Lesotho Key Message Update: Border closures following a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases expected to impact economic activity, January 2021

Situation Report
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Key Messages

As of January 29, 2021, Lesotho has 8,610 cumulative COVID-19 cases, a 169 percent increase since January 1, 2021. The festive season and cross-border travel are believed to have fueled the surge in COVID-19 cases. In response, the government imposed a two-week “red-level” lockdown on January 12, 2021, which includes a 7 pm to 6 am curfew and restrictions on inter- and intra-district travel. Only essential services, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, can operate in line with safety protocols. Cross-border travel is prohibited except for essential services and returning residents. Despite the increase in economic activity over the last three months, the lockdown and border closures will slow down economic activity and negatively impact livelihoods and food security, particularly for urban poor households dependent on daily and weekly wages.

The 2020/21 agricultural season is progressing well. Cumulatively average rainfall is forecast through January, which is expected to continue supporting crop and vegetation growth. Most cereal and other crops are in good condition following the average to above-average rains received since November. The maize crop is in the vegetative stages and is expected to soon reach the reproductive stage, particularly for maize planted with the first rains in November 2020. An average harvest is anticipated should average rainfall continue through March.

The availability of agricultural labor opportunities, primarily weeding, are at near average levels. However, wage rates are below average as better-off households have limited liquidity following previous poor harvests and have been impacted by the COVID-19 control measures. Generally, non-farm income remains below average due to the impact of border closures and lockdowns on economic activity. Household food consumption remains constrained due to poor purchasing power. Most areas in Lesotho are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through April when the harvest is expected to begin improving food security outcomes.

The rains have significantly improved pasture and water resources for livestock across the country. Livestock body conditions have improved from ‘fair’ to ‘good’ and are expected to continue improving through the season. Improvements in livestock rangeland resources and livestock body conditions are expected to drive above-average wool and mohair yields and average livestock births. Livestock prices are expected to be average during the post-harvest period from May to August.