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Government must deal with food security crisis

THE Bureau of Statistics has estimated major declines in both the area planted and yields for the 2011-12 agriculture season.
It says overall area planted during the 2011-12 season decreased by a massive 40 percent.
But if you think that is bad news then wait until you hear the worst part.
The bureau says the yield of maize, our staple food, dropped by a whopping 77 percent this season.
Yields of sorghum and wheat also fell significantly, the bureau says.
We must be very afraid.
Aid agencies have already started warning of a massive disaster in Lesotho.
The Disaster Management Authority is also in panic mode.
Their fears are justified because more than 60 percent of Basotho are subsistence farmers.
To say they are starring tough times ahead will be an understatement.
Hundreds of thousands of Basotho will need food aid if they are to survive until the next harvest.
Yet as a country we must not pretend we didn’t see this disaster coming.
Lesotho’s agriculture sector has been in continuous decline for the past three decades.
Agriculture’s contribution to the GDP slumped from a high of 25 percent in the 1980s to around 10 percent in the 1990s.
And last year it contributed a mere 7.7 percent to the GDP.
This is despite the fact that about 82 percent of Lesotho 1.8 million people are involved in agriculture.
In the 1980s Lesotho used to produce 80 percent of cereal needs but now it can only manage a measly 30 percent.
It is correct to say that poor rains and climate change have contributed to this dire situation but as a country we must also take responsibility for neglecting an economic sector that sustains the majority of our people.
The previous government did not do enough to boost agriculture production.
The disaster we are facing now is a result of our failure to prioritise food security.
We now have to cobble up urgent solutions to avert massive starvation in the rural areas before we start thinking
about a proper national strategy to revive the ailing agriculture sector.
In the meantime we will have to deal with galloping food prices which are precisely a result of our failure to produce our own food.
The new government will, in part, be judged on how it will deal with this looming crisis.
Time is not on its side.
Many families have either reduced their meals or they are already starving.
To wait any longer before intervening will be the highest level of recklessness.
We are talking about people who were already living in abject poverty even before their crops failed.
We are talking about thousands of child-headed families that were already scrounging around for food even when the country had a good season.
Imagine then what happens to those people when the whole country has had a terrible season like 2011-12.
The government must not wait until people start starving to death before it acts.
Also, it must not wait for international aid organisations to take the lead.
This is a national disaster and it requires the government to take the lead.

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