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Despite well above-average maize meal prices and below-average income from the 2013/14 agricultural season, most poor households are currently facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, meeting their basic food needs through purchases at adequately stocked markets and through own-produced staple foods.
The upcoming agricultural season and associated activities are expected to be near normal, but labor wages are expected to be below average, as more households than usual seek agricultural labor opportunities in order to compensate for below average 2013/14 production and for reduced remittances due to drops in domestic employment and retrenchments in South Africa.
The reduced labor income and labor opportunities described above, coupled with continued well above-average maize meal prices, will result in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity starting in October.
Southern Lowlands, Foothills and Senque River Valley Livelihood Zones
Remittances and construction labour has decreased mainly due to closure of local textiles factories and mining strikes and job cuts from RSA.
Reduced incomes and high prices will result in Poor households having reduced purchasing power between October and December.
Prices for staple maize are 120-180 percent above prices during same time in 2010, the reference year.
Lesotho’s winter harvest (October 2014 to mid-January 2015) and main harvest (April to August 2015) will depend on the performance of the upcoming rainy season, which typically lasts from October through April. According to the recently released National Seasonal Rainfall Outlook Forecast, below-normal rains in October are expected to improve to normal by the end of November, lasting through at least December. According to the forecast, normal to above-normal rains are expected for January through March. This is likely to result in near normal labor demand for agricultural activities, such as land preparation, planting, and weeding activities although wages are likely to be below normal due to the high supply as more people seek for opportunities to compensate for loss of income from remittances.
In addition to anticipated above-average labor supply, as the 2014 main harvest was below average, and more people will seek to offset their reduced incomes by engaging in on-farm labor activities; wages for on-farm labor expected to be approximately below average. This is in addition to the closure of textile factories in Lesotho and mining strikes in South Africa that reduced incomes by approximately 15 to 60 percent for two major sources of remittances (LVAC Seasonal Assessment 2014), an important component of annual household income.
As of May 2014 (the start of the 2014/15 consumption year), Lesotho’s staple food deficit of 54 percent was below the 70 percent average in previous years. This deficit is typically filled through imports of maize from South Africa, where prices are currently lower compared to same time last year, and near the five-year average due to very good domestic production and below-average regional demand.
However, maize meal prices in Lesotho continue to be near their 2013 levels, which is approximately 160 percent above prices observed during the 2010 reference year (Figure 2). FEWS NET price projections suggest these high prices will continue through December 2014, and will result in poor purchasing power for the preferred staple food in Lesotho.
Ongoing safety nets are currently targeting 226,000 people through school meals and nutrition supplementary feeding, which is aiding access to food for improved nutrition and health. The World Food Pogramme country program has three components: disaster reduction to enhance resilience and responsiveness, increasing coverage of school supplementary feeding, and targeted nutrition and health feeding which is targeting 447,600 people over five years.
Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected between October to December, particularly in the districts of Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohales’ Hoek, Quthin, and Thabatseka covering Southern Lowalands, Senque River Valley and Foothills livelihoods zones. This deterioration follows the drop in production, low income-earning opportunities and high staple food prices, amongst the very poor wealth group resulting in livelihood protection deficits.
Seasonal calendar in a typical year
Source: FEWS NET
Figure 1. October to March rainfall outlook
Source: Source: Ministry of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs
Figure 2. Maize price trend retail imported compared with prices of maize in South Africa
Source: FAO/GIEWS data
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.