Remote Monitoring Report

Reduced agriculture labor opportunities due to a delayed start of the rainy season

December 2015
2015-Q4-1-1-LS-en

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • The Seasonal Climate Watch from the South African Weather Service is calling for a continuation of the strong El Niño event with enhanced probabilities of below-normal rainfall and continued dry conditions. This is likely to contribute to a second consecutive below normal 2015/16 seasonal production and worsening of food security conditions during the next consumption year. 

  • According to the latest SADC Agromet Update (Issue 03) Lesotho’s onset of rains is delayed by 30-40 days in most parts of the country. This delayed onset of rains as well as absence of preseason rainfall has resulted in delayed land preparation, planting, and other agriculture activities. This has reduced the availability of labor opportunities for the very poor and poor households who normally depend on these activities as a buffer to food insecurity during the lean season. On December 22nd the Government of Lesotho declared a state of drought emergency and has appealed for assistance to support 650,000 people that will need assistance in 2016.

  • Staple food prices continue to increase in most markets in Lesotho due to increased local demand as well as rising prices of maize meal and other food items imported from South Africa. As food prices continue to rise they will continue to erode household purchasing power, resulting in deteriorating food security outcomes. Households will likely experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes, with some households likely to be in Crisis (Phase 3). However, most of Lesotho is expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

Zone Current Anomalies Projected Anomalies
Southern Lowlands, Foothills, Mountains and Senque River valley  Reduced labor opportunities due to the delayed start of season have reduced household food access and income. Poor pastures and limited availability of water has negatively affected livestock body conditions, which could affect prices on the market. In addition, a decline in income received as remittances from South Africa continue to decrease. Staple food prices continue to increase and are expected to remain above last year and the five-year average through March 2016. Household access to food will be reduced due to limited income and labor opportunities. Higher than normal food prices will result in reduced household purchasing power between December and March. 

Projected Outlook Through March 2016

The Seasonal Climate Watch by the South African Weather Service indicates that most models are showing a continuation of a strong El Niño event into early 2016. Dryness is expected to continue and rainfall between January and April is expected to continue to be below normal for the remainder of the 2015/16 season. The anticipated below-normal rainfall has already started to affect agriculture activities and is likely to negatively affect 2015/16 crop performance. As of mid-November, vegetation conditions were reported to be at their lowest in 15 years due to dry conditions, high temperatures, as well as low rainfall received since last season. Poor vegetation is indicative of the stressed state of pastures in most of Lesotho, which combined with limited water availability has resulted in a deterioration of livestock body conditions in most parts of the country. These conditions are expected to reduce prices and terms of trade for livestock, which is likely to result in households receiving less income than they normally would from livestock sales. Since previous 2014/15 production in Lesotho was below normal and the 2015/16 seasonal progress is poor, the food security situation in Lesotho could deteriorate during the post-harvest period.

The SADC Agromet Update for the second half of November (Issue 03) indicated that the onset of rains is delayed by 30 to 40 days in most parts of Lesotho. In the few areas where the timing of the rainfall was normal, it was erratic and the amount received was not adequate to facilitate normal planting. However, rains have since been received in some parts and normal planting is ongoing. Prior to Issue 03, the SADC Agromet Update for the first half on November (Issue 02) indicated the absence of preseason rains in most parts of Lesotho. The combined effects of the absence of preseason rains and delayed onset have negatively affected agriculture activities in most parts of Lesotho. In addition, the start of season delay will result in an overall delay or shift of all agriculture activities for the 2015/16 season, including the timing for weeding, green consumption, and the harvest. The delay in land preparation and planting activities has already resulted in reduced casual labor opportunities for the very poor and poor households who normally depend on these activities as a buffer for food and income, especially during the lean season. In addition, there will be a delay in weeding activities –one of the most labor intense jobs that middle and better off households usually hire others to do. Given the poor seasonal progress so far and likely reduced labor opportunities, it is anticipated that the supply of labor will be higher than the demand, which is likely to reduce the wage rates and income levels. As a result, reduced labor opportunities and wage rates will likely result in reduced incomes earned by poor and very poor households during this period. With higher than normal food prices and less labor opportunities during the peak of the lean season, food security outcomes are expected to deteriorate for very poor and poor households through March 2016. Furthermore, the overall delay in the start of season and subsequent timing of important agriculture activities is likely to delay the consumption of green crops, possibly resulting in a further extension of the lean season.

Most households in Lesotho are currently depending on the market to access food since they had below normal food stocks this year due to drought conditions during the 2014/15 season.  This has resulted in above normal demand for markets this lean season. Staple food prices continue to increase in all districts across the country, with the exemption of Leribe. The increase in staple food prices is largely driven by an increase in local demand as well as an higher food prices associated with imports from South Africa. Price projections for December 2015 to April 2016 indicate that maize meal prices for Maseru will range may increase to levels as high as 26 percent above the five-year average. Given that incomes are lower than normal due to reduced casual and agricultural labor opportunities, as well as lower remittances, increasing food prices will continue to reduce the purchasing power of very poor and poor households. As a result, very poor and poor households will likely experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, with some households likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between now and March. During this same period, the majority of households are expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. The most affected areas are Southern Lowlands, Foothills, Mountains, and Senque River Valley. As of December 22nd the Government of Lesotho declared a state of drought emergency and has appealed for assistance to support 650,000 people that will need assistance in 2016.

About Remote Monitoring

In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

USAID logoUSGS logoUSDA logo
NASA logoNOAA logoKimetrica logoChemonics logo