Search for:
  • Home/
  • Environment/
  • How Lesotho Plans to Address Malnutrition Amongst Children in Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek

How Lesotho Plans to Address Malnutrition Amongst Children in Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek

19 February 2024 by Mamohlakola Letuka

 Est Read Time: 7 min(s) 42 sec(s)

Quthing farmers display their produce at the launch of a four-year food program designed to strengthen the local economy by creating a market for farmers and ensuring children have access to nutritious meals. Credit: Provided.

At Mohlakoana Primary School in Quthing, a blue and white tent stretches across the playground, its expansive canopy providing shade and shelter for the day’s events.

Positioned at the forefront are small colored chairs, accommodating preschool pupils who have gathered for the occasion, focused on addressing climate change-induced food insecurity in Quthing.

Behind these children, tables and chairs are arranged in a gentle curve, evoking the ebb and flow of the sea, hosting dignitaries assembled for the event.

Adjacent to the dignitaries, another set of tables showcases a vibrant array of food items, including fresh vegetables, homemade canned fruits, eggs, and honey, each meticulously cultivated by the hardworking farmers of Quthing.

With hopeful anticipation, these farmers sit patiently behind their produce, eager for the opportunity to sell their goods by day’s end.

On the opposite side of the dignitaries’ tent, a smaller shelter provides relief from the relentless January sun, offering respite to school children in attendance. Yet, despite the efforts to accommodate everyone, the space remains limited.

Some community members opt for the comfort of sitting on the grass, their attention focused on the proceedings of the Quthing Farmers Market event, jointly organised by the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Lesotho Ministry of Education.

Together, these organisations, in collaboration with the Principality of Monaco, have spearheaded a Home-Grown School Feeding Program (HGSFP) aimed at bolstering the local economy by providing a market for farmers and ensuring children have access to nutritious meals.

Among the attendees, ‘Mathato Mosala, a mother of two young children, finds herself seated among her peers on the grass, her youngest child cradled in her arms.

With a mixture of hesitation and determination, she shares her concerns about the struggles faced by parents in Quthing, particularly in meeting the nutritional needs of preschool-aged children.

“Some families find it challenging to provide balanced meals for their children,” Mosala admits, her voice carrying a note of resolve.

With words infused with hope for a brighter future, Mosala adds: “But now, that is becoming a story of the past.”

As she speaks, her youngest child nuzzles against her, seeking comfort and nourishment through breastfeeding, a tender reminder of the bond between mother and child amidst the community’s shared aspirations for a better tomorrow.

Navigating Lesotho’s food insecurity

Lesotho’s struggle with food insecurity is a poignant narrative in southern Africa. A small landlocked nation encircled by the more prosperous South Africa, Lesotho grapples with high unemployment rates and widespread food insecurity within its borders.

Traditionally, families, particularly in rural areas, have relied on farming as a means of sustenance. For generations, the toil of farmers has been the backbone of community nourishment, their hands tilling the land to provide essential sustenance through traditional farming methods. However, this age-old practice has now become a relic of the past, unable to withstand the challenges posed by climate change.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a comprehensive system used to assess the severity and characteristics of acute food and nutrition crises, defines acute food insecurity as any condition of food shortage in a specific area at a particular time that imperils lives or livelihoods.

In September 2023, the IPC published its Acute Food Insecurity Analysis on Lesotho, covering the period from July 2023 to March 2024. The report paints a stark picture, revealing that approximately 245,000 people in rural Lesotho are confronting alarming levels of acute food insecurity.

“From October 2023 to March 2024, around 325,000 are likely to be in IPC Phase 3 or above (Crisis or worse) with eight districts of Lesotho being classified under IPC Phase 3 (Crisis),” the report states.

Despite the grim prognosis, the report offers guidance on potential pathways out of the food insecurity crisis. It emphasises the urgent need for action to bridge the food gap, safeguard and rehabilitate livelihoods, and mitigate the risk of acute malnutrition.

The report acknowledges a glimmer of hope amidst the despair, noting an overall improvement in wheat production despite the devastation caused by waterlogging from torrential rains in December 2022.

“Food availability is a minor limiting factor as food will be available either through its own production or markets which are also functional and stable. Among other shocks in the current period were high food prices, inflation, and reduced casual labor opportunities due to heavy rains which hindered 2023 weeding activities,” reads the report.

Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek hit hardest by food insecurity.

WFP Country Director and Representative, Aurore Rusiga addresses attendees. Credit: Provided.

Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek stand at the forefront of Lesotho’s battle against food insecurity, identified as the districts most profoundly affected by chronic food shortages and socio-economic vulnerability.

Compounded by their susceptibility to the ravages of climate change, these districts require urgent intervention to address protracted crises and fortify community resilience.

“According to the Integrated Context Analysis, the two districts (Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek) require longer-term programming to address conditions of protracted crises in order to improve food security, reduce risks and build resilience of the communities,” announced Aurore Rusiga, WFP Lesotho Representative & Country Director, in January 2024.

Rusiga underscores the pressing need for sustained efforts to uplift these communities. For farmer Makhojane Lekote, climate change has wrought havoc upon the agricultural landscape of Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek.

“Climate change has affected our livelihoods. Look around you, everything has turned yellow due to heat,” she lamented in an interview with Uncensored News on the side-ways of the Quthing Farmers’ Market.

Despite the adversity, Lekote found solace in the protective shield of greenhouses, which safeguarded her tomatoes from the scorching heat.

While the government has aided farmers in the form of shade nets, Lekote implores fellow farmers to procure additional nets, recognising the imperative of collective action in confronting the challenges posed by climate change.

Her sentiments resonate with local farmers supported by the WFP, as ‘Malebohang Moeketse attested to the diminished harvests experienced this year.

“If we are to compare our harvest this season with our previous one, this is not good. Unlike other times, this year we did not have enough rain season hence lack of production,” Moeketse lamented, highlighting the detrimental impact of erratic weather patterns on agricultural output.

Moeketse further elaborated on the challenges faced, citing the decimation of leafy vegetables by unidentified pests. “Now we are faced with the unknown pest that finished all our leafy vegetables,” she disclosed, expressing concern about the absence of pesticide use to address pest-related losses.

“We are discouraged against the use of pesticides. This current method (organic production) has not been effective in combating the problem,” Moeketse elucidated, echoing the sentiments of a community striving to adapt to evolving agricultural realities.

Yet, amidst the trials and tribulations, there remains a glimmer of hope.

“This project (Home-Grown School Feeding Program) will address some of the challenges in these districts and enable the development of nutrition-sensitive and inclusive food value chains, which maximize benefits for all the involved stakeholders. This will play an important role in shaping and strengthening sustainable local and national food systems,” explained Rusiga, offering a beacon of optimism for the future of Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek.

Empowering communities through home-grown school feeding program.

In the center, Yordanos Seium Pasquier, representative of the Principality of Monaco, holds up a pumpkin showcased at the Quthing Farmers Market in January 2024, as other dignitaries and farmers observe. Credit: Provided.

To address food scarcity and malnutrition among toddlers and children in Lesotho, the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Principality of Monaco, recently launched the Home-Grown School Feeding Program (HGSFP).

The HGSFP is a four-year feeding program being implemented in Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek districts. Its objective is to provide diversified school meals to Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) children in the project area to alleviate short-term hunger and enhance enrollment rates, attendance, and retention in ECCD centres.

The program also aims to bolster a sustainable procurement system by identifying and engaging smallholder farmers within and around the two districts. Identified farmers will be linked to schools, enabling them to sustain their feeding program and maintain a sustainable procurement system.

WFP received a €600,000 (M12.3 million) donation from the Principality of Monaco for four years, from 2023 to 2026, to support the provision of meals to school children.

“WFP is grateful for this generous contribution of €600,000 from the Principality of Monaco that will play a huge role in ensuring provision of meals to school children as well as training of smallholder farmers as part of the national home-grown school feeding activities in the Kingdom of Lesotho,” explained Rusiga.

The program is viewed as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between nutrition, agriculture, and social protection activities. It is expected that the programme will assist over 580 children with food security and support 300 small-scale farmers.

Among these farmers is Makhojane Lekote, a female farmer grappling with the unforgiving impacts of climate change. Prior to January 2024, Lekote planted butternut in a two-hectare field, none of which survived a destructive hailstorm.

“It breaks my heart to narrate the loss I had encountered,” Lekote lamented.

“I hoped to harvest apples from over 35 trees, but due to the hailstorm, they are all wounded and not fit for the market. When I think of my butternut, I really lose my mind,” she added, tears welling up in her eyes.

Meanwhile, Rusiga believes the Home-Grown School Feeding programme has emerged as an opportunity to improve the livelihoods of smallholder famers and local communities. She says this programme will strengthen the nexus between nutrition, agriculture and social protection.

Local stakeholders unite to aid vulnerable communities

In Maseru, World Vision Lesotho and the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) have forged a formidable partnership in the battle against climate change. This collaboration between the two organisations, rooted in faith, holds the promise of ushering in positive change through environmental stewardship and climate action.

“Our current initiative in Lesotho aims to enhance the well-being of 580,000 children and 250,000 households by 2025, focusing on climate action, health, livelihoods, water sanitation and hygiene, child protection, and faith and development,” elaborated James Nkemba Chifwelu, Country Director of World Vision Lesotho, outlining the multifaceted approach adopted by the project.

Chifwelu underscored the urgency of addressing climate change in Lesotho, recognising its profound impact on socio-economic development.

“As a child-focused, Christian humanitarian organisation, World Vision is dedicated to supporting Lesotho in meeting its climate goals and obligations under international treaties,” he emphasised.

Furthermore, Chifwelu highlighted the strategic alliance with CCL, emphasising the pivotal role of the church in fostering environmental consciousness within faith communities.

“This partnership aligns with the predominantly Christian identity of Lesotho and provides impetus for faith-based development,” he asserted.

Bishop John Joale Tlhomola, chairperson of CCL, echoed this sentiment, emphasising the church’s inherent responsibility to safeguard the climate and nurture the earth.

“We were made to manage the resources that God put on earth, to rule over things and to take care of it. God’s first command involved stewardship of the earth,” he remarked, underlining the theological imperative driving their environmental advocacy.

Please Share Our Content To Help You Own Your Story

Leave A Comment

All fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required