Projected food security hit by low rainfall

  • 18 January, 2019

By Tmglive

Food access will likely deteriorate through early 2019 due to the combination of below-average on-farm labour opportunities, off-farm incomes and remittances; according to Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) remote monitoring update of December 2018.

“Consumption of green foods usually begins in late February or March and will be delayed or limited. However, despite the anticipated poor rainfall season, likely affecting production, food security outcomes are expected to improve in April as most households will have a harvest even if below-average to replenish food stocks,” report said.

The projected outlook through May 2019, says FEWSNET, according to climate center’s global hazards outlook, Lesotho experienced a significant late start of season and below average rainfall through mid-December, which has been classified as a drought.

By end of November, says the US funded FEWSNET, remote sensing products indicated rainfall in some parts of Lesotho was delayed by 40 days or more. In addition, Lesotho received below average cumulative rainfall in December. Deficits are ranging from 50 to 79 percent of normal in most areas of Lesotho, except in the west where deficits are 30 and 49 percent of normal.

“Significantly below-average rainfall and high temperatures have characterized the start of season negatively affecting agriculture activities,” report said.

The remote monitoring update report said at the end of November, many areas in Lesotho recorded a late start of season by 40 days or more. The window for planting is closing for typical varieties of maize, which is likely to negatively impact the entire growing season. A prolonged delay in planting reduces the length of the growing season and increases the risk of crop damage due to frost in March and April.

The report stated that between August and October, WFP/Bureau of Statistics price data indicated maize meal prices in Maseru market were relatively stable, although trending slightly above the five-year average at about 3 percent above the five-year average. Market food supplies remains stable with consistent imports from South Africa.

The report observes that poorly distributed rainfall and high temperatures at the start of the season has resulted in poor soil moisture that is insufficient in many areas for maize gemination. During a typical agriculture season, households obtain food and income through on-farm labour, one of the important livelihood sources reducing the severity of food security outcomes during the lean season.

“Between October and November, households typically engage in land preparation and planting from December, weeding activities peak, providing labour opportunities. This year, however, with the delayed onset of rains, planting is occurring inconsistently across the country. This has resulted in below-average labour opportunities in land preparation and planting. With a forecast of continued below-average rainfall for the remainder of the 2018/19 rainy season, weeding and other farm activities are also likely to continue to be affected, and therefore lower than normal labour opportunities are expected to persist throughout the projection period,” report stated.

The markets, according to the report, are currently well stocked and food supplies are expected to remain stable through May 2019 due to normal imports from South Africa. “Despite well stocked markets, staple food prices fluctuate slightly due to changes in demand in Lesotho and changes in South African market prices. Between August and October, staple food prices in Maseru market, the national reference market, gradually increased, trending close to the five-year average.”

Pasture for livestock grazing, report stated, has deteriorated due to atypical seasonal dryness and late start of the rains. Livestock body conditions currently range from poor to average. However, pastures and livestock body conditions are expected to improve during the rainy season through May, although they may not reach typical levels due to forecasted below average rains.

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