As projected in May/June 2018, the Food security situation is expected to deteriorate during the peak lean season between December 2018 to February 2019. However, the rural population in IPC Phase 3 or worse is not expected to change much from what was earlier projected in May/June 2018. The IPC Phase 3 population is projected to increase to about 19% (273,635) of the rural population who are estimated to be in need of urgent humanitarian support to save lives and protect livelihoods. The slight increase in Phase 3 population is a result of changes in assumptions for labour access for the 2018/19 agriculture season. As of November, Lesotho was one of the Southern African countries that had received huge rainfall deficits between 1 September and 10 November. Onset of rains was late by 1 to 2 dekads. This delay and projected below average rains in Southern and Western parts of the country is expected to reduce access to agriculture-based labour, a livelihood strategy that most very poor and poor households typically depend on during the lean season.
By mid-November, international models showed increased chances of El Nino by over 90 percent. In Southern Africa,
El Nino is usually associated with below average rainfall. However, a local forecast by the Lesotho Meteorological Services indicated that from October 2018 to March 2019 the northern and eastern parts of the country will likely receive normal to above normal rains while the southern and western parts will likely receive normal to below normal rains.
Poor harvest of main crops (maize, sorghum and wheat) in 2017/18 compared to the previous year, with reduction in maize production estimated at 62.6 percent, has resulted in the early start of the lean season (September2018).
The current cropping season (2018/19) was marked with late onset of rains, poorly distributed precipitation and high temperatures during October and November which resulted in abnormal dry conditions, thus affecting agriculture activities such as land preparation and planting. This is reducing opportunities for agricultural based activities for many households.
Food prices remain stable and 13% below 5 year average. Market food supplies also remain stable as markets in Lesotho are consistently supplied by South Africa. In the past, Lesotho has never had food availability issues due to consistent supplies guaranteed from the South Africa market.
Food access will likely be the only issue. As many households are now market dependent, access to food will be compromised by reduced purchasing power driven by below average incomes.