Remotely Monitored Country
Remote Monitoring Report

Casual labor opportunities increase, but labor wages are expected to remain below normal

December 2016

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

  • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue in Lesotho during this lean season, in the absence of humanitarian assistance. This is due to the compounding effects of one of the worst droughts in Lesotho’s recent history. Affected households continue to face limited food access, small consumption gaps, and do not have the capacity to cope with such a severe situation.

  • The 2016/17 season is off to a good start and areas are receiving adequate rains for planting and other agricultural activities. Adequate water is available for crops and conditions are near average. Many households may begin to access green foods around March. 

  • High staple prices are one of the drivers of food insecurity in Lesotho. Prices continue to be above the five-year average, resulting in reduced purchasing power for households that are depending on markets for their food needs. In contrast to earlier price projections, recent price monitoring shows that prices may not be rising as sharply as initially projected. Though FEWS NET is unable to clearly determine the factors contributing to this decline due to limited information available, it is suspected that the government subsidy and humanitarian assistance, among other factors, could be contributing to this decline.

Zone Current Anomalies Projected Anomalies
all zones Low incomes from main season activities have resulted in below normal income for very poor and poor households. Below normal wage rates are contributing to low incomes. High staple prices continue to prevail.  Purchasing power for very poor and poor households will likely reduce, resulting in reduced access to food and leading to livelihood and food consumption gaps. 

 

Projected Outlook Through May 2017

Income from casual labor is expected to remain relatively below normal in Lesotho. This is likely to persist throughout the lean season until the next harvest in April. The rainfall season is ongoing and field reports indicate that farmer demand for agricultural labor opportunities are rising for very poor and poor households. As a result, access to income is slightly improving as households get more opportunities. Assuming that seasonal rainfall is normal it is likely that casual labor will slightly improve food access for very poor and poor households across most districts. The exception is Mohale’s Hoek district, where farmer demand for casual labor is reported to be much lower than normal. Given the shortage of cereals due to drought, cash payments are dominant, as middle and better off households do not have cereals to pay in kind. Though this payment mode is still a good option, it exposes very poor households to high staple prices, which is eroding their purchasing power. Other income sources such as the demand for remittances, domestic work, and self-employment opportunities remain below normal and are expected to continue this trend throughout the lean season. This will contribute to lower labor supply levels for casual labor that may result in lower wages. However, some households are earning income from the sale of wool and mohair, but will likely not obtain much income from this as they are desperately selling at low prices as a coping option.

The start of the rainfall season stimulated agriculture activities. So far, the season has started on a good note with the majority of the areas in Lesotho are receiving adequate rainfall to support effective planting and germination. Remote sensing data shows that the start of season for Lesotho was mostly normal. Some areas experienced a 10-20 day early start and some areas experience a start that was 10 days late. Many farmers have planted and field observations indicate that germination rates were mostly normal. Currently, the majority of crops are now at the vegetative stage. The Water Requirement Satisfactory Index (WRSI) shows average to good conditions for maize crop (Figure 1). With these seasonal developments, it is expected that households will start to consume green crops in March, which is likely to begin improving the food security situation. With the continuation of the rainfall season, water bodies are expected to replenish thereby providing adequate water for humans and livestock. Pastures have already responded to the rains with observations showing regeneration of pastures in most areas. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) also supports the WRSI data, showing improved vegetation conditions.

High staple prices is one of the main drivers of food insecurity in Lesotho. With the very poor 2015/16 harvest experienced, the demand for cereals is very high since nearly all households are relying on market purchases. This high demand combined with high import prices has caused staple prices to continue to be above the five-year average for most of the current consumption year. However, a trend analysis using secondary price information obtained from WFP indicate that prices have not increased as sharply as initially anticipated (Figure 2) at the beginning of the consumption year. As shown in figure 2, maize meal prices in Maseru show a constant gradual decline. Although FEWS NET is unable to clearly determine the factors contributing to this decline due to limited information available, it is suspected that the government subsidy and humanitarian assistance, among other factors, could be contributing to this decline. Nonetheless, prices are still above last year’s and the five-year average.

FEWS NET’s criteria for the inclusion of assistance in food security analysis it that it is planned, funded, and likely. There are some reports of ongoing assistance by WFP, UNICEF, World Vision, and other NGOs, but insufficient information available about the location and type of assistance, the funding status of this assistance, and the likelihood that it will continue between December and March. Nonetheless, the WFP Lesotho Country Brief for November 2016 indicated that the country program was planning to scale up assistance and expects to reach over 150,000 food insecure people in December 2016. In general, the update mentions that WFP was scaling up food and cash distributions for the peak of the lean season (January to March) to address food insecurity during the lean season. However, it was mentioned that these plans could be impacted by a funding gap that WFP is experiencing. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue in Lesotho during this lean season, in the absence of humanitarian assistance.

 

 

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 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.