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Food crisis poses biggest test to Thabane’s admin

THE current food crisis situation presents the biggest challenge to the three-month-old administration headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Thabane told Lesotho Television on Thursday that Lesotho is in the grip of a national food emergency.
He said a vulnerability assessment conducted by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) had concluded that an estimated 725 519 people, about 40 percent of Lesotho’s 1.8 million people, will require food aid this year until the next harvest in April, or they will starve.
That is a frightening prospect.
He added that last year’s cropping season had generally been a failure as it produced just 16 788 metric tons “which comprises only 20 percent of the national food requirements”.
The candid manner in which Thabane dealt with the crisis left no one in doubt about the magnitude of the crisis at hand.
We want to commend the government for moving swiftly in acknowledging the magnitude of the crisis and declaring it a national emergency.
The government will be judged on the basis of how it responds to this emergency.
Much more frightening is the admission by Thabane that this food crisis could have a devastating impact on women, the HIV infected, orphans and children under the age of five.
This segment of society is already in dire straits and a food crisis could certainly worsen their plight.
They need help, urgently.
We hope the government moves quickly to put in place adequate social safety nets to cushion these people from the crisis.
We also expect government to mobilise all resources to fight hunger. We must cut non-essential luxuries and channel those resources towards this “mother-of-all-fights” against hunger.
Thabane’s call on Lesotho’s development partners and friends in the international community to help alleviate the crisis could therefore not have come at a better time.
While the government’s appeal for help might work in the short-term we believe the key in fighting this monster lies in revolutionising our approach to agriculture.
As we have argued in previous editorials, it is an embarrassment when a nation cannot feed itself. For Lesotho to fix this blot we need to pump in huge resources in the agriculture sector and grow crops on a commercial basis.
We must learn from our neighbours in the Free State how best we can utilise the little arable land at our disposal for our maximum benefit.
We are also convinced there is no harm in actively encouraging urban farming to deal with the food insecurity situation.
We note that Thabane’s administration got elected into power on the back of grandiose promises to fight hunger. We are watching closely to see if he will be a man of his word.
Judging by his statement on Thursday there is no doubt that Thabane has the appetite to fight hunger and roll back the frontiers of poverty.
But political will alone might not be enough.
We anxiously wait to see what programmes his government will implement to transform the grand plans in his party’s manifesto into reality.
This is important in light of grim predictions that hunger might be a constant thorn in the flesh for Lesotho and other developing countries for the next 10 years, according to an International Food Security Assessment Report for 2010-2022 by the United States Department of Agriculture (Economic Research Service) on Sub-Saharan Africa issued last month.
The report says, in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Eritrea the population is “projected to remain food insecure throughout the projection period”.
The report says this is likely to be so because Lesotho’s agricultural output is characterised by wide swings in output due to “rainfall variability”.
But lack of rainfall need not be an excuse for Lesotho, a country endowed with vast water resources.
Isn’t it time we plan to put vast tracts of land under irrigation?

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