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The results from the annual Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) indicate that about 48 percent of the rural population in Lesotho is at risk of acute food insecurity during the current consumption year. The Household Economy Approach (HEA) outcome analysis completed by the LVAC, indicate that approximately 34 percent of the rural population will not be able to meet their survival food and non-food needs, and about 14 percent will not be able to meet their livelihood protection needs. The projected food insecure population this year will be 43 percent above the five-year average.
Based on the LVAC analysis, the main drivers of high food insecurity this year are crop production and high staple prices. Most poor and very poor households that experienced significant crop losses this season are currently relying on food purchases from local markets. Staple prices are expected to increase to levels that are 17-30 percent above the five-year average, which will erode purchasing power and constrain food access during the June-September period. Most areas in Lesotho will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during the June to January period.
Food consumption among poor and very poor households is being hampered by high staple prices. Households are not able to afford non-food essentials and they are facing food consumption gaps. Some households have already decreased the number of meals that they eat per day, as well as the types of foods that they consume. However, the prevalence of GAM remains below the WHO emergency threshold. The prevalence of stunting continues to be high across the country, possibly reflecting the consumption of poor quality food and other underlying chronic issues.
|ZONE||CURRENT ANOMALIES||PROJECTED ANOMALIES|
|All||According to the LVAC analysis, household cereal production is estimated to be 70 – 100% below reference year levels. Harvest labor is very low and income from remittances, domestic work, and other self-employment is lower than reference year levels. Staple food prices are expected to be 17 – 30% above average.||The combination of low cereal availability, limited labor income, and high staple prices will limit household food access. |
The drought experienced across Lesotho this year has resulted in very low crop production and hence most households are already experiencing severe acute food insecurity during the immediate post-harvest period (June-September) that is expected to persist throughout the rest of the outlook period.
In some districts (especially near the Northern Low lands livelihood zone) households are usually relatively food secure during this time of the year, however the situation is different this year because of the magnitude of the crop losses experienced. As a result, households in these areas are equally at risk of food insecurity as households in the districts that normally experience cereal deficits. Even though all households were affected by the drought, the most affected household groups are the very poor and poor because of their limited capacity to cope. Although national crop estimates for 2016 have not been released, the 2016/17 consumption year is expected to be similar to what the country experienced in 2012 when 725,519 people were estimated to be food insecure. The 2016 LVAC assessment estimates that 679,437 (48 percent of rural population) are at risk of acute food insecurity between May 2016 and March 2017. Out of this, 476,842 (34 percent) are estimated to be unable to meet their survival food and non-food needs. The remaining 202,595 (14 percent) are estimated to be able to meet their basic food needs, though they will not be able to cover their basic livelihood requirements. In this respect, the acutely food insecure population this year is 43 percent above the five-year average. With the current and projected level of survival deficits, most areas of Lesotho will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between June and September this year, and this is expected to persist through January 2017. The LVAC assessment also found the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) to be stable and below the commonly used thresholds for emergencies. Nonetheless, the prevalence of stunting remains high, reflecting poor food quality and other underlying chronic issues. The government recently announced the start of a subsidy to millers and packers that will eventually lower food prices for consumers. FEWS NET expects that this subsidy will help households during the next lean season, but is uncertain about the magnitude of the impact of this subsidy on household food access.
June-September: Given the earlier and longer than usual time that households are relying on market purchases for food, many are experiencing reduced food access due to reduced labor opportunities and above average food prices. It is expected that the continued need to make food purchases will strain their income sources throughout the projection period. The main income sources typical for very poor and poor households during this period are crop sales, labor harvesting, remittances, domestic work, beer brewing and other self-employment activities. However, the majority of these sources are expected to be below normal due to various factors related to the drought. Better off and middle households usually hire the very poor and poor for work, but due to poor crop production and lower sales, these opportunities are currently reduced. Additionally, staple prices are high and are projected to fluctuate within 17 – 30 percent above the five-year average and within 4 – 15 percent above last year’s levels between June and September (Figure 1).
October-January: After experiencing one of the strongest El Niño events on record during the previous 2015/16 cropping season, early June CPC/IRI forecasters indicate that a La Niña event is likely to develop by late 2016. In the southern Africa region a La Niña event tends to be associated with average to above-average rainfall. However, the Subtropical Indian Ocean Dipole (SIOD) also influences ENSO’s impact on rainfall in southern Africa. Positive SIOD enhances the La Niña influence on southern Africa rainfall, while negative SIOD mitigates the influence. Therefore, information on the state and impact of the SIOD on 2016/17 rainfall will be more certain later in the year. Given that the start of the season is far away and forecasts are still forthcoming, FEWS NET is assuming a normal start to the 2016/17 cropping season in Lesotho, which is likely to result in normal agricultural activities. The main food and income sources typical for very poor and poor households during this period are land preparation, planting and weeding.
Figure 1. Lesotho staple food price projections, May 2016 – March 2017.
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