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Climate crisis leaves many food insecure

By Liapeng Raliengoane

THABA-TSEKA – With a goal to raise awareness of the important issues surrounding hunger, food security and agriculture, World Food Day is celebrated on the day that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) was founded, which is 16October (last Saturday).

According to FAO, over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food and the global population is expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050.

Recently, Increasing adaptive Capacity of Vulnerable and Food-insecure Populations in Lesotho (IACOV) held community gatherings in Thaba-Tseka, sensitizing residents on climate change. It was from these gatherings that the residents acknowledged that the reigning food insecurity in their region is exacerbated by climate change.

The residents of Mantšonyane Ha Lephoi listed the extreme weather events they experience, which also affect food production, as follows: droughts and floods, strong winds, changes in rainfall patterns, severe storms, snow that falls during seasons that snow was never experienced.

One Villager, Chobane Lesea said these extreme weather events lead to less farming, more food insecurity, land degradation and depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity.

Ha Lephoi Area Chief, Chief Lebitso Lephoi confirmed that indeed heavy rainfall hinders farming activities thus production of food is negatively affected. He said since the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) has informed them that 2022/2023 Rainfall Season foresees normal to above normal rainfall countrywide for the period October 2022 to March 2023, they have already started planting so that when the rains come, their agricultural produce is safe.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, published on September 15 on Climate Change and Chronic Food Insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa, warns that food insecurity will get worse unless policies to mitigate the effects of climate change are put in place. This report explains that climate change can exacerbate weather conditions that hinder agriculture thus leading to food insecurity.

In other news, Ha Makunyapane residents said climate change has caused great food insecurity in their area as heavy rains and floods experienced earlier in the country washed away their produce in the fields.

A villager Teboho Khauta expressed that last year, their fields were affected by heavy rains, drought and soil erosion to the extent that the majority of the land is degraded thus leading to reduced crop production. “We are used to yielding a lot of beans due to the richness of our soil, but the last farming season we yielded a little, we are very food insecure in this area and we urge those in power to at least help us get fertilizers on time and to help us resuscitate our degraded fields.”

Ha Makunyapane Area Chief, Chief Makunyapane Makunyapane indicated that poverty is a major and serious challenge in their area, “A lot of families are struggling to have a decent meal and some even sleep on empty stomachs due to various factors which include fewer yields and lack of employment. I urge the government and relevant stakeholders to bring job opportunities to our area, for example, land resuscitation initiatives to fill up dongas and other similar projects to also create employment for villagers.”

In addition, the National Climate Change Committee Chairperson Mofihli Phaqane said climate change is real and ways to curb it include among others, planting trees, taking care of and preserving wetlands and rangelands as well as switching to renewable energy.

He said just as the residents agree and realize that climate change and weather vagaries, present and forecast, are generally compounding food insecurity and drastically changing farming activities, communities should take heed of the weather forecasts and plant seeds that thrive in their various types of soil.

At Ha Mokoto, villagers acknowledged that their agricultural produce were affected by heavy rains and drought. They urged the government to bring fertilizers closer to Thaba-tseka as they have to go as far as Ha Foso, Maseru to collect them. They also appealed that those fertilizers be availed on time, saying their planting season comes earlier due to their geographical location.

Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture report projected that food production must increase by 100% to meet the projected food demand. With yields declining, and demand for both the amount and quality of food increasing due to increased disposable income amongst developing countries, intervention is a must.

From the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation, Range Department Officer ‘Maitumeleng Tlhoboko tipped the communities that in a quest to attain food security, they should practice crop rotation in their fields, to implement soil conservation methods, to make furrows on top of their fields for moisture conservation. She also advised communities to consider beekeeping as a food security means so as to put food on the table by selling bee products like honey and propolis, to mention but a few. She added that they should seek planiculmis nees (tšane) seeds, which are good for soil conservation, from the ministry of Forestry which offers free of charge.

In the meantime, while addressing the Heads of Departments and relevant climate change stakeholders in Thaba-Tseka virtually, World Food Programme (WFP) Project Manager Nkopo Matsepe revealed that IACOV is the Government of Lesotho’s initiative, working in collaboration with WFP through the support of the Adaptation Fund.

“This project is aimed at mitigating the negative effects of climate change on vulnerable communities in Lesotho,” Matsepe added.

He further pointed out that the goal of IACOV is to enhance the adaptive capacity and build the resilience of vulnerable and food insecure households and communities to the impacts of climate change on food security.

According to the FAO 2022 The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, women are more food insecure than men in every region of the world. CARE has also recently released work demonstrating the impact of the food crisis on women; 59 percent of the 828 million people globally affected by hunger in 2021 were women, with 150 million more women facing food insecurity than men. The disparity between men’s and women’s food security is 8.4 times as great as it was in 2018 and looks set to increase with the compounding effects of the war in Ukraine, the food crisis, and inflation.

The same CARE report found that, as gender inequality increased across 109 countries, so too did food insecurity. Around the world, women and girls are mostly responsible for household food preparation (up to 90%), which affects food security for entire households.

The FAO-WFP Hunger Hotspots: October 2022-January 2023 Outlook, published on September 21, 2022, indicated that acute food insecurity is likely to continue to deteriorate in 19 hotspot countries between October 2022 and January 2023.

According to the report, based on information from the Global Report on Food Crises Mid-Year Update and additional data from the latest available analyses for eight countries and territories, the number of people who are experiencing acute food insecurity and will need urgent assistance is likely to climb to 222 million people in 53 countries and territories that the report covers. Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen all have populations facing or projected to face starvation or at risk of reaching starvation.