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Severe armyworm infestations likely to impact 2012/13 production

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Lesotho
  • March 2013
Severe armyworm infestations likely to impact 2012/13 production

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • As the peak of the lean season continues, many poor households will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity outcomes in March, in the presence of humanitarian assistance. 

    • The 2012/13 agriculture season is characterized by a number of challenges that are likely to have a negatively impact on crop yields and production, especially cereals. These include a late start of the season, early frost in the mountains, a mid-season dry spell and severe armyworm infestations that have affected 25 percent of the estimated cropped area. 

    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected during the April to June period because many households are expected to harvest enough food to take them through the first three months of the 2013/14 consumption period, and some poor households facing food and livelihood protection gaps will be receiving humanitarian assistance during this period. 





    • Severe armyworm infestations occurred in eight of the ten districts with 90 percent being concentrated in the most productive areas, including Berea, Leribe, Maseru and Mafeteng district. This outbreak has caused extensive damage to maize and sorghum crops, in addition to pastures.  Armyworm has also affected Mohale’s Hoek, Butha-Buthe, Quting, and Qacha’s Nek district.
    • Reduced yields and production.  Also, the quality of maize grain likely to be poor because of pest damage.


    Projected Outlook through June 2013

    Food insecurity outcomes for poor households is currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of ongoing humanitarian assistance. Green harvests, normally expected in March, are delayed due to late planting. This means many households will continue to rely on market purchases and humanitarian assistance for food. Fortunately, additional resources have recently been made available to the World Food Program’s (WFP) Emergency Operations (EMOP) and this will enable increasing the number of beneficiaries from approximately 110,000 in February to about 289,000. Under the EMOP, programs will be expanded to include communal assets creation through Food for Work through December 2013. However, the additional activities will not immediately impact food security outcomes, leaving most poor households Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through the month of March.

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security indicated that the total cropped area for 2012/13 is about 141,000 hectares, a 14 percent increase compared to 2011/12, but still 40 percent below the five-year average. While the increase in area planted was expected to improve the 2012/13 food harvests, prospects for improved production have been limited by a number of challenges experienced during the crop growing period. The season started late and this was followed by excessive rains in early January that resulted in leaching. These heavy rains were followed by a dry spell associated with high temperatures and humidity from late January into February, which has created conditions conducive to pest breeding.

    According to a joint mission of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in March, a total of over 35,000 hectares of cropped land has been affected by armyworms (25 percent of the estimated area planted). Some farmers will not be able to harvest anything because some fields were completely wiped out (Figure 2). Pastures affected by armyworm are likely to affect livestock conditions as well. The combined impacts of the challenges farmers have faced this season are likely to significantly reduce crop yields and the 2012/13 production season will likely be the third consecutive year of poor food production in Lesotho.

    Even as harvests are expected between late March and early April, within a few months of the start of the 2013/14 consumption period some poor households could face food and livelihood protection deficits.  Crop production estimates by the Bureau of Statistics (BoS) are expected by the end of March, and the number of food insecure people in the country will be assessed by the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC). Overall, Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected during the post-harvest period of April to June, in the presence of humanitarian assistance.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Armyworm infestation and damage.

    Figure 2

    Armyworm infestation and damage.

    Source: FAO, Lesotho

    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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