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Food subsidy to stave off hunger

THE government says it will likely introduce a subsidy to reduce the high cost of food with an estimated 145 250 families already experiencing serious hunger in Lesotho. Limpho Tau, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, told parliament yesterday that the government is likely to spend more than M226 million on food subsidies to stave off hunger.

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He said the government is waiting for reports from the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) and the Bureau of Statistics crop estimates to see exactly how many families have been affected.

The LVAC, he said, started its assessment on April 30 while the Bureau of Statistics completed its survey last Thursday. The bureau is however yet to submit its report to the government.

Tau said once the government receives the LVAC’s report on June 10, Cabinet will sit and study the report and work on its recommendations.

He said they are also waiting for plans from major milling companies and estimates of imported grains as well as the Department of Marketing’s price estimates before they can make a final decision on subsidies.

“Only when these have been completed can Lesotho be in a position to declare a state of emergency, or not to do so, depending on what the reports say,” Tau said.

“It is only when these studies have been completed that Lesotho’s development partners can support Lesotho,” he said.

Tau said in order to implement the recommendations to subsidise food or to declare hunger as a state of emergency, they have to build evidence of the number of people who will be affected.

To cushion the families that are already suffering, Tau said the government has put aside over M100 million to help them buy food starting from June 1 under the cash payments for community-based works.

People will work for 10 days and each will be paid M500, working in village-based projects such as building access dirt roads, land reclamation, range preservation, and other community projects.
He said 960 areas have already been identified countrywide where villagers will work for six months.

He said each constituency will have 12 areas where 15 000 people will work for the first 10 days of the month and the same number for the last 10 days.

This means in six months 180 000 people will have worked for 10 days each and earned M500.

“It is the government’s fervent belief that in this way, the money will reach directly to families that are in need, and this will enable them to buy food of their choice,” he said.

Tau said this will also enable the families to buy seeds so that they can grow food.

He said hiring of the workers will begin this month.

The government’s intervention comes after the El-Nino induced drought hit the whole southern Africa region, accompanied by a record wave of heat that caused crops to wither.

Tau said storms, floods, and hail wreaked havoc in many regions countrywide between September last year and January this year, rendering many families vulnerable to hunger.

In addition to that, sheep and goat farmers lost a quarter of their flocks to the blue tongue disease.

Soon after that a heat wave caused rivers to dry and reduced water in major dams around the country.

Staff Reporter

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