Japan pledges to assist drought-ravaged Lesotho



MASERU – Japan has promised Lesotho close to 5 million tons of food assistance in a move meant to curtail the projected food shortage in the country after the agricultural sector experienced another poor season due to climate-change induced problems. Lesotho could run critically short of food following poor harvest in the recent 2018/19 summer cropping which has been attributed to severe drought due to lack of rainfall.

To address the projected outcome, the ministry of agriculture is looking to other international partners such as the Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) for food assistance, minister of agriculture Mahala Molapo has said.

WFP had clearly stated late last year that around 270, 000 people in Lesotho alone will be faced with severe food insecurity. In the Southern Africa region, 8.4 million will need food aid.

As a result, the world body is scaling up its food assistance programmes across the Southern Africa region while strengthening its resilience building activities and plans to respond should the upcoming harvest be inadequate or fail.

“Food stocks will continue to be depleted over the coming months with vulnerability levels peaking between February and April; millions of people will require food assistance,” WFP added.

The minister said this during a media briefing on Tuesday narrating that while the country is already operating under tough economic conditions, the imminent food shortage will only add salt to the wound.

“Conditions are a little tough for us at the moment but like I am saying we have been promised by other international partners to assist where necessary and we will have to wait and see,” Molapo said. However, the ministry is not just seeking support from international partners without doing anything on its own to mitigate impending disaster.

Local farmers will once again this season buy fertilisers, seeds and pesticides at low prices, thanks to the 50 percent subsidy by government. A similar prize cut will also be enjoyed in wheat and animal foods.

“This, the government is doing to encourage farmers to engage in winter cropping in order to fight the possible food shortages in the country. I therefore take this opportunity to appreciate efforts made by a few who managed to have good harvest in the summer.”

“Once again we should take advantage of the current rainfall to prepare for winter cropping, particularly with direct focus on wheat production a few months from now,” Molapo added.

The minister further urged Basotho to support each other in business as the move will also have a significant contribution towards poverty alleviation in the country. Even the government, Molapo said, should give priority to locally produced goods.

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