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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

    


 

 

FAO/WFP CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY ASSESSMENT MISSION TO LESOTHO

20 June 2005

http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/j5513e/j5513e00.htm

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Mission Highlights

  • Domestic cereal production in 2004/05 is estimated at 119 000 tonnes, consisting of 92 129 tonnes of maize, 16 442 tonnes of sorghum and 10 339 tonnes wheat. The production is higher than last year by about 15 percent and represents 84 percent of the five-year average.
  • Lesotho’s cereal production appears to be on a downward trend, especially in the main producing districts of Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe and Maseru. This is cause for concern and should be fully investigated. Endemic soil erosion, weather-related disasters and the impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic are likely to be major underlying causes.
  • Cereal import requirements for 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) are estimated at about 293 000 tonnes, of which 213 000 tonnes are expected to be imported commercially. With food aid stocks and pipeline as of 1 April 2005 at 61 000 tonnes, there remains an uncovered deficit of 19 000 tonnes (6 000 tonnes of maize, 13 000 tonnes of sorghum) which need to be covered by additional donor assistance.
  • The Lesotho VAC estimate that 548 800 people will have a significant food deficit between June 2005 and March 2006 and will require food or cash assistance amounting to approximately 20 200 tonnes of maize equivalent.

1. OVERVIEW

During March 2005, a mid-season crop assessment was carried out by an agronomist at the request of FAO and WFP Country Offices. This was not the usual FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) which in addition to crop assessment evaluates the prospective overall food supply and demand situation and the food needs of vulnerable population groups. It was subsequently proposed that a full but relatively short CFSAM be fielded at near harvest time to update the crop assessment and to collect socio-economic data for an overall food security evaluation. This was the task of the CFSAM that visited the country from 12 to 19 May 2005.

After two days of consultations in Maseru, the capital city, the Mission undertook a two-day field visit to the main cereal producing regions of the country, namely, central (the districts of Butha-Buthe, Berea, Leribe, Maseru) and southern (Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s Nek, Quthing). The mountain region (Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka) was not visited as there was general agreement that no significant changes had occurred there since the mid-season assessment, in particular since early frost had not materialized as previously feared.

The Mission was accompanied by government officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS), Ministry of Economic Planning, Disaster Management Authority/Early Warning Unit (DMA/NEWU), Bureau of Statistics (BoS), staff from the country offices of FAO, WFP and FEWS-Net, and an observer from USAID office in Pretoria, South Africa. Over 100 farmers along with district extension staff were interviewed and standing crops were inspected.

Area planted to cereals in 2004/05 is estimated at 208 200 ha, slightly higher than the 2003/04 official post harvest figure of 196 800 ha which was released by the government after last year’s CFSAM report was published. This area figure is also slightly higher than the five-year average by about 6 percent. Although this season was better than last year, a combination of factors depressed the yields. These included late onset of rains and reduction in the use of improved seed and chemical fertilizers following the withdrawal of subsidies on farm inputs.

Overall, the estimated 2004/05 cereal production is 119 000 tonnes which is 15 percent higher than last year and 84 percent of the five-year average. There was a substantial increase in sorghum production, especially in the foothills of Maseru and Mafeteng districts. The late rains in March and April have encouraged the planting of winter wheat, peas, potatoes and various other vegetables which will contribute to the family diet and provide some cash income.

An examination of Lesotho’s cereal production over the past six years indicates a steady decline. The decline is particularly marked in the central region which is the breadbasket of the country. This should be of great concern and should be investigated fully. Underlying factors are likely to include the endemic soil erosion, recurrent weather-related disasters (droughts, frosts, hailstorms) and the emerging consequences of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Cereal import requirement for 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) is estimated at 292 800 tonnes, of which 213 200 tonnes are expected to be imported commercially. With 60 600 tonnes on hand and in pipeline at the beginning of the marketing year, there remains an uncovered deficit of 19 000 tonnes, comprising 5 800 tonnes of maize and 13 200 tonnes of sorghum, which will need to covered by additional donor assistance.

A total of 548 800 people are projected by the LVAC in 2005 to have a significant food deficit and requiring food or cash assistance during the 2005/6 marketing year. Approximately 20 200 tonnes of maize equivalent will be needed to meet the deficit of the most vulnerable groups. The number of people in need is expected to increase from July into the hungry period. With a reported significant increase in sorghum production in certain districts, some of the relief food could be procured locally.

Chronic food insecurity is a major problem of poor households in Lesotho. Household food insecurity is caused by a number of factors including poverty, continued land degradation, reduced remittances due to retrenchments from South Africa mines, recent closures of textile mills and the effects of HIV/AIDS. WFP’s bi-annual surveys show households in the southern lowlands of Lesotho to be experiencing the effects of chronic illness on their ability to engage in active agricultural production. Twenty-three percent of households surveyed lost three months or more of labour a year to chronic illness. Furthermore, households with chronically ill members eat poor diets compared to those not affected.

2. SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONTEXT1

2.1. General

The Kingdom of Lesotho, a small, mountainous, landlocked country entirely surrounded by South Africa, was ranked 145 out of 177 countries in 2004 on UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI). More than 85 percent of its population of about 2.3 million live in rural areas engaged mainly in agriculture and informal sector activities. However, agriculture contributes only about 17 percent of GDP, the rest coming from industry (43 percent) and services (40 percent). About half the income of rural households comes from family members working in mines and other jobs in South Africa, but these remittances are declining with falling employment due to restructuring in the South African mines and changes in migration policies. Nevertheless, these earnings still constitute about 30 percent of Lesotho's Gross National Income (GNP). Only about 13 percent of the total land area is suitable for cropping. A notable development in recent years has been the growth of export-oriented manufacturing, led by the clothing and footwear sub-sector.

The main destinations of Lesotho’s exports are the United States (76 percent - mostly textiles) and South African Customs Union countries (23 percent), while the main sources of imports are South Africa (73 percent) and Asia (24 percent).

2.2 Recent macroeconomic developments

Table 1 summarizes major indicators of Lesotho’s economic performance in recent years.

Table 1 - Lesotho: Recent Economic Performance

Indicator

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

GDP (US$bn)

0.9

0.8

0.7

1.1

1.6

Real GDP growth (%)

1.3

3.2

3.8

3.3

3.4

Cons. price inflation (%)

6.0

6.9

10.5

6.1

5.1

Forex reserves (US$m)

417.9

386.5

406.4

460.3

501.5

Exchange rate (M: US$1)

6.9

8.6

10.5

7.6

6.5

The annual growth rate of GDP has been relatively low but steady at an average of about 3 percent over the past five years. This has not permitted significant growth in per capita income. For 2005/06 the growth rate is forecast at 2-2.5 percent, reflecting adverse developments in the textile industry. In particular, the imminent removal of textile quotas under the Multifibre Agreement on Textiles and Clothing has affected US orders for Lesotho produced clothes. Consumer price inflation fell from a high of 10.5 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent in 2004 and is forecast to remain at this level through 2005. The country’s foreign exchange reserves have steadily increased since 2001 and currently stand at around US$500 million, enough for 5.2 months of imports of goods and services. The national currency, the Loti, which is pegged at par with the South African Rand, has been appreciating against major hard currencies since 2003. The exchange rate with the US dollar is currently averaging 6.4 maloti to the dollar. This is hurting exports but it is also helping to keep price increases moderate.

2.3. Population estimate

Official population estimates are projections based on the 1996 population census which indicated a population of 1.97 million. Applying an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent, the mid-2005 population is estimated at 2.35 million. This estimate does not take into account the impact of HIV/AIDS. However, available information indicates that currently Lesotho has a prevalence rate of 29 percent among adults of 15-49 years, the third highest in the world. It stood at 4 percent in 1993. Average life expectancy was estimated to have declined from 59.4 years in 1996 to 52.5 years in 2001. The high mortality in the most economically active population (15-49 years) is bound to have a significant adverse impact on the economy.

  


 

2.4. Trends in cereal production

Figure 1 below shows cereal production in Lesotho from1999/00 to 2004/05 as estimated by the Bureau of Statistics (BOS) and, for 2004/05, by the CFSAM.

Fig. 1 - Lesotho: Cereal Production, 1999/00-2004/05

The graphs show that cereal production in Lesotho is on the decline nationally and in all regions except in the mountain region where there is a slight upward trend. The downward trend is steepest in the breadbasket central region consisting of the districts of Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea and Maseru, which on average contribute 57 percent of national cereal production. The southern region (Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, Qacha’s Nek) contributes 29 percent while the mountain region consisting of only two districts (Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka) contributes 14 percent. The declining production, particularly in the important central region, should be of great concern and needs to be fully investigated. Likely major factors at work include soil erosion which is endemic in Lesotho, recurrent weather disasters (droughts, frosts, hailstorms) and the impact of HIV/AIDS.

3. AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION IN 2004/05

Although the agricultural sector makes only a relatively small contribution (17 percent) to the economy as a whole, its socio-economic importance is considerable as it provides livelihoods for more than 80 percent of the population. Crop production is virtually all rain fed. The most important crops are maize, sorghum and wheat, which occupy about 60 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent of the cropped area respectively. Other important field crops are beans and peas. Maize, sorghum and beans are mostly grown using the summer rains, whilst wheat and peas are winter crops, usually grown on late rains or residual moisture. Crop production in winter is dependent on good end-of-summer rainfall. The summer cereals are mostly grown in pure stands, but maize is also either intercropped with sorghum or beans and sorghum is also grown in mixture with beans. Monocropping predominates in all the agricultural regions and accounts for about 90 percent of areas planted with cereals. Sharecropping is practiced to offset the constraints related to access to land, labour and farm inputs. Most households plant a small home garden area with summer and winter vegetables, especially those who have access to water.

Despite an Agricultural Sector Adjustment Programme initiated in 2000, diversification and privatization in the sector has yet to become a reality. The limited area of good-quality arable land, land degradation, declining soil fertility and a series of droughts have contributed to continuing decline in the agricultural sector and constrained its capacity to contribute to GDP. Most of the good farming land lies in the northwest lowlands, where the capital, Maseru is located. Much of the rest of the country is either too mountainous or normally too dry to produce high yields of cereal crops. In addition, many of these areas are characterized by fragile soils, where the pressures of increasing farming and grazing have led to degradation of fields and pastures. Loss of vegetative cover from firewood removal, animal browsing and overgrazing has led to obvious gulley erosion of hillsides, spurring the creation of a Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation (MFLR) in 2003. There is a growing recognition that the present problems with low farm productivity cannot be solved solely through soil conservation measures, nor through the use of improved seed and chemical fertilizers. The MFLR is now aware that what is needed is a holistic land husbandry approach that achieves synergies at farm level, through the adoption of improved crop, soil and rain mater management practices which offer both production and conservation benefits.

The livestock sector continues to provide a significant source of rural income, with cattle, sheep and goats equally important. Besides, meat, wool and mohair are important sources of revenue. Herd sizes do not appear to be shrinking drastically at present, despite pasture degradation and drought.

3.1 Agro-meteorological conditions

Rainfall estimates for 2004/05 are shown in Figure 2, derived from satellite data by SADC Remote Sensing Programme. The graphs show that in the central region (Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe and Maseru) cumulative rainfall was above last year but below average. It also started somewhat late leading to late planting in many areas. In the southern region (Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing) rainfall was above average in Qacha’s Nek, close to average in Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing and below average but above last year in Mafeteng. In the mountain region (Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka), rainfall was normal throughout the season. These data are consistent with those of Lesotho Meteorological Services. Thus, overall, Lesotho’s rainfall situation in 2004/05 was generally favourable for crop production, although less than satisfactory in the central region, the country’s breadbasket. Moreover, there were no major incidences of early frost and dry spells.

Figure 2 - Lesotho: Rainfall estimate for 2004/05 by district

  

  

  

  

  

Source: SADC Remote Sensing Programme.

3.2 Supply of agricultural inputs

Seed: The main source of seed for the majority of farmers is the home produced open pollinated varieties. Some farmers and especially the commercial farmers and master farmers use hybrid seeds. The use of hybrid seed is on the decline as illustrated by the number of farmers who reported using open-pollinated seed more frequently now than in the past.

Fertilizer: As was the case was last year, there was no government-subsidized fertilizer. As a result, a very low percentage of farmers used adequate amounts of purchased chemical fertilizers. However, some “commercial” farmers, who normally produce sufficient amounts of maize to market, are still purchasing fertilizers from private retailers. These farmers generally have access to tractors, which allows them to plough and plant on time to increase their returns from purchased inputs. Possessing these means for improved crop management was especially important this year due to the late onset of rains. Farmers who were unable to make use of or conserve moisture from the relatively insufficient early rains or plant immediately after the arrival of first rains, chose not to risk the time, energy and money in planting a maize crop this season. Some switched to planting sorghum and others left some of their fields fallow.

The decline in soil organic matter and nutrient levels is mainly due to overgrazing and feeding of the crop residue to livestock rather than incorporating it into the soil after harvest. The use of farmyard manure is limited and further made difficult by the fact that most of the livestock graze in the open field precluding the collection of manure and the fact that most of the manure collected is also used for fuel.

Fertilizer use among the vast majority of households that produce for home consumption was very limited. Some households mixed very small amounts of chemical fertilizers with some manure and applied them at well below optimal doses to their fields. These low doses, applied to nutrient deficient soils, are resulting in poor crop development and depressed yields.

Ploughing: The other major production cost is land preparation. Land preparation is predominantly (over 70 percent) undertaken by draught animals. In the higher-production areas of Leribe, Berea and Maseru, cultivation by tractor is available to some. There was a tendency this season to minimize land preparation costs by planting fewer fields, or leaving at least one field fallow. In areas where animal traction is the principal form of ploughing, dry soils were an additional constraint to good and timely planting as well as to good crop emergence and establishment.

Areas planted

The areas planted with cereals in 2004/05 compared to the five-year average are presented in Table 2.

Table 2- Lesotho: Total cereal area (‘000 hectares) in 2004/05 compared to 1999/00-2003/04 average

DISTRICT

1999/00

2000/01

2001/02

2002/03

2003/04

5 year
average

2004-05

2004/05 as
percent of
average

Butha-Buthe

12.5

6.0

6.6

10.2

9.7

9.0

9.1

101.1

Leribe

36.6

38.2

36.0

39.6

29.8

36.0

30.5

84.7

Berea

38.0

31.9

28.7

29.5

26.8

31.0

29.7

95.8

Maseru

29.6

33.8

26.6

31.8

30.6

30.5

30.2

99.0

Mafeteng

15.9

43.4

34.1

32.1

31.4

31.4

28.8

91.7

Mohale's Hoek

8.9

32.0

18.5

19.4

23.3

20.4

24.2

118.6

Quthing

12.7

11.9

8.4

11.2

15.0

11.8

14.0

118.6

Qacha's Nek

4.0

5.8

4.8

4.6

2.1

4.3

7.8

181.4

Mokhotlong

6.0

11.6

12.1

10.8

12.3

10.6

10.5

99.0

Thaba-Tseka

14.3

15.4

16.4

12.4

15.8

14.9

23.4

157.0

LESOTHO

178.5

230.0

192.2

201.6

196.8

199.8

208.2

104.2

Source: Bureau of Statistics

The figures show fluctuations in the total area planted over the past five years. Between 2000/01 and 2003/04 actively cultivated area varied from 230 000 ha to 196 800 ha.

The total land area under cereals in 2004/05 is estimated at 208 200 ha, slightly higher than last year’s official figure of 196 800 ha which was released after last year’s CFSAM report was published and is also slightly higher than the five-year average by 4 percent. Of the total area planted with cereals this year, maize occupies about 162 000 ha or 78 percent and was slightly higher than last year by about 3 percent, sorghum occupies about 36 000 ha or 17 percent and the proportion of land area planted was the same as last year. Wheat occupies about 11 000 ha or about 5 percent, slightly lower than last year by about 3 percent. While most farmers reported leaving at least one of their fields fallow due to the soil fertility problem (tired land), lateness of the rains, poor access to means of ploughing and high cost of inputs relative to producer price, the land area planted with cereals this year is slightly higher than last year and is above the five-year average by about 5 percent.

3.3 Crop yields

The average yield forecasts for each crop by district are presented in Table 3.

Table 3 - Lesotho: Area and yield of cereal crops in 2004/05 by district

DISTRICT

Maize

Sorghum

Wheat

Area
ha

Yield
t/ha

Prod.
tonnes

Area
ha

Yield
t/ha

Prod.
tonnes

Area
ha

Yield
t/ha

Prod.
tonnes

Butha-Buthe

7 492.3

0.57

4 270.6

1 422.5

0.47

668.6

172.0

0.70

120.4

Leribe

26 204.6

0.82

21 487.8

4 118.0

0.52

2 141.4

140.0

0.80

112.0

Berea

23 959.7

0.35

8 385.9

5 784.5

0.40

2 313.8

0.0

0.00

0.0

Maseru

22 877.2

0.85

19 445.6

5 099.0

0.53

2 702.5

2 221.0

0.70

1 554.7

Mafeteng

22 276.9

0.40

8 910.8

6 290.0

0.55

3 459.5

253.0

0.40

101.2

Mohale's Hoek

17 043.1

0.35

5 965.1

6 312.1

0.40

2 524.8

833.0

0.65

541.5

Quthing

9 802.4

0.30

2 940.7

3 308.0

0.30

992.4

927.0

0.60

556.2

Qacha's Nek

4 485.0

0.41

1 838.9

2 125.6

0.35

744.0

1 201.0

1.30

1 561.3

Mokhotlong

7 064.2

0.65

4 591.7

37.0

0.30

11.1

3 429.0

1.30

4 457.7

Thaba-Tseka

20 417.1

0.70

14 292.0

1 607.3

0.55

884.0

1 334.0

1.00

1 334.0

LESOTHO

161 559.5

 

92 129.1

36 104.0

 

16 442.0

10 510.0

 

10 339.0

Source: Bureau of Statistics and CFSAM estimates

The yield estimates were derived from a sample households interviewed, time series data, consultation with staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, NGOs, visual observation on standing crops and physical examination of crops in the field, as well as the condition of the crop residue where crops had been harvested. The yield estimates were first made for each crop by district and by agro-ecological zone (lowland, foothill and mountain). The district yields are the average of the agro-ecological zones. The general conclusions from the survey conducted by the Mission are:

 - this season was better than last year, and yields were also better although there are marked variations by district and agro-ecological zone.

 - late onset of the rains, high cost of inputs, delayed ploughing and minimal use of both organic and chemical fertilizers have reduced the potential yields; some of the farmers were able to overcome these constraints through share cropping arrangement;

 - early frost did not materialize an crops escaped the possible damage of an early frost

3.4 Winter wheat

At the time of the Mission, some farmers were preparing fields and planting winter wheat that will be harvested in September/October 2005. Planting of winter wheat normally starts in mid-April, making use of the residual soil moisture and small amounts of rainfall. The late rains in April also helped land preparation and planting operations.

3.5 Cereal production in 2004/05

Table 4 shows the total cereal production in 2004/05 compared to last year and the past five-year average (1999/00 – 2003/04). The production figures for 2003/04 are the official post harvest estimates of the Bureau of Statistics.

For purposes of comparison and ease of presentation, production figures in Lesotho have been divided into three distinct agricultural regions, namely Central/Northern Lowlands (Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea and Maseru), Southern Lowlands (Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, Qacha’s Nek) and Mountain (Mokhotlong and Thaba-Tseka).

Table 4 - Lesotho: Total cereal production (‘000 tonnes) in 2004/05 compared to five-year average

DISTRICT

1999/00

2000/01

2001/02

2002/03

2003/04

Five-year
average

2004/05

2004/05
as
percent
of
average

Butha-Buthe

12.5

4.8

3.7

2.9

6.2

6.0

5.1

85

Leribe

36.6

29.2

31.2

34.3

23.7

31.0

23.7

76

Berea

38.0

25.5

23.2

13.3

10.4

22.1

10.7

48

Maseru

29.6

32.2

23.3

15.1

17.4

23.5

23.7

101

Mafeteng

15.9

31.9

19.1

16.2

13.1

19.2

12.5

65

Mohale's Hoek

8.9

24.6

6.0

14.2

9.6

12.7

9.0

71

Quthing

12.7

9.6

2.8

6.7

5.5

7.5

4.5

60

Qacha's Nek

4.0

2.6

4.5

0.6

1.3

2.6

4.1

158

Mokhotlong

6.0

6.8

10.7

6.2

6.5

7.2

9.1

126

Thaba-Tseka

14.3

9.4

10.1

9.4

10.4

10.7

16.5

154

LESOTHO

178.5

176.6

134.6

118.9

104.1

142.5

118.9

84

Source: Bureau of Statistics; CFSAM estimates.

The estimated national cereal production is about 119 000 tonnes which is higher than last year by about 15 percent and represents 84 percent of the five-year average. Of the total cereal production this year, the Central/Northern lowlands account for about 53 percent, the Southern Lowlands about 25 percent and the Mountain districts about 22 percent.

  


 

3.6 Other crops

Beans, which are a short season crop, are either intercropped with maize and sorghum or grown as a mono crop. Peas and lentils are grown in the mountain areas. Other minor crops include oats and barley. The small garden plots near the homesteads were not affected by the late onset of rains this year.

3.7 Livestock situation

The majority of rural households own livestock, mainly cattle, sheep and goats. Many households also have a horse, donkeys and chickens. From the Mission’s enquiries it appears that animal numbers are generally holding steady, with a slight decrease in the number of cattle mainly due to stock theft and a small decrease in the number of sheep, goats, horses and donkeys.

Rainfall had been adequate to restore pasture to good condition in most areas.

4. CEREAL SUPPLY/DEMAND SITUATION, 2005/06

4.1. Cereal markets and prices

Overall, inflationary pressures eased considerably in 2004 compared to 2002 and 2003 (Fig. 3