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Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security conditions are expected in Lesotho between June and September 2017. The food security situation has greatly improved due to the availability of food from household harvests, improved income, and decreasing staple prices. Along with these improvements, humanitarian assistance by many agencies has finally come to end. Beyond October 2017, as the lean season approaches, some pockets of Lesotho will likely begin to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2 outcomes).
The main source of food is currently own crops from the main harvest. The harvesting of crops is still ongoing and this is also providing labor opportunities to very poor and poor households. Through this labor, households are receiving in-kind payments, which is further improving food availability. Household crop sales has improved income levels for households and is expected to be the main income source between the months of June and September. Once harvesting activities come to an end in a month, very poor and poor households will engage in off-farm labor opportunities, which are expected to be normal this year.
Staple prices continue to decline in Lesotho. April prices for maize meal were lower than previous months and lower than prices during the same time last year. Increasing supplies of both locally and regionally produced cereals are contributing to this decline in price. The decrease in staple prices and increase in incomes are strengthening very poor and poor household purchasing power in Lesotho.
|ZONE||Current Anomalies||Projected Anomalies|
|All zones||Early selling of crops by very poor and poor households||Crop sales by very poor and poor households will likely earn slightly less income due to lower market prices during this period.|
It is currently the peak of the harvesting period for households in Lesotho. Though the 2016/17 official crop estimates are not yet out, the cropping season was rated as good this year and prospects for this harvest are high. Households have therefore switched from depending on the market and humanitarian assistance to consuming their own produced food. June was the last month that partners and agencies provided humanitarian assistance. This is an appropriate time to end assistance as many households are already relying on food from their harvests. Better off and middle household demand for hiring labor is high and this is providing opportunities to very poor and poor households. Opportunities for harvesting labor this year have returned to normal given the abundance of field crops awaiting harvesting. Harvest laborers are being paid mostly in-kind because better off and middle-income households have not sold much of their crops. Nonetheless, this form of payment is further improving food availability for poorer households who engage in such activities. Though the harvesting prospects are good, the very poor and poor households usually do not harvest enough to cover the entire consumption year, therefore the food accessed from labor will contribute to their food stocks, allowing them to last a little longer. Households also continue to access other basic foods including cooking oil and sugar from the markets.
Households in Lesotho are steadily earning income with the ongoing harvests. The very poor and poor households are already selling some of their crops which is improving access to income significantly. However, these groups are selling their crops at a time when they earn lower prices given the high supply in the market. Middle and better off households are also beginning to sell their crops, but the majority are expected to sell more during the coming months as they are still concentrating on harvesting. In this respect, crop selling is expected to be the main income source during the entire post-harvest period.
As the harvesting period ends, very poor and poor households are expected to start engaging in off-season labor activities. These include construction, fencing, domestic work, and other self-employment activities. The normal harvest prospects this year are expected to contribute to normal income levels for better-off and middle households. Since these households usually hire poor household member for labor, opportunities and wages rates for off-season activities are expected to be normal during the off/dry season this year.
Cereal supplies on the markets continue to increase as households sell their crops. The number of traders who usually buy maize for re-sell are increasing as cereal availability increases. As a result, prices of mealie meal continue to take a gradual decline (Figure 1). Declining staple prices and increasing incomes have strengthened household purchasing power. The May 2017 mVAM bulletin shows that purchasing power for households in Lesotho has been stable over the past few months.
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes which are expected to continue through September 2017 as a result of the improved purchasing power and improved food availability. Nonetheless, it is expected that very poor and poor households will likely deplete their food stocks from own production between October and December 2017. During this time, staple prices usually increase as the lean season begins. As a result, it is likely that some areas of Lesotho will begin to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) beyond September due to deteriorating food security conditions.
Preparations and planting for winter crop production are underway. These activities are expected to increase as the current main harvest comes to an end. Some winter crops that households planted did not germinate due to lack of anticipated winter rains. Earlier in April, the Lesotho Metrological Services had predicted normal to below normal winter rainfall between April and June which would affect winter cropping. Normal rains were received until April and very little was received in May. There are however some mixed messages regarding this rainfall outlook as the latest Seasonal Climate Watch for May – September 2017 by the South African Weather Services indicates the possibility of above normal to normal rainfall between May and July, however low confidence was acknowledged for this rainfall outlook.
Figure 1. Maize meal prices
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