Staff Reporter MASERU — Locally based aid organisations are worried by the slow response of donors to their appeals for funds to help avert Lesotho’s looming food crisis. The organisations had appealed for US$38.7 million (about M348 million) from donors but by October 12 they had generated only US$8.5 million (about M73 million), only 22 percent of what is required to help those in dire need of food aid.
Last week South Africa’s Business Day newspaper reported that the Central Emergency Response Fund, the UN’s humanitarian funding mechanism, had provided US$6.2 million (M53.9 million) to be administrated by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The government has already declared the food crisis a national disaster and requested help from donors. According to government figures 725 000 people or 39 percent of the population will be food insecure during the 2012/ 13 season.
This is up from 540 000 last year. The government said 230 000 of the 725 000 who will be food insecure are “especially vulnerable to hunger”. Last week Matšeliso Mojaki, head of the Disaster Management Authority (DMA), said she was worried by the slow response by donors. “We are far from reaching the amount required to bail the country out of the food crisis it’s facing, we may not even get half of that money and we strongly appeal for more donors to assist us,” said Mojaki. “We are in a dire situation and can only appeal to the international community to assist.” Mojaki revealed that the country has not developed alternative plans in case they fail to get the required amount.
“At the present moment we do not have a plan B, but are however devising a long term prevention and adaptation plan,” she said. Officials in local aid organisations say the situation is already desperate in some rural areas where households harvested little or nothing in the last season. They say if donors do not “chip in soon” the situation might get worse. Last season Lesotho produced only 10 percent of its national cereal requirements. Maize production slumped by 77 percent while sorghum production dropped by 80 percent. Wheat production was down 52 percent. What makes the situation particularly worse is that since the beginning of this year the price of maize-meal has increased by between 12 and 25 percent.
Since last December petrol prices have spiked by 12 percent. The price of diesel and paraffin is up four percent since September this year. In a country where more than half the people live on less than US$1.25 (M13) per day this spells disaster. The omens don’t look good at all. Weather forecasts released by the Southern Africa Climate Outlook Forum predict that Lesotho will receive below normal rainfall during this year’s farming season. That means while Lesotho has to battle to feed its people now it has to prepare for even worse times ahead.
The coalition government has already allocated M117 million to subsidise agricultural inputs this year.
The money will be used to by fertilisers, seeds and help farmers plough their land.
But much will depend on when the rains will come and in what amounts.