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Forecasts for the ongoing El Nino to persist through February, and associated impacts on rainfall in Lesotho suggest average to below-average rainfall is likely during much of the agricultural season. This is likely to affect agricultural activities and reduce labor income during the peak of the lean season.
Staple food prices will likely remain high through the lean season due to rises in food prices in South Africa, which is the main source of food for Lesotho. This is likely due to a rise in demand resulting from the regional cereal deficit.
Depleted stocks, a decline in remittances, reduced income from casual labor, reduced purchasing power will likely result in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for some very poor and poor households in Lesotho. However, the most of Lesotho is expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.
Southern Lowlands, Foothills, Mountains and Senque River valley
Reduced remittances are resulting from increasing unemployment and retrenchments in South Africa. Limited local labor opportunities will also reduce household income. Increases in staple food prices will worsen the situation.
Household purchasing power will drop resulting in reduced access to food between October and March.
Forecasts from the Lesotho and South African Weather Services, as well as the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-19) are forecasting normal to below-normal rainfall associated with the ongoing El Nino likely to persist through the October to March rainy season. Although the full impact of the El Nino on food security will likely be felt in the next consumption year, below-average and/or poorly distributed rainfall during the rainy season could affect agriculture activities such as planting and weeding, thereby reducing labor opportunities for the very poor and poor households. In addition, due to the combination of below-average harvests in 2014/15 and a likely reduction in labor opportunities, the supply for casual labor will likely exceed demand and could drive down wage rates. A reduction of wage rates and availability of opportunities will reduce households’ income and therefore their ability to purchase food from the market during the peak of the lean season.
Cereal production for Lesotho (at start of consumption season) was 21 percent below the 2013/14 season and 22 percent below the five-year average due to poor production in the 2014/15 season. This below average production resulted in a deficit of 51 percent required to meet national cereal requirements of 247 000MT. Combined with a rise in demand of food in South Africa as a result of the regional cereal deficit, food prices in South Africa will continue to gradually increase through the outlook period. Given that Lesotho imports most of its food from South Africa, the rising food prices are passed on. As of August, maize meal prices in Maseru were 21 percent above five-year average and five percent above last year. Price projections show that food prices in Maseru will fluctuate around 16 percent above last year and around 27 percent above the five-year average. Although the El Nino may result in below-average production, harvests and reduced market demand due to the consumption of green crops should still result in price declines starting in March.
The decrease in the proportion of households receiving remittances from South Africa mainly due to increasing unemployment and retrenchments in South Africa mines have reduced income for households who usually rely on remittances. As casual labor opportunities have been affected by poor 2014/15 seasonal performance, and are also likely to be affected by the strengthening El Nino, income from labor will likely be reduced during this outlook period. Given that very poor and poor households in Lesotho usually depend on casual labor and remittances as the main sources of income, there are high chances that these changes will likely reduce income and hence the purchasing power for the affected households. The need to purchase more than usual food from the market in order to meet minimum consumption needs will likely prevent poor and very poor households from meeting all of their livelihood protection needs, although safety nets will continue to provide income for very poor households.
The worst affected areas are the Southern Lowlands, Foothills, Mountains and Senque River Valley livelihood zones in all the districts but mostly in Mafeteng, Qacha’s Nek, Thaba Tseka, Mohale’s Hoek, Butha Buthe and Mokhotlong. However, safety nets by the government and non-government actors will continue to provide a cushion to the affected population. In addition, the food security situation is likely to improve at the end of the lean season in March as Lesotho approach the main harvest as well as consumption of green crops. In light of this, the likely impact of reduced income and a drop in household purchasing power on household food security will likely result in very poor and poor households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between October and March even though most of Lesotho is expected to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. However, there are pockets of Lesotho, especially the most affected areas where households are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3), but in population terms they are expected to be below the 20 percent threshold for area classification.
Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year
Source: FEWS NET
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