More on Lesotho

What are the current issues in Lesotho

Lesotho is a mountainous lower middle-income country that occupies an area of 30,000 km2 and is ranked 162 out of 187 countries according to the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index. Maize is the staple diet. A large proportion of poor rural households do not have access to agricultural land and many of those who own land do not have the necessary agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and high-yield seeds.

One quarter of the country's 1.8 million people (source Census 2006) live in mountainous districts and about 67 percent are considered poor. Key threats confining the country's development include chronic poverty, high unemployment rates at 25 percent, food insecurity exacerbated by weather-related shocks, widespread chronic malnutrition with stunting for children under five years at 33 percent, iron deficiency anaemia at 51 percent, and HIV and AIDS at 23 percent— the second highest in the world. The elderly often need to provide and care for orphans whose parents have died from AIDS. There are about 360,000 orphans in Lesotho.

Lesotho has faced the devastating effects of three successive crop failures compounded by a litany of socio-economic adversities. The results of the 2014/15 Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) showed a deteriorating food security situation for 464,000 people— an increase of 16,000 people from the previous season. Of the 464,000, a total of 284,000 are being supported through government safety nets such as school feeding, cash for land rehabilitation activities, child grant and pension for the elderly. This leaves a total of 180,000 people in need of food assistance between August 2015 and March 2016. 

Less arable land is being cultivated for food as a result of weather conditions and poverty, with a 19 percent reduction in land cultivated in 2015 compared to 2014. In May 2015, results of the crop production assessment by the Bureau of Statistics also showed that the production of maize dropped by 14 percent, sorghum by 62 percent and wheat by 44 percent.

Although 80 percent of the population is engaged in agricultural activities in rural areas, this only contributes to about seven percent of the GDP (down from 12 percent in 2001 and 20 percent in 1983). Lesotho's "Education Sector Strategic Plan 2005-2015", aims to expand access to basic education for all and improve the quality and efficiency of the education system by providing free school meals. However, many poor households cannot meet associated education costs. Enrolment and attendance in lower grades increased significantly in the wake of the Government's introduction of free primary education, however, drop-out rates increase at higher grades.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Lesotho

  • School Meals Programme (DEV 200199)

This programme aims to increase enrolment, stabilise attendance and reduce dropout rates of primary school children, whilst improving the Governments capacity to manage the School Meals Programme. The meals are also an opportunity to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies.

From January 1, 2013 until December 31, 2014 a total of 150,000 children (75,000 in the second quarter of 2013) will receive morning porridge and a lunchtime meal to improve their stamina and learning capacity. In 2014 more schools will be enrolled under this programme, and WFP expects to reach 150,000 children in 750 schools. WFP met 99% of its quarterly target in providing school children with a mid-morning snack and a lunch meal. The food basket consists of fortified maize meal, pulses, fish, fortified vegetable oil, sugar and salt.

WFP is creating a Trust Fund which will enable school kitchens to be built in WFP supported schools located in mountainous and hard to reach areas. The country office has recruited a Civil Engineer to oversee construction work.

June was the last month in which WFP targeted 75,000 children in 445 schools for the School Meals programme. Beginning in July the donation received by the Republic of South Africa will enable WFP to reach 125,000 children in 623 schools. The gender ratio indicates that there are more girls than boys; WFP is currently in discussions on how to address this issue.

  • Country Programme (CP 200369)

The Country Programme: has been designed to assist 447,600 beneficiaries over a 5 year period with 124,500 beneficiaries targeted in 2013. The programme is made up of three components, through which WFP aims to i) improve the food security of 10,000 beneficiaries through Disaster Risk Reduction (pending available funding) ii) support human development and increase enrolment of 50,000 pre- school children iii) improve socio-economic capacities by investing in peoples physical well being and improving the nutritional status of 64,500 people.

Component One: Enhancing Resilience and Responsiveness through Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): Pending funding, WFP will support livelihood strategies that enhance farmers income, including diversification of farm-based enterprises and promotion of non- farm employment opportunities.

Component Two: Support to Education (Pre-Schools): WFP is targeting pre-school children in the country attending ECCD centres recognised by the Ministry of Education and Training. WFP met 95% of its quarterly target in providing pre-primary school children with a mid-morning breakfast of maize meal porridge, as well as a lunch meal.

Component Three:  Support to Nutrition and HIV: Supplementary Feeding targets undernourished children age 6 to 59 months, pregnant and lactating women and clients on TB and ART treatment. TB and ART clients are provided with household rations to improve household food security. Children between the ages of 6 to 23 months, and pregnant and lactating women will be targeted for Complementary Feeding. Families with children between the ages of 6 and 23 months will receive a 6kg monthly ration of Super Cereal while pregnant and lactating women will receive a 7.5kg monthly ration of Super Cereal. Due to delayed funds, Complementary Feeding will begin in July 2013.

Featured Lesotho publications

  • Lesotho: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 545 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Lesotho? Visit the Lesotho publications archive.