Lesotho: the uphill journey to development

SOURCE: Vocational education and training in southern Africa: a comparative study
OUTPUT TYPE: Chapter in Monograph
SOURCE EDITOR(S): M.S.A.Akoojee, A.Gewer, S.McGrath
DEPARTMENT: Inclusive Economic Development (IED)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 2949
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/7248

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at researchoutputs@hsrc.ac.za.


Lesotho is the second smallest country in southern Africa after Swaziland, landlocked and surrounded by South Africa. The country, with its population of 2.1 million people, is one of the least developed in the world. Mountains make up almost three-quarters of the country. The lowlands, where the capital city, Maseru, is situated, constitute about one quarter of the land. About 80 per cent of the populace live in the lowlands and foothills that contain most of Lesotho's scarce productive arable land. Land in the highlands and the Senqu River Valley, which is rapidly eroding, is suitable only for grazing and for low population densities. All over the country, rainfall is sporadic and unreliable, and drought and hailstorms often wipe out entire crops. Winters are severe, with cold winds and snow flurries in the lowlands and heavy snowstorms in the mountains. The resulting problems of land shortage, soil erosion and falling productivity have been compounded by recurrent drought. Lesotho used to produce a wide variety of food crops, being once self-sufficient in food and even exporting high value agricultural produce such as asparagus to South Africa during the 1980s. However, it has now become a net importer of food as land available for agriculture has been shrinking. Lesotho has some other natural resources, including diamonds. However, it is the water sector in which it is showing the most progress. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), one of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, provides for the storing of the waters of the Orange-Senqu River in a series of dams. Water is then delivered to South Africa through an extensive network of tunnels. There is also provision for the generation of electricity for Lesotho. The governments of South Africa and Lesotho fund the project jointly with support from the World Bank.