Lesotho Desk Review, April 2014

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Lesotho’s main food crops produced include maize, sorghum (for food and beer), and wheat. Maize and sorghum are grown throughout the country in summer (October to April), with the most productive areas in the Lowlands and Foothills. Winter wheat is common in the Mountains (May to September) (Figure 3).

Currently, over 70 percent of the national cereal requirements are imported, mainly from South Africa, and the majority of the population (the poor) purchases more than half of their food in a typical year. As a result, the national strategy for food security is emphasizes ensuring adequate food imports to cover the deficit, measures to increase household incomes to guarantee their access to food, and improvement of agricultural production (Annex 5).

Cereal production trends

National agricultural production and productivity is significantly lower now than it was in the late 1970s with a particularly marked decline since the early 2000s (Figure 4). The literature review reveals that the decline in cereal production is more significant in the formerly high-production areas of Lowlands and Foothills zones of Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea and Maseru districts (FAO/WFP, 2005; FAO/WFP, 2007).

There are many reasons for declining production in the agriculture sector, particularly for maize. Maize seed and fertilizer in Lesotho are all imported from South Africa, and therefore significantly more costly locally than in South Africa. This raises relative production costs compared to cheaper South African maize imports. This has been observed as a disincentive to local production, contributing to the decline in production. There are also concerns that the loss of manpower due to HIV/AIDS; population pressure on land size with ineffective agricultural extension to manage environmental constraints; constraints to input access; and the impact of livestock theft on the availability of draught power also play a role in declining agricultural production, though data demonstrating correlation and significant changes over time are limited and inconclusive.