start of season was followed by dry spells in late January and armyworm infestations between February and March. Although the government invested about USD$13 million in over 10,000 hectares (which covered the cost of land preparation, seeds, and fertilizers) for the block farming and share cropping program during the 2012/13 agricultural season, the severe drought experienced in February and March negatively affected the growth of late planted crops, especially the maize crop. Soil water index for maize shows that soil moisture conditions for most maize producing areas in the northern and southern lowlands ranged from stressed to wilting in March (Figure 2).

    The combined negative impact of drought and armyworm infestations is likely to thwart any initial predictions of improved yields and production for the main harvest. If this happens, 2012/13 will be the third consecutive year in which Lesotho experiences a significantly reduced food harvest. Many poor household are at risk of food insecurity during the 2013/14 consumption period given Lesotho’s anticipated poor production and the limited income generating  opportunities within Lesotho and reduced remittances from South Africa.  Although the extent of food insecurity among rural poor households cannot be assessed until crop production estimates are released in early June, current food insecurity conditions indicate that households could be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from July to September, in the presence of planned humanitarian assistance, especially in the Mountains and Senqu River Valley livelihood zones where income generating opportunities are extremely limited.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Soil Water Index for Maize, 2012/13 Agricultural Season.

    Figure 2

    Soil Water Index for Maize, 2012/13 Agricultural Season.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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