The State of Hunger in Lesotho

Hunger in Lesotho
Despite the government’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 2, hunger in Lesotho is worsening. Most recently, drought has ravaged Lesotho, exacerbating the problem and diminishing any effects of progress. This El-Niño induced drought has left Lesotho in a food security crisis, causing 30% of the population to face acute food insecurity. On top of this, 508,125 people in Lesotho are already listed as food insecure.

Pervasive Hunger in Lesotho

More than half of the population in Lesotho lives on less than $1 a day, which is categorized as extreme poverty. Nearly 80% of the population lives in rural areas and approximately 70% of those people engage in subsistence farming. As a result, agriculture provides not only the majority of the food for families, it also provides much of their income. Countries with high rates of subsistence farming are even more susceptible to food insecurity than others. When subsistence farmers do not yield their crop, they are left with no food and no income to go buy food. This can quickly turn into a food crisis implicating the health and lives of many people.

On top of the high rates of subsistence farming, the climate in Lesotho makes it challenging to maintain high crop yields. Droughts are not a rare event. Weather in Lesotho is very unpredictable, with inconsistent rainfall and persistent droughts common. Despite many citizens engaging in subsistence farming, only 10% of the land is arable. Soil erosion is especially pervasive in Lesotho, exacerbated by droughts. All of these factors contribute to the state of hunger in Lesotho and are why hunger in the country is particularly frightening.

Negative Effects of Hunger

Hunger can and does kill many people every year. Aside from food being a necessity for the survival of human beings, there are other negative ramifications associated with hunger in Lesotho.

Hunger exacerbates inequality, including gender inequality. Women who are food insecure often have to travel long distances to find work. As a result, they are more susceptible to sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. The work they are traveling to do is often exploitative as well, as many become “domestic workers trading sex for money or food.” Annually, women and children are the recipients of 75% of the aid provided by Help Lesotho. They are the hungriest and need the most help.

There is also a vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. Poverty affects hunger, and hunger affects poverty. Many individuals can find themselves in a poverty trap when faced with hunger. When people are poor, they might not be able to afford food. When people go hungry, they cannot work to make themselves more money. This cycle has hold of many citizens in Lesotho. More than 27% of women in Lesotho have anemia. If they do not have access to adequate nutrition, they cannot work. This cycle also impacts the country’s economy, as Lesotho loses an estimated 7.3% of its GDP due to chronic malnutrition.

What’s Being Done

To address pervasive hunger in Lesotho, many organizations are making this issue a focus of its efforts. Here are three of those organizations.

  1. The World Food Programme is funding the Lesotho Country Strategic Plan. This plan includes improving food quality and quantity while implementing sustainable farming practices to help guard against future food supply shocks. It features public work food programs and school feeding programs to ensure citizens are properly fed. Most notably, the intention is to allow a transitional government takeover. Because of this, it can be a foundational fix rather than a short-term bandage.
  2. The European Union has commissioned 4.8 million euros to help decrease hunger in Lesotho. The funding will provide food assistance directly to subsistence farming households affected by droughts and support disaster preparedness projects. Emergency aid from other donors is also needed, however, to provide immediate food security to hundreds of thousands of Lesotho residents. This aid can save tens of thousands of Lesotho lives.
  3. The Kingdom of Lesotho’s Ministry of Health has its own projects and initiatives targeting food insecurity. One of these is the Lesotho Nutrition and Health System Strengthening Project. The project budgets more than $50 million for the implementation of health and nutrition programs designed to improve food security for the workforce. The government’s commitment to striving toward the second Sustainable Development Goal is reassuring, but they need the resources to succeed.

Despite all of the work being done to alleviate the effects of food insecurity and hunger in Lesotho, more can and needs to be done. While many things would help the situation in Lesotho, helping the government gain the resources to succeed on their own is probably the most helpful in the long-term. Hopefully, with increased efforts, hunger in the country will decrease in the near future.

Keagan James
Photo: Flickr