Lesotho is experiencing a major food security crisis as a result of the El-Niño induced drought. The situation has been made worse by successive years of crop failures, low incomes and high food prices that mean that 41 percent of rural families are spending over half their income on food.
Over 30% of the Lesotho population across all 10 districts will face high levels of acute food insecurity until March 2020. More than 70 percent of the population in rural Lesotho is engaged in subsistence farming. Productivity has been deteriorating since the early 1990s because of unpredictable weather conditions, including inconsistent rains and persistent and recurring droughts.
Maize is the staple diet of Lesotho, but just 9 percent of the country’s total landmass is suitable for cultivation. Despite this, 80 percent of the population live in rural areas. Many poor rural households lack access to agricultural land, while those who do own land lack resources to maximize production, such as fertilisers and high-yield seeds.
Lesotho loses 7.13 percent of its GDP to chronic malnutrition, and around 33 percent of children under the age of 5 years are stunted, with a low height for their age. Nearly a quarter of the population is infected with HIV, with women being disproportionately affected due to gender-based violence. Around 80 percent of those living with HIV also have tuberculosis (TB).
Lesotho is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with droughts already affecting harvest yields and causing significant loss of livestock. The climate is predicted to become warmer and dryer, making droughts and floods more frequent and intense. With less snow on the mountains and an increase in run-off rates, soil erosion will worsen and deplete the soil of nutrients. While some climate adaptation measures are being taken, the country lacks the resources for extensive mitigation
What the World Food Programme is doing in Lesotho
WFP targets women, men, girls and boys affected by shocks to reduce the impact of shocks and save lives by protecting livelihoods. This is achieved through the delivery of food and cash assistance.
WFP supports the government of Lesotho in evidence-based planning, design, management and implementation of gender-responsive social protection programmes – including handing over the home-grown school feeding programme – and strengthens technical capacity of the Government in early warning, food and nutrition security monitoring, and vulnerability assessment and analysis through forecast-based financing approaches.
WFP provides capacity strengthening to the Government of Lesotho and other actors regarding multi-sectoral coordination, planning, evidence building and implementation of equitable nutrition policies and programmes.
Resilience and smallholder farmers
WFP supports the design and implementation of assets that are nutrition-sensitive and that improve and diversify the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and households affected by climate change and land degradation, and provides technical support to smallholder farmers and other value chain actors, particularly women, in climate-smart agriculture, food safety and quality, marketing of nutritious foods and financial services.