Ms Motlatsi in her ripening wheat field in Mokhotlong

Family recovering after drought in Lesotho

06/12/2007

In 2006/2007, Lesotho faced the worst drought in 30 years. In this country, where over 80 percent of the people depend on agriculture for food as well as money to buy food, most people failed to harvest anything from their fields.

FAO received a United Nations CERF grant to assist affected families in recovering their productive capacity. Most of the CERF grant was used to provide 20 200 drought-affected farming households with inputs (seeds, fertilizers, tools and access to tractors to prepare fields) to enable them to plant during the next cropping season. Good quality seeds planted in time can determine whether or not there will be a harvest. Forty-four ITFs were organized in six of Lesotho’s ten districts. The remaining four districts were covered by another fund.

Ms Matebalo Motlatsi, a 70 year-old from Malefiloane Village in Mokhotlong district, was one such farmer. Her family comprises of eight members (herself, her husband, three daughters and three sons). When her husband was working, the family had money to buy most of their food requirements. The family’s fortunes changed drastically when her husband lost his job in the South African mines in 1982. Since that time, the family has depended entirely on what they can produce from their two fields, as there is no one formally employed. Their harvest varies from year to year, depending on weather patterns, input availability, pests and diseases.

Their harvest was usually sufficient to feed the family of eight year-round, reserve some of the harvest as the following season’s seed and sell a portion to meet other household needs. However, last season was her worst, when she harvested only a fraction of what she would normally get. As a result, she was not able to sell anything and, without the assistance from the CERF grant, she would have had to use some of the grain reserved for food as seed. The assistance allowed her to use her previous harvest for food, and at the same time access quality inputs for the following planting season.

From the ITF, she managed to buy 10 kg of wheat seed, 2 kg of peas, 10 kg of potatoes and some agricultural equipment. With these inputs, she managed to plant her two fields; potatoes and peas intercropped and wheat on 0.3 hectares and 0.4 hectares respectively. Furthermore, because the fairs were held at the end of August, she was able to plant in September, which is the optimal planting time. Despite some hail damage to her crop, she expects a good harvest from her wheat crop before the end of the year.