Lesotho is a lower middle income country which is ranked 167 of the 187 countries on Human and Development Index and 38 of 46 countries on the economic freedom scores in sub-Saharan Africa. Agriculture. Manufacturing, mining and remittances are the mainstay of the economy. Agriculture is the main livelihood source for rural economy for 80 percent of the population and contributes 7.4 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The country has a number of safety nets designed to cover a wide array of social risks and vulnerabilities. The major ones are school feeding, cash for work, cash grants for the elderly, OVCs and people with disabilities. Om the overall, these provide cash and food for participating households covering most of their food and non-food requirements.
Lesotho, like many other Southern African countries, is prone to natural disasters, liable to drought and desertification, making it highly vulnerable to climate change. Future scenarios show reduced surface and subsurface run‐off under climate change as a result of predicted lower precipitation, recurring droughts and increased temperatures. The other hazards that affect Lesotho are snowfall, hailstorms, strong winds, localized floods and early frost. These hazards render the people and their livelihoods most vulnerable. Lesotho’s vulnerability to hazards is compounded by a number of factors, including high levels of poverty, particularly in rural areas: the scattered nature of rural settlements, which makes provision of and access to social services difficult. The high HIV prevalence rate has resulted in an increase in vulnerable groups, particularly Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs).
The Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) weather outlook published in September, 2015, indicated that the country should expect predominantly dry weather conditions from October, 2015 to March, 2016. The forecast was produced against a background of a decrease in the level of production which had culminated in an estimated 464,000 people who would be at risk of food insecurity during the 2015/16 cropping season starting from August 2015. The number of food insecure population translates to 33 percent of rural population.
In addition, signs of malnutrition were already observed in children in Early Childhood Development and Care Centres (ECCD) and livestock diseases such as anthrax were already observed in some parts of the country even in areas where it had not been observed before.
Currently, there is severe water deficiency for human, livestock and industrial purposes throughout the country. The projected El Nino weather conditions are expected to worsen the deteriorating food, nutrition and water situation as depicted in figure 2. Livelihoods are at risk as a result of the water scarcity. In particular, livestock and crop production and nutrition are expected to be highly compromised due to low food production and limited access to portable water.
MOET Piloted local purchase of grains (maize, sorghum and beans) for school feeding program in 2014. Pilot project was expanded to 18 constituencies in 10 districts, targeting 98400 learners in 315 primary schools. However, in light of the Early Warning from Lesotho Meteorological Services predicting El-nino weather conditions, with its negative impact on agriculture production, the MoET recommended temporary suspension of local purchase until the situation improves. In place of local purchase will be a United Nation World Food Programme and Government of Lesotho (catering) supported feeding.
Vulnerable groups including people living with HIV and AIDS and districts with high stunting rates (Mokhotlong, Thaba Tseka Botha Bothe) will be hardest hit. The current number of affected people is expected to escalate due to other factors such as increasing food prices, reduction in income from agricultural activities and loss of productive assets. The number of vulnerable people is expected to increase to more than 650,000 people which was experienced in 2002/03 El-Nino year. The situation is expected to only improve in 2017 if the rainfall pattern improves substantially for the next summer cropping season