Preliminary report and main findings: An HEA/RiskMap vulnerability assessment - foothills food economy zone, Lesotho

By Gary Sawdon

1. BACKGROUND - Southern African Crisis - Emergency Food Needs Assessments July/August 2002

1.1 National Vulnerability Assessments - Lesotho
1.2 The Household Economy Approach and RiskMap

2. Verification and updating of the RISKMAP Database

3. MAIN FINDINGS -- Summary of the Foothills Food Economy Zone (FEZ)

3.1 Wealth Group Characteristics
3.2 Main Elements of the Food Economy Zone
3.3 Sources of Food
3.4 Sources of Income

4. Problem Specification - Scenario Analysis

5. Analysis and vulnerability prediction for 2002 - 2003

5.1 Best Case Scenario
5.2 Levels of Vulnerability
5.3 Food Tonnage Requirements

1. BACKGROUND - Southern African Crisis - Emergency Food Needs Assessments July/August 2002

The SADC Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) based in Harare established a Vulnerability Assessment Committee in early 1999. The SADC FANR VAC is a committee comprised of national and international professionals working at the regional level to enhance food security and livelihood conditions within the SADC member states. The mandate of the VAC is to keep abreast and encourage co-ordinated development in the field of vulnerability and livelihoods assessments in the SADC region.

To ensure that appropriate, accurate and timely information and analysis is available to respond to and mitigate the impact of the looming cereal shortages in the six most seriously affected countries in the region (Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland) the SADC FANR Regional VAC was requested to facilitate and co-ordinate a series of vulnerability assessments and establish appropriate food security monitoring systems in close collaboration with the National Vulnerability Assessments Committee (NVACs).

A strategic and operational framework to guide this work over the next year was developed through a series of special VAC meetings held from 26th to 28th June in Harare.

1.1 National Vulnerability Assessments - Lesotho

The Lesotho NVAC has adopted a livelihood approach to their vulnerability assessments, this includes a series of key informant interviews at the district and sub-district levels. Additionally, a household livelihoods questionnaire was developed and will be used as the main methodological tool in carrying out the assessments. Orientation and training exercises were carried out from the 19th to the 21st of July.

In consideration of limited resources and capacity issues, the NVAC endorsed a plan to utilise existing HEA/RiskMap livelihood datasets as a complimentary tool to the mainstream assessments. In particular, it was agreed that the data from the Foothills Livelihood Zone would be verified and updated accordingly prior to the commencement of the main assessment.

1.2 The Household Economy Approach and RiskMap

In the early 1990s SC UK, in collaboration with the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System and funding from the EU, developed a methodology for famine prediction, assessment and monitoring, called the Household Economy Analysis (HEA). A related computer programme, RiskMap, was developed to facilitate the analysis of large data sets over large geographical areas. By the end of 1997, the RiskMap project had generated national livelihood databases in 11 African countries, including Lesotho.

The Lesotho livelihood data sets were designed specifically to provide a way in which SC and its national partners could, given knowledge of some 'shock' (e.g. crop failure, market fluctuations) assess the probable effect of this on the ability of households to access food. The RiskMap database divides Lesotho into 5 populations, defined in terms that the people in these zones have access to similar economic opportunities. Each population (a food economy zone or FEZ) is described in terms of three 'typical' household types ('poor', 'middle' and 'rich') for each of which there is a household budget for a reference year and necessary information on the context (the availability of wild foods, non-market redistribution etc). Population data is obtained from official sources.

2. Verification and updating of the RISKMAP Database

Verification and updating of the RiskMap data was carried out in the following way.

1. Two districts were visited, Berea and Mohales Hoek. Interviews were conducted with a range of key informants including, Ministry of Agriculture officials, Project Officers and Crops, Livestock.

Secondly, focus group discussions were conducted at the village level with key informants (including: village leaders, councillors, religious leaders, government extension staff ). In total eight villages were visited.

Finally, after meeting with village key informants, wealth group interviews were conducted with representatives of each identified socio economic group. In total 22 interviews took place.

2. At the village level, wealth groups were verified and confirmed with reference to pre-crisis 'normal' conditions using a standard HEA wealth grouping approach. This includes: characteristics of wealth, land ownership, cultivation, household assets, animal holdings, types of food and cash crops, economic activities, etc.

3. Baseline data was confirmed using the usual flip charts, focus group discussions, proportional piling and included: Sources of Food (list of crops in order of importance) Sources of Income (list in order of importance) Pie chart: Sources of Food, Sources of Cash Details of coping strategies, including distress

4. Using proportional piling exercises, discussions were also held on the impacts of the current crisis, covering: Current crop harvest (May- June) production losses

  • livestock figures (estimation of theft and de-stocking)
  • livestock prices
  • grain prices for the year
  • income sources

MAIN FINDINGS -- Summary of the Foothills Food Economy Zone (FEZ)

The main economic activities of the FEZ have remained unchanged from the original 1997-98 baseline. Food crops, employment and remittance, and livestock are still the main features of all economic activity.

Although there has been a slight decrease in overall production, households in this FEZ are more dependent on crop production for food than in other parts of the country. The major food crops still include: maize, sorghum, and beans. Employment and remittance remains the main source of income for all three socio economic groups. However, there have been significant changes to employment trends, showing a continual decline on remittances from South Africa. The sale of livestock and products (mohair and wool) is the second largest source of income for both the rich and middle income groups. Trading activities, small vending operations (vegetables and fruit) and a few shops form the third most important source of income for the middle and rich income groups. The current population of the Foothills FEZ is approximately 361,000.

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