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Food security outcomes will improve in the near-term, despite an anticipated below-average harvest

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Lesotho
  • April 2019
Food security outcomes will improve in the near-term, despite an anticipated below-average harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Many poor households continue to face food consumption gaps resulting from limited market access due to below-average incomes and delayed harvests. Although some households are currently consuming green foods, the level of green consumption this year is below average.Typically, household food consumption improves with the harvest in April, however, due to the delayed and poor performance of the 2018/19 rainy season the majority of poor households continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    • Crop conditions remained average to poor despite the slight improvement in rainfall in February/March. Although continued rainfall is expected to support crop development through May, there is an increasing risk of frost as the season progresses. The LVAC rapid assessment reports that almost 49% of households cultivated a smaller land area than the previous season. Given the above conditions, a below-average harvest is likely.

    • The price of maize meal in Maseru market has steadily increased since January, due to increases in maize grain prices in South Africa source markets and the anticipated below-average production. Price projection by FEWS NET (Figure 1) indicates that maize meal prices will likely increase through June 2019, but stabilize between July and September. Markets remain well stocked and households will be able to purchase food as long as they have access to income.


    Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s nek, Quthing and Maseru

    • Poor crop conditions due to poor performance of the 2018/19 rainy season
    • Below-average opportunities for agricultural labor, affecting income and in-kind food access
    • Increasing staple food prices
    • Delayed access to dry harvests due to erratic and below average rainfall, overall below-average and delayed 2019 harvests
    • Above average staple food prices
    • Below average income from crop sales and labor



    The main agriculture season in Lesotho is ending.  In a typical year, the majority of households begin to harvest crops at the end of April. However, the harvest this year is delayed by poor seasonal rainfall performance. Maize and other cereal crops in Lesotho are still maturing and in poor condition despite late season rainfall in February and March. The 2018/19 season was characterized by a delayed start, with poorly distributed, erratic, and overall below-average rains. According to CHIRPS data, Lesotho received 70 to 95 percent of normal rainfall between October 2018 and the end of April 2019. Land area cultivated is speculated to be below average and the LVAC rapid assessment conducted in March indicated that 49 percent of household area planted was below that of the previous year. A combination of low area cultivated, poor crop condition, delayed crop stage, and possibility of frost increases the chances of a below-average harvest. Many farmers in Lesotho are anticipating the 2019 harvest to be one of the poorest in the last 5 years.

    Income sources remain strained due to compounding effects of the poor season. Delayed harvest has affected timely access to income from crop sales, as well as harvesting labor which typically sustains households between April and July. Due to anticipated below-average harvest, it is also likely that income from crops sales will be below average this year which will continue to negatively affect livelihoods in Lesotho. Nonetheless, households are currently earning income through remittances and livestock selling, although a majority of the very poor have reached their capacity to sell additional livestock. The sale of wool and mohair is atypically low this year as livestock body conditions were poor due to delayed regeneration of pastures and availability of water, all related to the below-average rainfall season. There has been a gradual increase in remittances to Lesotho from South Africa, resulting from atypical labor migration as households begin to respond to the effects a poor growing season and seek additional income elsewhere. Labor migration is expected to increase through September as the lean season approaches.  

    Vegetation has greatly improved due to rainfall received in the past months, which will provide relatively better pastures for livestock through July. However, since cumulative rainfall remained below average, water bodies and vegetation regeneration did not reach normal capacities. It is likely that pastures will deplete earlier than normal.

    The majority of households in Lesotho (including better off households) are relying on market purchases to access food. Between January and February, maize meal prices in Maseru gradually increased, although they are still currently within the 5-year average. There is speculation of a below-average harvest both locally and regionally and this has pushed staple price increases. A price projection by FEWS NET in Figure 1 shows that maize meal prices in Maseru will likely continue to rise to above 5-year levels by May and likely fluctuate within 7 and 11 percent above the 5-year average between July and September. Currently, food consumption is poor due to low household purchasing power. However, even with anticipated poor production prospects, the upcoming harvest will likely cushion many households between June and September. During this period, households are expected to consume their own harvests, although stocks are likely to deplete earlier than normal. Very poor and poor will also access harvesting labor, although at below-average levels. Agricultural labor is a source of both income and in-kind food. FEWS NET therefore expects food security outcomes to improve from the current Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during this period.

    Figures Graph showing Maseru market maize meal prices October 2018 - September 2019

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET based on WFP/BOS data

    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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