Lesotho: El Niño-related Drought - Office of the Resident Coordinator Situation Update No. 4 (as of 25 July 2016)

Situation Report
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  • Lesotho is currently experiencing an unprecedented El Niño induced drought, with an almost 62 per cent decline in crop production during the last agricultural season

  • According to the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) around half of the rural population are at risk of livelihood and food insecurity between May 2016 and April 2017.

  • The latest Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment has identified an estimated affected total of 679,437 people (113,240 HH) are at risk in absence of all other safety nets except school feeding and cash forwork (fato-fato). Of the above 476,842 people (~ 79,474 HH) require life-saving and livelihood protection interventions in next 9-12 months and 202,595 people (~33,765 HH) require only emergency livelihood support in the same time period.

  • The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) estimates 510,258 to be in a state of food security crisis or above from July to October, covering all ten districts of Lesotho.

  • The preliminary forecast indicates a 55-60 per cent likelihood that Lesotho will experience a La Niña phenomenon resulting in normal and above normal rainfall.

Situation Overview

Food and Agricultural insecurity is affecting half the rural population

The latest Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment has identified an estimated affected total of 679,437 people (113,240 HH) at risk in absence of all other safety nets except school feeding and cash for-work (fato-fato). Of the above 476,842 people (~ 79,474 HH) have survival deficits and 202,595 additional people (~33,765 HH) have livelihood protection deficits.

The LVAC was followed by an IPC analysis which showed the following numbers and projections:

The current LVAC has given the most in-depth picture of the food security situation in the country so far and has revealed that both the scope and severity of food insecurity have increased in between assessments.

Loss of agricultural production due to seasonal rains being delayed between 20 to over 40 days due to the El Niño, food price rises of up to 50 per cent compared to last year and loss of labour opportunities have combined to produce a significant deterioration in food security that is set to continue until April/May 2017.

When household food insecurity is examined it becomes clear that the poor and very poor households have been affected differently across Lesotho . The average survival deficit faced by these households is up to 49 per cent in some areas.

Regarding the agricultural and pastoral situation, cereal production has dramatically declined. Maize has decreased by 61 per cent, Sorghum by 88 per cent and wheat by 38 per cent, compared to last season, which was also marked by poor performance, meaning that rural populations will rely mostly on cereal purchases. It has also meant the loss of agricultural related labour. This decline in production can be largely explained by the rains being delayed by the El Niño to the extent that the seasonal planting window passed. In addition to this, the national cattle herd has decreased, with 30 per cent of households reporting that they lost between 2-3 cattle. The death of these cattle is both a loss of household assets as well as a loss in capacity to plough fields for the next agricultural campaign in October 2017.

The rise in prices has been a large driver in the increase in numbers of food insecure people. The price per kilo of maize on average has risen from 3 Maluti (2009/10) to 10 Maluti per kilo in 2016.

The situation has been partially mitigated by an increase in non-agricultural casual labour rates as well as cash for work opportunities remaining stable. However, overall remittances to rural communities were shown in the LVAC to have reduced by 19 percent and further reduction might be expected due to loss of factory employment related to a decline in demand in the textile sector.