In Lesotho, a series of dry spells, late rains and early frost has led to an alarmingly steep reduction in agricultural yields for 2011/12. The adverse weather prevented most farmers from cultivating their fields and those who decided to plant did so late, affecting the maturity and quality of the crop. This season’s crop failure marks a significant decline in the country’s food security situation for the second year in a row. With more than a 70 percent drop in domestic cereal production, about a third of Lesotho’s population – over 725 000 people – are food insecure and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The cumulative effects of successive poor harvests, in addition to a reduction of remittances owing to the global economic crisis, have also made it more difficult for many rural households to cope with climate change-induced shocks. This includes farming families in the traditionally more productive areas of the country, like the lowlands, which have also experienced poor crop performances. Increased fallow land and poor production performance have reduced farmers’ household income, and this coupled with the rise in food prices, make it even harder for farmers to meet their household food requirements.
Calling on the international community for assistance, an emergency food crisis was declared on 9 August 2012 by the Prime Minister to improve agricultural productivity and food security, scale up conservation and homestead farming, and promote nutrition services to women and mothers with infants and young children. Following the declaration of emergency, the Government of Lesotho launched an ‘Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance’ on 13 September 2012 with a total value of USD 170 million, requesting support from development partners and the international community for the period September 2012 to June 2013. In response, the United Nations and its partners have been engaged in designing a Flash Appeal, in close collaboration with Government counterparts, that includes emergency and early recovery approaches to address the immediate needs and root causes of the current food security situation.
co-leads the Food Security Sector, along with the World Food Programme (WFP). The sector is seeking USD 33.5 million to support the most food-insecure households in Lesotho, while increasing their resilience to climate-induced shocks.
Of this total, FAO is seeking USD 5.5 million to restore sustainable crop production capacities, diversify food production, improve nutritional quality intake, prevent losses of livestock owing to animal diseases and improve natural resource management, through activities such as:
providing farming families with time-critical inputs and sustainable agricultural skills to plant in time for the summer crop planting season (September – October), according to conservation agriculture technologies;
constructing water structures, including roof water tanks and diversion weirs, and installing irrigation schemes;
promoting home gardening and nutritional training, coupled with the distribution of six different varieties of vegetable seeds;
safeguarding livestock assets through strengthened veterinary support and animal health surveillance systems, with emphasis on integrating livestock production into sustainable agriculture; and
providing technical support to the Government in order to improve and strengthen coordination of agriculture and natural resource management monitoring and evaluation systems.