UN warns of poor harvests

UN warns of poor harvests

MASERU – LESOTHO could be headed for another round of hunger despite recent rains, says United Nations Resident Coordinator, Salvator Niyonzima, adding that the 2020 harvest doesn’t look promising.
The rains have come too late to rescue the current agricultural season on the back of successive droughts that have badly damaged the capacity of households to cope, said Niyonzima.

“The country is currently green but the impact of past droughts poses clear and present challenges. We need assistance to support the immediate needs of Basotho against green drought,” he said at a press conference this week.
It was announced at the press conference that the World Food Programme (WFP) had received M24 million from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) for emergency drought response in the southern districts.

Niyonzima said the Lesotho Assessment Committee (LVAC) conducted several assessments, including the integrated Phase Classification (IPC). The results, he said, reveal that the 2019 poor harvest is responsible for the significant increase in food insecurity for much of the rural population, especially small-scale farmers and agricultural labourers.

He also said that in the last quarter of 2019, many rivers dried up due to drought resulting in extreme water shortages and many sectors were negatively impacted, including food, agriculture, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Health, Nutrition and Protection.

“We know that the situation is improving as far as water and livestock are concerned because there is more water and pastures,” he said.
The government declared a state of drought emergency in October 2019.
He said the money from the EU will assist a further 22 000 people through an ongoing drought response programme implemented by WFP.
“Together, these funds will support the response in five sectors. We call on other partners to bring resources and help address the needs of Basotho,” he said.

He said that they expect the government to be part and parcel of the response, and in that regard, the government has allocated M166 million towards the response’s efforts.
“We are using our different networks to bring as much resources as possible to support the response,” he said, adding that more resources are still needed.
Country Director for Lesotho Mary Njoroge described the situation as “very serious”.

Njoroge said that the WFP has implemented innovative ways of providing help to the most vulnerable and worst affected.
“We used to import food distributed during this emergency response, but the current model eliminates the importation of food,” she said.
She said that some households are given money to buy locally produced food items.

She said that each family receives M756 as recommended by the LVAC, stating that M404 is for food while M350 is cash sent via mobile money (Mpesa) to cover other household needs monthly.
She said that they identify WFP contracted local retailers who already operate within the targeted communities. WFP has 200 retailers over four districts.
“Retailers are paid post-delivery each month,” said Njoroge.
She said that this model has been successful so far.

“The response was considered successful as the proportion of households which had acceptable food consumption increased drastically from 27.2 to 52.8 percent,” she said.
She added, “The proportion of households with extreme food consumption gaps drastically reduced from 73 to 27 percent.”
She said that consumption of Vitamin A and protein-rich foods improved.
She said that she has heard “powerful and inspiring” stories in Mohale’s Hoek and the local economy was boosted with a sum of approximately M11 million paid directly to local businesses.

“It was amazing to hear numerous positive stories of growth from local retailers – employment of more people, extensions of their shops (while others) bought vehicles,” she said.
“We are proud to contribute to Small Medium Enterprises as it is the backbone of any economy.”

The European Union Ambassador to Lesotho, Christian Manahl, said the effects of the drought had hit both urban and rural areas.
“We are happy that we can help and alleviate the suffering of the people,” he said, adding, “It is important to continue with the regular assessments and see what the long-term impact is,” he said.

‘Mapule Motsopa


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