By Staff Writers
A new El Niño is brewing, and its conditions have been predicted with chances of around 50 percent.
The planting season is expected to start late, and this might compromise the income from agricultural labour opportunities for poor households.
All the 10 districts are expected to be in crisis. Around 30 percent of the rural population in Lesotho (over 433,000 people) is expected to be in crisis) or emergency.
This is according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) – an innovative multi-partner initiative for improving food security and nutrition analysis and decision-making.
The last El Niño, peaking in late 2015, was the strongest ever recorded.
Rainfall patterns shifted worldwide, causing enormous fires in countries like Indonesia, spurring the largest coral bleaching episode in history, and impacting more than 60 million people worldwide.
Lesotho was severely affected by a El Niño-induced drought, leaving more than 60 percent of the rural population at risk of food insecurity.
The coming El Niño is not expected to be as severe as 2015’s, but will likely have serious consequences nonetheless.
By using the IPC classification and analytical approach, governments, United Nations (UN) Agencies, NGOs, civil society and other relevant actors, work together to determine the severity and magnitude of acute and chronic food insecurity, and acute malnutrition situations in a country, according to internationally-recognised scientific standards.
The latest edition on Lesotho, released on Tuesday this week, makes for grim reading.
In indicates that nearly a quarter of Lesotho’s population (around 350 000 people) is facing severe acute food security between May and September 2019, and requires urgent humanitarian action.
These include around 69 000 people being in Emergency (Phase 4) and nearly 280 000 people being in crisis (Phase 3).
Households in these phases have moderate to large food consumption gaps and above usual acute malnutrition or are only marginally able to meet minimum food needs by depleting essential assets or employing crisis and emergency coping strategies.
Almost 470 000 people are also in stressed conditions and require livelihood support.
Even more bad is that the situation is getting worse.
“Between October 2019 and March 2020, it is projected that 30 percent of the population (over 430,000 people) will likely face severe acute food insecurity,” reads the report titled: Acute Food Security Situation May – September 2019 and Projection for October 2019 – March 2020.
At fault is a combination of dry spells and high food prices, according to the report.
It reads: “There was a late onset of rains coupled with high temperatures, resulting in delayed cultivation of land and poor germination and crop conditions, which led to poor crop production. Prices of staple food remained slightly higher than last year, limiting food access for those who had poor or no crop production and who have low purchasing power.”
According to the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II 2018/19 to 2022/23, an estimated 39 percent of households in Lesotho remain vulnerable to food insecurity.
This is despite implementation of agricultural support programmes including input subsidy and crop sharing schemes supported by the government.
The NSDP II further shows that food insecurity affects nearly 70 percent of the population in rural areas who depend on subsistence farming.
“Food security is exacerbated by low productivity in agriculture and the absence of other economic opportunities. Poor agricultural productivity is a result of low adaptation of high-yielding technologies, poor adaptation to climate change, and land loss due to erosion,” it reads.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has recommended among others, immediate food aid for the population in Phase 3 and 4, Livestock vaccination campaigns nation-wide for livestock keepers and identification of hotspot areas and beneficiaries nation-wide.
It has also recommended disaster-risk reduction programmes to protect livelihoods for the population in Phase 2, capacity building on climate-smart agriculture for the stressed population and cash top-ups for those groups already receiving grants. NW