Masenate Bereng says two failed harvests mean they have little food (Copyright: WFP/David Orr)
Like many others in Lesotho, the farmers of the country's southern highlands are reeling from two consecutive crop failures. WFP is among the UN agencies helping them meet their immediate food needs...while also working to finding longer-term solutions to their problems which many associate with climate change.
Some of the people come on foot, taking two or more hours to reach the chief’s homestead at Ha Muso in Lesotho’s southern highlands. A few come to the distribution site on horseback. One man arrives pushing his young son in a wheelbarrow that he later uses to carry home the WFP food allocated to him and his neighbours.
Some of those who gather at the site are smallholders with their own land, others are sharecroppers who work the fields of landowners for a share in the profits. They have one thing in common: they are all suffering the effects of drought and late rains.
“I’ve come here today because we don’t have enough food at home,” says Masenate Bereng, a mother of four. “This is the second year in a row that we haven’t had a good yield from our land. This year the rains came too late.”
Put something aside
The situation in Lesotho’s highlands is very difficult, agrees Tanki Sehlabo. He says that the rations they are getting today – maize meal and dried peas – mean that, instead of having to use their money to buy food for their families, they will be able to put something aside to purchase seeds.
Also being distributed is Super Cereal, made with fortified corn soya blend. This special food is for children under two years of age as well as for pregnant and nursing women, and is aimed at protecting them from malnutrition at the most critical stages of child development. The foodstuffs are handed out in bags, then sub-divided into family-size portions.
This particular distribution is taking place on the last day of October. This is the planting season, and everyone is praying that next year’s harvest will be better than the last two. This year, the production of maize – the staple in Lesotho – declined by 77 percent compared with last year. Sorghum production went down by 80 percent and wheat production is down by more than 50 percent.
Assisting the vulnerable
In July, a third of the population – some 725,000 people – was found to be “at serious risk of food insecurity” in 2012/13. A national food crisis was declared in August and, the following month, the Government appealed to the international community for urgent humanitarian assistance. WFP plans to assist more than 200,000 of those judged to be particularly vulnerable to hunger.
WFP and other UN agencies are also working with the Government and partners to find longer-term solutions to the problems affecting farming communities. This includes helping them get better access to agricultural inputs and to rehabilitate environmentally-degraded land.