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Large food consumption gaps expected during one of the most severe lean seasons

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Lesotho
  • October 2016
Large food consumption gaps expected during one of the most severe lean seasons

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  • Key Messages
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH MAY 2017
  • Key Messages
    • Many areas in Lesotho, including the traditionally surplus areas, are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and will continue to be during the peak of one of the most severe lean seasons. In the absence of emergency assistance there is the risk of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes for isolated populations. As a coping mechanism, some poor households are desperately selling their wool and mohair at atypically low prices in order to earn quick income for food purchases.

    • Middle and better-off household income is improving with increasing vegetable production, which is improving their capacity to hire casual labor. Furthermore, a winter wheat harvest by middle and better off households is also expected between December and January. Though this harvest will not directly benefit poorer households, it should improve labor opportunities as well as payments in-kind for poor households.

    • Prices in Lesotho remain above the five-year average due to high demand induced by the poor 2015/16 harvests. As many poor and very poor households are relying on market purchases, high staple prices continue to reduce their purchasing power. Though staple prices in some areas have remained relatively constant since May, there is an observed downward trend of staple prices especially in Maseru and this could be attributed to the effects of the government subsidy.

    • The green harvest is expected in March and will improve food availability, but will have a limited impact on outcomes. However, due to the anticipated normal harvest next year, it is expected that Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will be experienced in many areas during the last few months of the outlook period. 

    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies
    All zonesLow incomes from off-season activities have resulted in below normal household income for very poor and poor households. High staple prices continue to prevail.Purchasing power for very poor and poor households will likely reduce, resulting in reduced access to food and leading to livelihood and food consumption gaps. Low incomes will likely limit the capacity of the household to purchase agriculture inputs for the 2016/17 agricultural season. 

     


    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH MAY 2017

    Staple prices in Lesotho remain above last year and the five-year average and continue to erode households purchasing power. This is contributing to reduced food access for households during the outlook period, especially considering that nearly the entire population is relying on market purchases. Very poor and poor households are beginning to access on-farm casual labor, although opportunities are still limited. However, it is expected that opportunities will increase after the onset of the main rains. However, due to the impact of the previous drought, wage rates are likely to be below normal, which is likely to reduce income and food from casual labor. Given the magnitude of food insecure population in Lesotho more households are likely to compete for these opportunities. With these conditions, and in the absence of any humanitarian assistance, large food consumption gaps are expected to persist for the greater of Lesotho during the lean season, including areas that would be traditionally food secure or marginally food insecure.

    The latest SADC Agromet Update Issue – 01 indicates that there is a higher probability of a weak La Niña associated with normal to above normal rainfall across Lesotho between October and December, whilst normal to below normal rainfall is expected between January and March 2017 in the eastern half of Lesotho. Based on these forecasts, there are higher chances of a normal start of season, which is likely to result in a normal start of agriculture activities across Lesotho. Land preparation is underway for most of the country since the main planting typically happens between November and December. In the mountains, planting is already ongoing. Rainfall in some parts of Lesotho in September enhanced land preparation activities in most areas and the residual moisture from the snow facilitated effective planting in the mountains.

    In the mountains early planting is typical because crops need to be harvested before the winter snow begins. Because many poor and very poor households have earned very little income from off-season activities, their ability to purchase inputs could be a limiting factor this season. Nonetheless, ongoing-targeted inputs assistance by FAO, CRS, Red Cross (supported by USAID, ECHO, DFID and other donors) will likely improve access to inputs by very poor and poor households.   

    As a coping mechanism, some households are desperately selling their wool and mohair at atypically low prices in order to earn quick income for food purchases. Middle and better-off household income is improving with increasing vegetable production, which is improving their capacity to hire casual labor. Furthermore, a winter wheat harvest by middle and better off households is also expected between December and January 2017. Though this harvest will not directly benefit poorer households, it should improve labor opportunities as well as payments in-kind for poor households.

    More opportunities for casual labor are expected between November and February  when planting and weeding increase. The expected increase in casual labor opportunities during these months will likely improve income and food access for the very poor and poor households and this will have a slight cushioning effect for households during one of the most severe lean season. Current food prices in markets outside of Maseru show an increasing trend, whereas prices in markets in Maseru are showing a gradual decrease. FEWS NET does not have enough information to explain the decreasing trend in Maseru, but it could be attributed to the government subsidy that was initiated in June. 

    Although there are some improvements expected from the start of the 2016/17 season, the amount of food and income likely to be accessed by very poor and poor during the majority of the outlook period (October-March) will not be adequate enough to cover their huge survival deficits due to last season’s severe drought. The reduced purchasing power that households are facing due to high staple prices is exacerbating these livelihood protection and food gaps. As a result, FEWS NET expects most areas of Lesotho to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between October and March. There is also a risk of some isolated populations sliding into IPC Phase 4 during the peak of one of the most severe lean season, and in the absence of any humanitarian assistance. The green harvest is expected in March and will improve food availability, but will have a limited impact on outcomes. With the anticipated normal harvest next year, it is expected that Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will be experienced in many areas during the last few months of the outlook period (April to May 2017). FEWS NET expects Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes across most of the country between April and May 2017, although it should be acknowledged that some populations might still be experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes following the severe drought and lean season and may not be able to meet their livelihoods needs.

     

    Figures Figure 1: Southern Africa 2016/17 rainfall forecast

    Figure 1

    Figure 1: Southern Africa 2016/17 rainfall forecast

    Source: SARCOF

    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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