MOHALE’S HOEK-World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Mary Njoroge has urged Basotho to “seriously consider doing things differently” for their survival because of the country’s “perpetual food insecurity”.
Ms Njoroge made this remark during a field visit to Mohale’s Hoek district on Monday this week led by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kimetso Mathaba.
WFP—the food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security—has partnered charity organisation World Vision and government in implementing resilience-building activities to mitigate food shortages in Siloe Community Council in the district as a way of assisting communities improve their livelihoods.
According to Ms Njoroge, 57 percent of Basotho are “chronically food insecure”.
Ms Njoroge further indicated that according to the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee results released last month, 463 936 Basotho are in need of food support compared to 447 760 who required assistance during the 2013/14 farming season.
This, she added, was mainly because of climate change whose effects have led to depressed harvests.
More than 70 percent of Basotho living in the rural area depend on subsistence farming and Ms Njoroge said Lesotho’s unemployment rate, which is at 25 percent, compounds their ability to produce their own food.
“Every year, results of the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee which show the level of vulnerability to food insecurity, continue to rise,” Ms Njoroge noted.
“However, if we factor in the number of people already supported through safety nets such as school-feeding, cash-for-land rehabilitation work managed by the Ministry of Forestry and the provision of agricultural inputs, the number of people in urgent need of food declines to 180 000.
“The results are still high and what they are telling us is that we need to do things differently to make sure Basotho have the means to survive and for them to produce food despite drought, early frost, heat-waves and other adverse climatic conditions, so that there can be enough food for their families.”
The WFP Country Director (CD) also highlighted that Mohale’s Hoek is one of the country’s districts prone to multiple climatic hazards such as inadequate rainfall, early frost and strong winds, which she said “affect livelihoods such as agriculture and also negatively impact on the environment.”
The CD continued: “It is for these reasons that the World Food Programme thought it wise to invest in resilience-building activities here in Siloe Community Council…”
WFP, she said, used the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee results of 2000 to select Siloe Community Council as one of the areas vulnerable to climate-induced shocks.
“We then identified the most vulnerable households with the help of the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA) developed by the Ministry of Social Development with support from UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), the European Union (EU) and World Bank. To enhance our targeting process, we also used the community targeting system,” she said.
In the process, Ms Njoroge indicated 1050 people were identified and engaged to work in Salang, Moletsane, Tlokotsing and Mohapeloa villages from February 2015 to July 2015.
Activities being implemented include the building of silt-traps to help reduce soil-erosion and rehabilitation of some gullies to reclaim lost arable and grazing land, as well as construction of a dam in Mohapeloa village.
According Ms Njoroge, local communities were also expected to construct four water tanks in Salang, Moletsane and Tlokotsing villages.
“These water-harvesting initiatives will support crop and livestock production in order to improve food-security and promote the generation of income.”
Each individual receives M660 for working 12 days per month in the projects, and according to Ms Njoroge, the money could assist a family of five “which basically means 5250 people are currently benefitting from this support”.
She added: “Let me also explain that the World Food Programme is taking the perpetual food insecurity situation in Lesotho very seriously. That is why we are focusing on resilience-building activities with the aim of understanding what communities need to do in order to have enough food, generate money and be able to send their children to school, among other needs.
“We now know that for us to make a positive impact in the communities and effectively build their resilience against climate-induced shocks, we need to build a strong and lasting partnership with the local residents. Our objective is to make sure affected communities have the ability to adapt to climate-induced shocks and are able to withstand the risks that make them food-insecure and poorer.”
For his part, Mr Mathaba reiterated that Siloe is an area ravaged by drought and other climate conditions.
“This is why, on behalf of my office and the government of Lesotho, I have to congratulate WFP and all partners for this initiative which, if you, as a community, can preserve it, it will benefit you for a longer time,” the minister said.
Mr Mathaba further said his office, through its Department of Disaster Management Authority, was part of the projects through the provision of “some expertise.”
“With the M660 they received after working for 12 days, these people were able to feed their families, pay for healthcare and their children’s school-fees. The villagers’ lives were improved considerably and for that, we should highlight the value of these projects,” he said.
The Lesotho Times interviewed some of the villagers who hailed the projects, indicating they had changed their lives for the better.
’Mathato Tsoeliane (25), one of the villagers, said before the initiative, life had been but a struggle.
“Before these projects, our lives were very difficult. As you can see for yourself, this is a very dry area. There is no water here. We can only get half-clean water from one source which serves the entire community, and even those who live in villages far away from this area. And that very source is in the middle of a donga where our livestock also drink,” Ms Tsoeliane said.
Another villager, Thabang Mosola (31) indicated the community was left vulnerable to hunger following poor harvests due to early frost associated with climate change.
“Some of us are actually swimming in a pool of poverty. The children cannot eat well because parents can’t afford any meals. But since the introduction of these projects, especially with the payments that we receive, there has been a significant improvement to our lives,” Mr Mosola said.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times was further made aware that WFP is implementing a food-transfer scheme in Mafeteng, which runs concurrently with the money-transfer initiative in Mohale’s Hoek.
Through the food-transfer scheme in Mafeteng, where 1000 people are said to be benefitting, a monthly household food ration of 60 kilogrammes of maize meal, 9 kg of pulses (beans or peas) and three litres of vegetable oil, is given to each participant after engaging in environment-management activities such as tree-planting, removal of alien vegetation, gulley rehabilitation and building silt-traps.