Lesotho is a small mountainous country covering about 30 000 sq. km. The country is landlocked and completely encircled by South Africa. Popularly referred to as the ‘Kingdom in the Sky’, three quarters of the country is made up of highlands which rise to nearly 3,500 meters in the Drakensberg Mountains. The remaining one-quarter of the country has altitudes between 1,500 and 2,000 meters. The mountainous topography of Lesotho presents difficult terrain, arable land is limited, and less than 10 percent of the country is presently under cultivation. The rural highlands are less developed and winters are severe with heavy snowfalls that often cut off the population from basic social services: education, health services and food supply. Otherwise the country has four ecological regions namely: lowlands, foothills, Senqu river valley and the mountains.
The mountains are repositories of the bulk of natural resources including water, gemstones, and endemic and globally significant biodiversity. Its human capital is another main resource. Traditionally, Lesotho depended on the exportation of its labour to South Africa, especially to the gold mines. At one time, miners’ remittances accounted for as much as 30 percent of GNP and were a particularly important household resource in rural areas. However, employment opportunities in the South African mines declined significantly for several reasons, including increased mechanization, high unemployment within South Africa itself and weakening gold prices. Through the Highlands Water Project, Lesotho has started harnessing its water resources for export to Gauteng, the densely populated industrial heartland of South Africa.
Administratively, the country is divided into 10 districts namely: ButhaButhe, Leribe, Berea, Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, Qacha’s Nek, Mokhotlong, and Thaba Tseka.
|1 994 888 (2006)|
Annual population growth:
*latest data as of March 2009 from UNESCO Institute for Statistics.