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Significantly below-average rainfall and high temperatures at the start of season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Lesotho
  • December 2018
Significantly below-average rainfall and high temperatures at the start of season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Significantly below-average rainfall and high temperatures have characterized the start of season, negatively affecting agriculture activities. Labor opportunities continue to be limited in many sectors and as a result, poor households have below-average income with which to purchase food from markets. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected by early 2019.  However, outcomes are expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) depending on the harvest.

    • At the end of November, many areas in Lesotho recorded a late start of season by 40 days or more. The window for planting is closing for typical varieties of maize, which is likely to negatively impact the entire growing season. A prolonged delay in planting reduces the length of the growing season and increases the risk of crop damage due to frost in March/April.

    • Between August and October, WFP/Bureau of Statistics price data indicated maize meal prices in Maseru market were relatively stable, although trending slightly above the five-year average at about 3 percent above the five-year average. Market food supplies remain stable with consistent imports from South Africa.




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

    • Below average opportunities for agricultural labor
    • Late onset of rains and delayed agriculture activities
    • Below-average cumulative rainfall between October and November 2019
    • Lower than normal purchasing power due to below-average income and increasing staple prices
    • Delayed access to green harvests due to delayed planting following the poor start of the rainy season
    • Below-average and delayed 2019 harvests


    According to Climate Prediction Center’s Global Hazards Outlook, Lesotho experienced a significant late start of season and below-average rainfall through mid-December, which has been classified as a drought. By end of November, FEWS NET/USGS remote sensing products indicated rainfall in some parts of Lesotho was delayed by 40 days or more (Figure 1). In addition, Lesotho received below-average cumulative rainfall in December, according to CHIRPS 2.0 prelim data.  Deficits are ranging from 50 to 79 percent of normal in most areas of Lesotho, except in the west where deficits are 30 to 49 percent of normal (Figure 2).

    The window for planting for normal maize varieties (medium to late maturing) typically ends in mid-November while short varieties can potentially be planted through mid-December though this is uncommon. The significantly late start of season implies there is a higher chance some farmers missed the normal planting period and will be forced to switch to short varieties.

    Poorly distributed rainfall and high temperatures at the start of season has resulted in poor soil moisture that is insufficient in many areas for maize germination. During a typical agriculture season, households obtain food and income through on-farm labor, one of the important livelihood sources reducing the severity of food security outcomes during the lean season. Between October and November, households typically engage in land preparation and planting. From December, weeding activities peak, providing labor opportunities. This year, however, with the delayed onset of rains, planting is occurring inconsistently across the country. This has resulted in below-average labor opportunities in land preparation and planting. With a forecast of continued below-average rainfall for the remainder of the 2018/19 rainy season, weeding and other farm activities are also likely to continue to be affected, and therefore lower than normal labor opportunities are expected to persist throughout the projection period.  

    Markets are currently well stocked and food supplies are expected to remain stable through May 2019 due to normal imports from South Africa. Despite well stocked markets, staple food prices fluctuate slightly due to changes in demand in Lesotho and changes in South African market prices. Between August and October, staple food prices in Maseru market, the national reference market, gradually increased, trending close to the five-year average. As of October, WFP and Lesotho’s Bureau of Statistics (BOS), price data show, maize meal prices in Maseru market were only 3 percent above the five-year average. Staple food prices in Maseru market will likely fluctuate between 1 to 5 percent above the five-year average through March 2019 (Figure 3).

    Pasture for livestock grazing has deteriorated due to atypical seasonal dryness and late start of the rains. Livestock body conditions currently range from poor to average. However, pastures and livestock body conditions are expected to improve during the rainy season through May, although they may not reach typical levels due to forecasted below average rains.

    Food access will likely deteriorate through early 2019 due to the combination of below-average on-farm labor opportunities, off-farm incomes, and remittances. Below average on-farm labor will likely continue to reduce household income and in-kind payments. Consumption of green foods usually begins in late February or March will likely be delayed or limited. Despite the anticipated poor rainfall season, likely affecting production, food security outcomes are expected to improve in April as most households will have a harvest even if below-average to replenish food stocks. Although, there could be a delayed harvest due to the significant delay in the start of season, which could potentially extend the lean season. Some households will potentially experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2), it is expected the majority of Lesotho will experience Minimum (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    Figures Figure 1.  Start of season anomaly (compared to average) for 2018/19 season as of first week of December

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Start of season anomaly (compared to average) for 2018/19 season as of first week of December

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 2. Lesotho Rainfall percent of average for 1 Sep to 10 Dec 2018

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Lesotho Rainfall percent of average for 1 Sep to 10 Dec 2018

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 3. Maseru market maize meal price projection

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Maseru market maize meal price projection

    Source: FEWS NET based on WFP 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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