Hunger waits on the door

Hunger waits on the door

MASERU – Watching her as she made her way towards the spot where they catch lifts to Khubetsoana, a bucket of maize-meal balancing on her head and quietly humming to herself as she went along, one might never guess the agony simmering beneath this image of happy contentment.
But ask Mathabang Mabopo, 58, how long she and her family of six will last on that bucket of the staple food and the despair so convincingly kept in check all along quickly bubbles to the surface.
“I don’t think it will last until the month-end,” she says.

But the dismal tone of her voice and the whole gloomy aura about her seems to suggest abject resignation to fate than is apparent from her short answer to the question.
The maize that she just had ground at Motimposo Mills to give her the 12.5kg bucket of mealie-meal that she is carrying is the last bit from the six bags her father-in-law brought them from Mafeteng in June last year, she says.

But once this bucket finishes, Mabopo says she does not know where the next meal for her family will come from.
A widow, who survives on odd jobs after leaving her rural home in Tša-Kholo in Mafeteng about five years ago after the death of her husband, Mabopo lives with her two daughters who are all above 20 years of age.
The daughters are unemployed.

Another daughter died some years back leaving Mabopo with four young grandchildren to look after, while the father contributes next to nothing for their upkeep.
“(She) died leaving me with her four children whose father is said to be somewhere in South Africa,” she says.
Mabopo’s father-in-law has been a pillar of support, using his old van to bring her and the children bags of maize after every harvest.

But this year he won’t be able to help because he harvested nothing meaningful after failing to plant much because of poor rains during the 2018/2019 farming season.
“He has not planted any (maize) this year and I don’t know how we are going to cope,” she says.
Erratic rains that disrupted planting across Lesotho have left hundreds of thousands of families like Mabopo’s staring hunger and possibly starvation in the eye, unless the government and humanitarian agencies step in to provide food aid.

According to the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis Committee (LVAC), the government must cough up more than M200 million to feed nearly 500 000 people across the country the committee of government and aid agencies has identified as food insecure.
In a report released a fortnight ago, the LVAC said food shortages are set to worsen in the last half of this year up to the first half of 2020, with more than 600 000 people or about a third of the population affected.

“The food security situation is expected to deteriorate further in the country from July 2019 to June 2020 with the food insecure population projected to increase to 640 000,” the report reads in part.
A vast majority of those facing hunger are in rural areas, with another report by the Disaster Management Authority naming the districts of Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, Mokhotlong and Berea as among those worst affected.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a United States-backed international hunger and famine warning network, the poor farming season was a double blow to many families especially in rural and farming areas who will see a marked drop in earnings from farming related jobs and activities.
The network said delayed harvests owing to delayed rains will affect access to income from crop sales, which are a vital source of income to many families during the period between April and July.

Due to anticipated below-average harvest, it is also likely that income from crops sales will be below average this year which will continue to negatively affect livelihoods in Lesotho, said the network that publishes a variety of literature online on hunger and food security.
It said many households in the country were relying on food bought from shops rather than their own produce, a very precarious situation given rising prices of food because of shortages.

For example, FEWS NET notes that between January and February, maize-meal prices in Maseru have gradually increased, although they remain within the five-year average.
The hunger warning network projects prices of mealie-meal in Maseru to continue to fluctuate between 7 and 11 percent above the five-year average between July and September this year.
The government says while it is working to mobilise food to beat current shortages it was also looking to boost support for farmers to ensure higher production in the 2019/2020 farming season.

During his budget speech to parliament in March, Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi said M700 million had been allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security for use to ramp up food production.
Majoro said the government will assist farmers to plant 4 000 hectares of cereals, 107 hectares of vegetables and 120 hectares of deciduous fruits in the coming season.
It’s an impressive target and one which if reached would go a long way to ensure food security across the country, especially if the rains do not fail again.

But before then, Mabopo, the widow, seems to be putting her trust in her Maker to see her through the hard times.
The church hymn she was humming to herself when thepost news crew caught up with her on her way to the lift hiking spot is the famous hymn of old, Nearer to thee Lord.
Can’t be a bad thing at all; having the Lord by one’s side during times of want and hunger such as Lesotho faces in the months ahead.

Staff Reporter

 

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