Complementing social protection benefits in Lesotho

Complementing social protection benefits in Lesotho

09/04/2018

In 2015–2016, southern Africa experienced the worst drought in 35 years, caused by El Niño, resulting in poor local crop production and high levels of food insecurity. While the 2016 winter season was critical to resuming agricultural production, even more important was the main agricultural season to ensure a good harvest in April 2017.

FAO’s emergency response was key to alleviating drought impacts in Lesotho, a country already affected by high levels of poverty, HIV/AIDS and undernutrition. To improve the food security and nutrition of the most vulnerable, FAO partnered with the Government and the World Food Programme to complement existing social protection mechanisms (cash transfers) and food assistance with home gardening inputs.

FAO provided equipment, inputs and training on home gardening and nutrition. Using locally available materials, families built keyhole gardens – a conservation agriculture technique to optimize scarce water resources and enrich soil. Assistance was provided to poor families with orphans and vulnerable children that receive cash transfers under the Government’s Child Grant Programme, or families that were receiving food or cash assistance from the World Food Programme in areas where the Government’s social protection programme is not active.

Just eight weeks after receiving the gardening and nutrition kits, families started harvesting vegetables. This improved vulnerable families’ access to fresh foods, improved their nutritional status and diversified their diet. With the vegetables they produced, families saved money that would likely otherwise have been spent on buying food.