Timely and well-distributed rainfall expected to drive average harvest

Lesotho Remote Monitoring Update, December 2020

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Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash

Key Messages

  • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes continue in Lesotho due to low food access driven by depleted own-produced food stocks, below-average incomes, and slightly above-average staple food prices. Households are trying to mitigate existing food consumption gaps through market food purchases from earned income. Agricultural labor opportunities are seasonally increasing; however, wages are below average, and market food purchases are not expected to fully cover food consumption gaps.
  • The 2020/21 rainfall season started on-time across most of Lesotho with cumulatively average rainfall through mid-December. The effective onset of rainfall for most of Lesotho was between mid-October to the beginning of November, except southern Mafateng and southern Mohale’s Hoek, where the start of effective rainfall was delayed. The generally normal onset of rainfall has resulted in farmers engaging in agricultural activities on time, which is crucial as there is typically a frost risk during the harvest period in May.  
  • Since the border reopening in October, there has been an increase in migrants crossing the border into South Africa to seek better labor opportunities. Cross-border migrants include miners, seasonal farm laborers, domestic workers, shop keepers, and general cross-border traders. Increased access to labor opportunities in South Africa is improving access to wages and remittances, an important household income source for most households in Lesotho. However, labor migration is still below average levels as both the economies of Lesotho and South Africa are recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19 lockdowns. The requirement to produce a certified negative COVID-19 test at the border posts continues to limit business operations.
  • COVID-19 remains a concern in Lesotho and the rest of the southern Africa region. On December 18, there were 2,546 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lesotho, a 30 percent increase compared to November 1, 2020. Since lifting the COVID-19 restrictions in October, economic activity has increased to near-normal levels, particularly in urban areas.  

PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH MAY 2021

Across Lesotho, the 2020/21 rainfall season started on time, ranging from mid-October to the beginning of November across most of the country. According to CHIRPS rainfall data, southwestern Lesotho, which is typically drier than the rest of the country, has received cumulatively near-average rainfall since mid-to-late October for the first time since the 2014/15 agricultural season. According to CHIRPS preliminary rainfall data, Lesotho is expected to receive average to above-average rainfall from October 1 through December 31, 2020. Local key informants have also confirmed there have been good rains since the start of the season. According to local and international forecasts, Lesotho is likely to receive normal to above-normal rainfall during the second half of the season (January to March). With the rains’ timely start, there has been an increase in agricultural activities, with most households planting through November and into December. Across the country, soil moisture has been sufficient for germination. By December 10,  the maize crop is expected to be in the emergence crop stage in southwest Lesotho and the vegetative crop stage across the rest of the country.

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