Lesotho has suffered a drop in agricultural production of more than 70% due to flooding, late rains and early frost. This year's crop failures follow poor harvests in 2011, making many of the country's poorest farmers even more vulnerable. In addition to the latest natural calamities, Lesotho has long-term agricultural problems: lack of access to technology and inputs, and a reduction of arable land through soil erosion by rain and overgrazing.
Most of the population live in rural areas and rely largely on subsistence farming. Normally, families sell their surplus maize for extra cash. This year, however, most had to dip into that surplus to survive. Domestic production will meet only 10% of Lesotho's cereal needs, and many cannot afford imported food.
Chronic malnutrition is already extremely high. More than one in three children under five are stunted, and the current food insecurity could increase malnutrition, especially among young children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
HIV and Aids is another complicating factor. Almost a quarter of the population is HIV positive or living with Aids. The combination of low household food production and high food costs is forcing people who have Aids to make choices between buying food or life-saving medications.
Lesotho: hungry and largely forgotten as donor pledges ring hollow