By Mamonehela Masupha, Volunteer, Lesotho Red Cross Society

September marks the start of the cropping season in Lesotho, bringing with it the hope of a new harvest  that could ease the food shortage in the country caused by worst drought in over four decades. Consecutive poor harvests since 2014, escalating food prices and the severe drought conditions have left hundreds of thousands of people in need of food.

To ensure that vulnerable families, particularly in the worst affected areas of Thabana Morena, Thabatseka and Sehlhabathebe, are able to make the most out of the coming cropping season, local Red Cross volunteers and staff have distributed vegetable and field crop seeds, fertilizers and farming tools to 1,800 households in these areas. Among the 9,000 people who received assistance from the Red Cross were the elderly, orphans and single-mothers with no source of income.

Mrs Matataiso T’sepe from Ha Sephelane is the sole carer of her five family members, including a sick husband.

“We have not been able to cultivate the family’s four acre crop field ever since 2012 due to the persistent drought conditions. Our vegetable patch has sustained us all these years, and the support from Lesotho Red Cross Society has made a great difference for us,” said Mrs T’sepe.

Failing crops

Similarly, 72-year-old Mrs Malikotsi Ralenkoane of Pont’seng had been relying on her eight acre crop field for food and as a source of income. “Following last year’s drought, my crops failed, and I was down with sickness for over six months. Change only came to my health after I received food assistance which met my food needs,” she said.

“I am now feeling stronger, and that is why I am here today to personally receive my share of the garden tools and vegetable seeds so that I can cultivate my field.”

Mrs Ralenkoane is also caring for two of her young grandchildren as their mother is working in South Africa.

More than 700,000 people in Lesotho have been affected by the drought and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal for 735,000 Swiff francs to support the Lesotho Red Cross in providing assistance to those in critical need.