Timely and well-distributed rainfall expected to drive average harvest
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes continue in Lesotho due to low food access driven by depleted own-produced food stocks, below-average incomes, and slightly above-average staple food prices. Households are trying to mitigate existing food consumption gaps through market food purchases from earned income. Agricultural labor opportunities are seasonally increasing; however, wages are below average, and market food purchases are not expected to fully cover food consumption gaps.
The 2020/21 rainfall season started on-time across most of Lesotho with cumulatively average rainfall through mid-December. The effective onset of rainfall for most of Lesotho was between mid-October to the beginning of November, except southern Mafateng and southern Mohale's Hoek, where the start of effective rainfall was delayed. The generally normal onset of rainfall has resulted in farmers engaging in agricultural activities on time, which is crucial as there is typically a frost risk during the harvest period in May.
Since the border reopening in October, there has been an increase in migrants crossing the border into South Africa to seek better labor opportunities. Cross-border migrants include miners, seasonal farm laborers, domestic workers, shop keepers, and general cross-border traders. Increased access to labor opportunities in South Africa is improving access to wages and remittances, an important household income source for most households in Lesotho. However, labor migration is still below average levels as both the economies of Lesotho and South Africa are recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19 lockdowns. The requirement to produce a certified negative COVID-19 test at the border posts continues to limit business operations.
COVID-19 remains a concern in Lesotho and the rest of the southern Africa region. On December 18, there were 2,546 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lesotho, a 30 percent increase compared to November 1, 2020. Since lifting the COVID-19 restrictions in October, economic activity has increased to near-normal levels, particularly in urban areas.