Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in Lesotho through April as households face poor food access and moderate food consumption gaps during the lean season. Green consumption has been delayed, access to labor is below average, and dry harvests are expected to begin in May, extending the lean season by one month. National safety nets are contributing to household food access but are not covering all needs.
Starting in May, food access is likely to improve as dry harvesting begins and access to labor increases. Between May and August, improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes is now anticipated in worst-affected areas of Lesotho, due to well distributed rainfall since January that has improved crop prospects for the upcoming harvest. Food access is expected to begin to decline again in September.
Cumulative rainfall to date remains below average. However, the majority of the maize crop is in the reproductive stage and in average to good condition due to well distributed rainfall since January. The forecast April rains should support crop development and maturation, although harvests are expected to be below average. The risk of an early frost during the coming months threatens to further limit crop yields.
Despite below-average harvest prospects in Lesotho and much of the region, South Africa is expecting above-average cereal production this year. As a result, market supplies of mealie meal from South Africa to Lesotho are expected to remain stable during the 2020/21 consumption year, which will likely drive maize meal prices in Lesotho to follow typical five-year trends.
As of March 31, 2020, the World Health Organization has reported there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lesotho. However, a 25-day national lockdown began on March 30, and with all South African borders closed except for the transportation of fuel and essential goods, remittance income from South Africa is expected to be constrained. Should a major outbreak develop and/or border closures continue through the winter months (May-September), household access to remittance income would likely deteriorate further and drive affected households to face additional difficulty meeting their food needs.