Lesotho feels brunt of fuel, food crises

  • Inflation levels urgently need to be tamed
  • Poorest households most vulnerable, spend bulk of their income on food

 

NEO SENOKO

MASERU – As the impacts of climate change continue to intensify and global shocks upend business as usual, like other Sub-Saharan African countries, Lesotho is feeling the brunt of food, fuel and fertiliser shortages exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

These are further aggravated by scaring effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, soaring inflation, rising debt, and extreme weather conditions.While inflation levels urgently need to be tamed and the burden of debt made more sustainable, perhaps no priority is more pressing than addressing food insecurity to safeguard the calorie and nutritional needs of Lesotho’s two million people and protect their human development.

In response to these challenges, Lesotho and other Southern African countries are implementing a range of short, medium and long-term actions with the World Bank’s support, to cushion the blow of the current crisis on the poorest households and set African food systems on a more resilient and productive pathway.The World Bank Group recently approved a US$2.3 billion (about M40 billion) programme aimed at helping countries in Eastern and Southern Africa to increase the resilience of the region’s food systems and ability to tackle growing food insecurity.

“This is the first regional and multi-sectoral operation focusing on reducing the number of food insecure people in Eastern and Southern Africa by increasing the resilience of food systems and preparedness to combat rising food insecurity.“It supplements a similar programme that the bank approved recently for Western and Central Africa,” the World Bank Vice President for Eastern and Southern Africa, Hafez Ghanem, said about the programme.Across the sub-region, social protection programmes have been essential to enable households to cope with high food prices and localised shortages.

The poorest households are the most vulnerable since they spend most of their income on food.In Lesotho, for instance, Bokang Petje, the owner and managing director of Happy C and J Village Farm in Mahloenyeng on the outskirts of Maseru, was able to add a borehole and drip irrigation to his farm as a way of directly watering individual plants rather than casting spray over a large area.The process not only conserves soil nutrients but also minimises or prevents waste of a precious resource, water.

Along with the shade netting provided by the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) II to protect his crops from frost, Petje was also able to invest in the plastic tunneling necessary to protect his vegetable production of lettuce, cabbages, tomatoes and potatoes from hail.With his expanded farm and the ability to grow crops throughout the year despite the increase in hailstorms and chilly weather that come with climate change, he can now sell his vegetables and fruit to local grocery stores all year round.

“Climate-resilient food systems are also the focus of a new $2.3 billion regional programme, approved by the World Bank in June, available to Eastern and Southern African countries wishing to tackle the underlying structural challenges of vulnerability to unpredictable shocks,” said the World Bank in a statement this week. Food system shocks brought about by extreme weather conditions, pest and disease outbreaks, political and market instability, as well as conflicts, are becoming more frequent and severe, putting more people at risk of food insecurity in the region, the bank noted.

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