Lesotho has experienced a more than 70% drop in domestic agricultural production that has put more than 725,000 people, over a third of the population, at serious risk of food insecurity. The sharp reduction in agricultural yields for 2011/2012, due to a series of flooding, late rains and early frost, has reduced domestic production to only 32% of the national average cereal harvest of the last 10 years.
The late onset of rains in the planting season (October-December 2011) following a bad agricultural season in 2010-2011 led to an increased proportion of uncultivated fields. Despite good rainfall in December 2011, cumulative precipitation remained below average almost countrywide for most of the cropping season, and the rains came towards the very end of the season for the main crops (maize and sorghum). Therefore, dry spells and late rains during the planting season prevented most farmers from cultivating their fields and those who decided to plant did it late, exposing themselves to early frost which affected the maturity and quality of the crop.
This year‟s crop failures follow poor harvests last year, which has increased the vulnerability of many of the country‟s poorest farmers. In addition, traditionally more productive areas in the lowlands have also performed poorly this season. This, compounded by a sharp increase of at least 18% in the price of food has put further pressure on households, exacerbating an already precarious situation, making it almost impossible for many to meet their minimum food requirements.
The data collected by the Government of Lesotho (GoL) as part of the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC), as well as the recent rapid assessments conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and evidence from monitoring of ongoing programmes implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), confirm the negative trend in cereal production country-wide.
The June 2012 USAID/Food For Peace food security assessment report conducted in the three ecological areas of the country, confirms high numbers of food-insecure people as a result of poor harvests, and reduction in remittances due to the global economic crisis that has severely negatively affected the region and led to reduction of employment opportunities in the country.
On 9 August 2012 the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Lesotho declared an Emergency Food Crisis in Lesotho. On 13 September 2012 following the Declaration of Emergency, the GoL launched a Response Plan which they called „Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance’, requesting support from development partners and the international community for the period September 2012 to June 2013.
In response to the GoL request for assistance, the humanitarian community will focus on the first six months of priority interventions to be included in this Flash Appeal. This includes time-critical interventions aimed to address the structural causes of the food security crisis.
The process of developing this Flash Appeal involved the UN agencies in Lesotho under the UN- DRMT, government sector working groups under the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) and relevant NGO‟s such as Catholic Relief Services, CARITAS, World Vision International, and CARE, as well as the Lesotho Red Cross. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Office for Southern Africa provided technical guidance and support
The following are strategic objectives of this Flash Appeal
- Strengthen the emergency response capacity of the GoL.
- Address the immediate and life-saving needs in terms of facilitating access to food, money and agriculture production inputs (planting season starts in October) for the most vulnerable households.
- To limit the use of negative coping mechanism of the vulnerable communities
- To reduce the vulnerability to shocks and increase the resilience of vulnerable communities.
In close coordination with the Government of Lesotho, and to complement its activities, the international humanitarian community including NGOs and United Nations agencies is seeking $138,458,738 to address the immediate needs of the 203,250 most deprived and vulnerable people and indirectly supporting all 725,000 affected people in all agro-zones, focusing on three main areas affected by the prevailing situation in the country: a) Agriculture and Food Security; b) Health, Nutrition and c) Protection.