More households across Lesotho, particularly in the southern districts, are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as their own produced food stocks deplete, exacerbated by above-average maize meal prices and below-average income for market purchases. Very poor households are likely to experience marginal food consumption gaps. Agricultural labor opportunities are increasing but remain below-average as preparation for the 2020/21 agricultural season begins. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist through January 2021.
According to international forecasts, the 2020/21 rainfall season across southern Africa are likely to be normal, with average cumulative rainfall from October to December 2020 and above-average cumulative rainfall from January to March 2021. More farmers are likely to engage in farming activities as they aim to recover from 2019/20’s below-average harvest; however, the availability of income to pay laborers may be limited.
On September 30, 2020, Lesotho recorded 1,576 cumulative COVID-19 cases, a 45 percent increase in confirmed cases since August 31, 2020. Some COVID-19 restriction measures have been relaxed, in particular public transport returning to pre-COVID-19 operations. This is expected to ease in-country travel for traders and laborers and improve access to income-earning opportunities and livelihood activities. However, Lesotho’s borders remain closed, although the South African government has announced plans to re-open its borders to tourism on October 1, 2020. The resumption of important economic sectors in South Africa could lead to the re-opening of Lesotho’s borders, driving improvements in labor migration and remittance flows.
Markets across Lesotho remain well supplied, but maize meal prices remain around 11 percent above the five-year average. The above-average prices are impacting the purchasing power of an increasing number of households’ who are becoming dependent on market purchases as their own-produced food stocks run out. The above-average maize meal prices are attributed to increased demand and general COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions such as border slow-downs and permit requirements.