Migration, bad weather blamed for Lesotho food insecurity

JOHANNESBURG – Cross-border migration, a late rainy season and early frost are all contributing to increased food insecurity in Lesotho, a mountainous kingdom entirely surrounded by South Africa.

"A lot of plot holdings [land] have been left without cultivation along the Lesotho-South Africa border as a result of migration," Douglas Gumbo, resilience and livelihood advisor at the UN World Food Program (WFP)'s regional office in Johannesburg, told The Anadolu Agency in an interview.

Many Basotho (as Lesotho natives are called) have migrated to South Africa, whose thriving mining industry draws a large number of migrants from South Africa's landlocked neighbors.

Gumbo said Lesotho's mountainous areas had seen a late rainy season in December, which, he warned, could affect annual food production.

If the rains come late, it usually means that crops will begin maturing when the winter season has already started and there is considerable frost.

"If you have a late onset of rains, then it's likely that the impact of early frost will affect crops," Gumbo explained.

Most crops cannot survive prolonged exposure to frost.

Gumbo said the more aggravating factors there are, the less food can be produced annually.

The mountainous kingdom has faced food insecurity for years. It experienced a serious food crisis in 2012 and 2013 due to a series of floods, late rains and early frost.

An estimated 725,000 people, nearly a third of the country's population, had required humanitarian assistance as a result of the crisis.

South Africa responded to Lesotho's food crisis by striking a deal with the WFP to purchase maize from South African farmers as part of a 180-million-Rand humanitarian donation.

"Lesotho is a perennial importer of food," Joao Manja, the WFP's regional vulnerability and mapping advisor, told AA.

"No matter how good the food production season is, they continue to import," he said.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency