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Increased food insecurity expected through June 2016

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Lesotho
  • February 2016
Increased food insecurity expected through June 2016

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Following a recent drought assessment in Lesotho, food insecurity from January to June 2016 is expected to increase to 27 percent of the rural population. This projected increase is more than double the estimated food insecure population that was projected back in May 2015 by the Lesotho Vulnerable Assessment Committee (LVAC). This rise is attributed to the poor 2015/16 rainfall, the El Niño-induced drought, and well above-average staple food prices. 

    • Most very poor and poor households are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the outlook period, with a significant portion of households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between June and September. Acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to deteriorate further in the absence of ongoing social safety-net programming. 

    • According to the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), this season is ranked as the driest and second driest in 35 years across most of the country. Drought conditions resulted in less area cropped this season, wilting and damaged crops, as well as water shortages for humans and livestock. On-farm labor opportunities are extremely limited, as are other typical livelihood strategies households may use to earn incomes for food purchases during the peak lean season. Current household purchasing power is quite low and food prices are well above average. Current observations indicate a below-average 2016 harvest in the coming months, which is expected to contribute to increased food insecurity beyond June.

    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies
    Southern Lowlands, Foothills, Mountains and Senque River valley Poor 2015/16 seasonal rainfall and drought conditions has led to less cropped area, poor vegetation conditions, and poor 2015/16 production prospects. Low rainfall has contributed to a poor pastures, as well as a severe shortage of water for livestock and humans. Drought-related livestock deaths are reported in some areas. Household income from labor and self-employment activities is extremely limited. Food prices continue to increase due to increased local demand and high transport costs. Due to the poor 2016 harvest prospects, improved food availability among very poor and poor households will likely be negligible. Most households will continue to rely on market purchases for their food needs, however limited incomes and high food prices will limit their purchasing power and food access from June to September.



    In January 2016, the Multi-Agency Disaster Management Team (MDAT) under the coordination of the Disaster Management Authority, carried out a drought assessment. According to the assessment, approximately 377,900 people are projected to face food insecurity from January to June. This is a significant increase from earlier projections of about 180,000 by the LVAC in May 2015. This increase is due to a number of factors including the El Niño-induced drought, lower household incomes from agriculture-related labor and high staple food prices. The current drought conditions resulting from the effects of El Niño, low incomes and high staple food prices. A second consecutive poor harvest is anticipated and expected to contribute to increased food insecurity beyond June 2016. The most affected districts are Mafeteng, Quacha’s Nek, Thaba Tseka, and Makhotlong. 

    The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) monitors the severity of drought events. The SPI for rainfall from October 2015 to February 2016 ranked as the seasonal rainfall as the driest and second driest season in 35 years across the majority of the country (Figure 1). Most water bodies have dried up due to poor recharge and high evaporation rates. There is a shortage of water for both humans and livestock, and rationing is currently ongoing in all communities. The USGS/FEWS NET satellite images show that vegetation conditions throughout the country are still well below average, the lowest observed since 2001 as estimated by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Pasture for livestock is poor due to the combined effects of poor vegetation regrowth and slow recharge of water bodies and some drought-related livestock deaths were reported. The national livestock census information indicates that the number of goats and sheep have decreased by 9 percent, while cattle are down by 25 percent. Income from livestock sales is expected to be lower than normal for the remainder of the 2015/16 consumption year and the greater part of the next consumption year. Drought conditions are limiting labor opportunities and leading to a decline in self-employment activities (such as brewing and crafts) due to decreased availability of raw materials. The compounding effects of the likely poor 2016 harvest, water shortages, lower than normal incomes from livestock sales, labor, as well as self-employment, are likely to result in an above-average number of food insecure people during the projected outlook period.

    Lesotho’s economic outlook largely reflects that of South Africa because of its geographical location and reliance on South Africa for food and other supplies. Lesotho’s Loti is fixed on the South Africa Rand, which has depreciated against the US dollar significantly in recent months. Though inflation in Lesotho has been stable over time, it began rising in the second half of 2015 and reached 5.1 percent in December.  The Bureau of Statistics also reported an increase in the national food basket cost. In particular, staple food prices reached record levels in December 2015 due to higher demand as well as high import/transaction costs from South Africa, and continue to increase. In this respect, the compounding effects of high staple food prices and low incomes will continue to reduce purchasing power for most households in Lesotho. Given that almost all very poor and poor households are currently depending on the market, food access is likely to be limited. The anticipated poor 2016 harvest will require households to continue relying on the market purchases and given the above conditions, food access will likely be limited throughout the outlook period. In this respect, most of very poor and poor households Lesotho will likely experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes, with a significant proportion of households reaching Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the outlook period. Moreover, this picture would deteriorate further in the absence of ongoing safety-nets.

    Figures Figure 1. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) dry rank for Lesotho between October 2015 and February 22, 2016.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) dry rank for Lesotho between October 2015 and February 22, 2016.


    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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