By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – With ever rising food inflation, food security continues to be threatened by many issues such as poor farming yields and the effects of climate change.

This necessitates government and like-minded stakeholders to mitigate these circumstances for the majority of citizens who are feeling the most pinch as the domestic food price inflation remains high.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Hon Limpho Tau makes mentions of the government’s resolution to set aside to the tune of M100, 104, 160 for cash/food payments for community based works.

This is the government’s response to addressing the food security, that continues to  threaten many families in the country.

This initiative, the Minister says will employ citizens temporarily for 10 days to work on temporary community based projects that include road maintenance, protection of grazing lands, and other community-based projects in 960 locations across the country.

Tau says individuals will work on a rotational basis, earning M500 per month starting in June to December.

This programme will be implemented in all constituencies and in 12 selected locations per constituency. Each cohort will include 15,000 people, benefiting 30,000 individuals per month and 180,000 over a six month period during its implementation.

According to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, the most vulnerable households will be prioritized for absorption into this programme.

He emphasizes that this funding will directly benefit vulnerable people, with the long term expectation to provide a boost to the economy over the six-month period.

The government is also mulling over the implementation of food price subsidy on staple grain and pulses.

This arrangement for food price subsidy was made by the previous administration during the period 2016 to 2017 in order to caution and cushion citizens against high food prices as a result of El Niño.

Then, the government earmarked an excess of M226 million for the intervention.

The government’s decision to extend food price subsidies will be informed by studies from the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) and the Bureau of Statistics (BoS) findings on crops forecast – to be published soon.

Data available reflects that agriculture’s contribution to Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 6.24%.

Crops and livestock farming support the majority of Basotho for sustenance, especially in rural areas.

In March this year, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office made a speech warning of the low harvest levels wherein farmers can expect owing to high temperatures and erratic rainfall.

The unusual heat experienced by the area resulted in a poor harvest, consequently leading to poor and insufficient nutrition in different households.

The Minister went on to point out that according to the forecasts, Lesotho is likely to face food insecurity for the year 2024/2025.

According to the United Nations Lesotho Annual Results Report of 2023, 70% of Basotho are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.

The report goes on to paint a gloomy picture that 40% of the youth population are not in employment, education or training.

Lesotho is on the other hand ranked 121 out of 125 nations by the Global Index Hunger per the 2023 report.

The Minister promised farmers that the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) was to source from their produce including maize, beans and wheat.

The government will also extend subsidies to the farmers in need.

It will be recalled that the Lesotho Flour Mills (LFM) announced two increases on raw maize after it adjusted upwards by 7% on April 8th, on maize products.

The prices hike were for April and May.

LMF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Fourie Du Plessis had in a statement said that raw maize prices went up by 39% within two months from M3, 800 per metric ton as of January 31, 2024, to M5, 300 as on March 31, 2024.

The price surge is attributed to adverse effects of the drought caused by low rainfall and hotter than usual weather during the past season.

“We are hopeful at the time that raw white maize prices would stabilize during April following rainfall late in the season. Unfortunately, the rainfall was too late to impact the crop yields and prices surged further up to levels of R5, 500 [M5, 500] per metric ton during the past week.

“Unfortunately, Lesotho Flour Mills needs to increase maize meal prices accordingly by 15%, effective from May 6th 2024. We will do everything in our power as much as possible before the said date. Note that we will not be able to deliver any orders after May 6 2024 at the old price,” reads the LMF statement.

According to the Lesotho: IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis July 2023 – March 2024, during the period July to September 2023, about 245, 000 people in rural areas face high levels of acute food insecurity. The report further shows that there has been a decrease in maize and sorghum production compared to previous season.

The African leaders during the recent International Development Association (IDA) 21 where Heads of State and Government had convened in Nairobi, Kenya resolved to remain steadfast in their commitment to advancing the goals of food security, poverty reduction, and sustainable development across the continent in response to the UN’s set goal to end hunger by 2030. In this Summit, Lesotho was represented by the Deputy Prime Minister Justice Nthomeng Majara.

IDA provides financing to low income countries within the African continent.

The leaders further call for a collective action to advance food security during the continent during the recently concluded Summit.

The challenge of food security does not only affect Lesotho, many of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are disproportionately affected by challenges of food security.

The World Bank estimates that approximately 462 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty and this calls for concerted efforts by the governments and development partners as well as the humanitarian associations to join hands in reducing the continent’s vulnerability.

Further, this is also an ask for strategic partnerships needed in boosting agricultural productivity in order to achieve food security.

It further emerged during the Summit that good governance and transparency should be central not only for ensuring prosperity but also attracting investors to the countries so as to enhance the economy of those nations.

Again, the Summit talks of the need to empower women and girls as not an option but a condition to achieving equality.