THE ZERO HUNGER CHALLENGE (ZHC) is an international call for action made by the United Nations (UN) towards a vision of a world without hunger. It is fully aligned to the 2030 Agenda and reflects the five elements from within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The zero hunger challenge is also aligned to the Africa Union Commission’s Agenda 2063 on ‘The Africa we Want’.
Lesotho is generally food deficit, hence addressing hunger is imperative and a top priority in the country’s development agenda. Overall, a large part of the population remains exposed to situations of chronic food and nutrition insecurity, especially the rural population, which is heavily dependent on subsistence farming and other rural non-farm activities.
Therefore, the Government of Lesotho (GoL)’s commitment to eradication of hunger and undernutrition is infixed in the national vision 2020 and elaborated in the 2017 Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP).
Achieving zero hunger requires integrated approaches that respond to the multiple, interconnected causes of hunger and malnutrition. To respond to the Zero Hunger Challenge, the Government of Lesotho (GoL) commissioned the Zero Hunger Strategic Review (ZHSR). The purpose of the ZHSR was to support national efforts to accelerate actions towards eliminating food insecurity and malnutrition. The specific objectives of the review were to:
Conduct a comprehensive review of the food security situation in Lesotho, including assessment of the adequacy of the strategies, policies, programs, institutional capabilities meant to support food security and nutrition for vulnerable groups and the poor in the country.
Highlight the progress made and identify the challenges Lesotho must overcome if the country is to achieve zero hunger in line with the targets of SDG 2 and the country’s national commitments.
Recommend how policies, programmes and strategies can be adjusted or adapted to have a food security or nutrition impact.
Initiate the development of a national Zero Hunger Roadmap.
The ZHSR is framed within the pillars of SDG2 or zero hunger: (i) Access to Adequate Food and Healthy Diets for All People All Year Round (ii) An End to Malnutrition and All its Forms (iii) All Food Systems are Sustainable (iv) Double Smallholder Productivity and Income and (v) Zero Loss or Waste of Food. While the analysis is informed by key national policies and strategic frameworks geared towards addressing food and nutrition insecurity, the 2017 Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP) is the overarching framework for the implementation of the ZHSR recommendations.
The Hunger Challenge in Lesotho
With a Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 24.1, Lesotho indicates a serious food security situation. The rising number of undernourished people continues to pose serious challenges in the country. As a result, the 2017 Global Hunger Report ranked Lesotho 80 out of 119 countries that were assessed. This is higher than Swaziland (71) and South Africa (55) but lower than Botswana (81), Namibia (87) and Malawi (80). According to the situational analysis, other key food and nutrition security issues identified within the zero hunger pillars include:
Access to Adequate Food and Healthy Diets All Year Round: The main source of food for the majority of Basotho population is own crop production; livestock products; remittances through economic migration, labour exchange and direct market purchases supplemented with the Government social protection interventions. Heavy reliance on food imports makes Lesotho susceptible to high food prices which increases pressure on vulnerable households’ food and nutrition security.
Low-income earners and the poor especially the rural population struggle to meet their minimum daily requirements for food intake as they can only access poor quality foods with low micronutrient content. The most affected households are those relying on farming with low earnings, herding, informal business or casual labour for most of their incomes; those headed by women and children, with high age dependency ratio; those with fewer employment opportunities and few assets. Overlying the food access situation is the high prevalence of HIV in the country.
An end to Malnutrition and all its Forms: Lesotho is currently experiencing the triple burden of malnutrition - under and over nutrition and micronutrient deficiency across all age groups. Although the prevalence of underweight children has marginally improved, low birth weight remains steady at 9.4 percent. Wasting is at 3 percent, which is an improvement relative to the 6 per cent and 5 per cent wasting attained in 2004 and 2009 respectively. Stunting at 33.2 percent remains a serious health challenge. Obesity is a growing challenge with 7 percent in children under the age of five years and 45 percent of women and 12 percent of men aged 15 to 49 years recorded as obese. The other challenge worsening nutrition outcomes in the country is the low intake of micronutrients such as Vitamins and Iron-folic acid. An underlying challenge is the poor access to improved sanitation. On the positive end, the proportion of mothers practicing exclusive breastfeeding has increased almost two-fold from 36 (2004) to 67 percent (2014).
All Food Systems are Sustainable: Climate change in Lesotho is likely to cause significant impacts on agriculture and general livelihoods. Land degradation is a pressing sustainable system issue. The effects of land degradation associated with soil erosion have already reduced the productive capacity of Lesotho’s croplands and rangelands. This will continue to constrain efforts to improve production efficiencies and total production in the face of climate change impacts. The cumulative effect of landcover losses from degradation and soil erosion ultimately reduces the country’s capacity to achieve zero hunger.
Double Small-Scale Productivity and Income: Lesotho continues to be a net importer of food to meet the needs of its people. In good harvest years, Lesotho is only able to meet roughly 30 percent of its annual cereal requirements. More than 70 percent of the population in rural Lesotho is engaged in agriculture and the performance of the sector plays an important role in their wellbeing. However, arable land is below 10 percent of total land area and the country utilizes only half of this land, with implications on resource use efficiency. Domestic food production has concentrated on three main cereal crops: maize, wheat and sorghum and their productivity has been on a decline. Maize dominates local cereal cultivation with 70-80 percent of total national cereal production. The low levels of maize production and yields (on average 0.5 MT/hectare) are primarily due to Lesotho’s high cereal production costs and other factors such as climate change and land degradation.
Adapt All Food Systems to Eliminate Loss or Waste of Food: This pillar focuses on minimizing food losses during production, storage and transport, and waste of food by retailers and consumers; empowering consumer choice; commitments by producers, retailers and consumers within all nations. According to the African Postharvest Information System (APHIS), Lesotho’s Post Harvest Losses (PHLs) for maize have been fluctuating over eleven years, between 2004 and 2015 across districts. For example, in Maseru post-harvest losses for maize were recorded at 2509 tonnes in 2004 compared to 2589 in 2015. The underlying constraints in measuring the losses and waste of food globally, has been lack of consensus in definitions and underdeveloped methodologies.
Key Strategic Gaps and Challenges
The following key strategic gaps and challenges were identified:
Weak enforcement of policies: While the country has a relatively developed enabling policy environment for food and nutrition security programming, the enforcement and implementation of these policies, strategies and plans remain problematic. To implement good policies and programmes that bring change will require effective public institutions and serious commitment by senior policy makers, and government. The weak implementation of policies and programmes is due to the absence of implementation frameworks and regulations and this is the major underlying constraint.
Coordination and implementation challenges: The major limiting factor has been the ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner in which policies and programmes have been implemented. While the Food and Nutrition Coordination Office (FNCO) is mandated with coordinating food and nutrition programmes in the country it lacks the capacity for coordination.
There are also many structural, financial and technical challenges that stifle the operation of FNCO. These include: lack of coordinating skills, and management skills, lack of communication facilities such as internet connectivity, telephones, computers etc. Furthermore, FNCO operates within a meagre budget and depends on donor support to carry its mandate.
Weak decentralisation process: There are shortages of skills within the civil service to implement demand-led, marketoriented development, which is the focus of the Government and development partners. There is manpower as well as technical and critical skills shortages to undertake food and nutrition security activities particularly when it comes to nutritionists.
Insufficient/unavailability of nutrition data: The major gap here refers mainly to unavailability of data for monitoring of nutrition programming. This is against the absence of a functional nutrition surveillance or early warning system. At its best, the NSS collects, analyses and disseminates information on nutritional status on a quarterly basis; identify areas and groups at risk of malnutrition; and issue early warning to relevant stakeholders on nutrition related problems. However, there are data quality issues that are of concern and need to be addressed.
Weak monitoring and evaluation: Without strong monitoring and evaluation frameworks linked to the project and programme objectives with solid qualitative and quantitative indicators, nutrition and food security will not be achieved.
During the stakeholders’ discussions it was found that there are places where such frameworks do not exist and where they exist, they are not followed with sincerity.
Based on the situational analysis and gaps identified in policy making and programme implementation, the following strategic and specific recommendations needed to achieve zero hunger by 2030 by the GoL and its development partners are made:
Addressing the policy and institutional landscape
The first recommendations entail strengthening development and implementation of food security and nutrition related policies through a number of mechanisms that include: review of the constitution to make food and nutrition security one of the fundamental human rights; endorse and implement the long-outstanding decentralization policy, and its implementation mechanisms and finalize the Food Quality Control and Improvement Standards. Furthermore, there’s need for enhancing multi-sectoral coordination and implementation by engaging multiple ministries, agencies, other stakeholders (e.g., donors, civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, development partners and the private sector. Finally, enhance the capacity of FNCO for multi-sectoral and stakeholder coordination and leadership. This will also require building capacity of the institution through skills development and training.
Sector - Specific Recommendations
In improving access to adequate food all year round, the GoL should strengthen procurement and audit controls, and public financial management systems to address over-pricing of goods and services. Social protection has a positive impact on food and nutrition security, the systems should be strengthened and the transfers expanded in coverage ensuring it covers all the vulnerable populations.
To address high stunting levels in Lesotho and micronutrient deficiencies for sustained improvements in nutritional outcomes, there is need to scale up the implementation of multi sectoral evidence based, high impact, cost effective nutrition interventions as well as the integration and linkages across multiple sectors and development programs that have indirect impacts on nutritional status. There is also need to increase private sector partnerships to improve nutrition for mothers and children. Advocating for increased government investment for proven interventions to tackle malnutrition is essential. Similarly, strengthening systems to ensure effective monitoring, evaluation and knowledge management to improve nutrition policy and programming is recommended.
Building sustainable food systems will require the GoL to intensify land, water and environmental management efforts that will ensure effective forest and agroforestry management strategies that are key to climate mitigating efforts.
To boost smallholder productivity and incomes, there is need to address the following strategic issues: development of policies and legal frameworks covering livestock feed, agriculture irrigation and mechanization, rangeland management and land use policy. Alongside this is the need for reviewing the effectiveness and efficiency of policies in place such as the universal subsidy policy. Another recommendation relates to the aggregation of smallholder farmers into upgraded value chains and establish market information centres that recognize the diversity of farmers.
No tangible work has been done to understand food waste and food loss in Lesotho. The main recommendation would be the commissioning of a baseline survey that is meant to provide an overview of the subject. The survey should point to critical sectors that require detailed research.
Develop a common Lesotho Zero Hunger Road Map
Informed by the Strategic Review Report, the country should develop a common Zero Hunger Road Map that describes what actions are required, a timeframe for action, and which key partners are required for each of the zero hunger pillars.
The Road Map will constitute the primary vehicle that will be used by GoL and all stakeholders to carry out its work, and its plans and assess progress toward the most important milestones. The Zero Hunger Investment Plan translated as MORALO oa PHELISO ea TLALA LESOTHO (MPT-LESOTHO) 2018-2023 supported by UN Agencies and non-governmental organizations forms an essential component part of the Zero Hunger Road Map