Lesotho Geography and Economy

Lesotho Geography and Economy


Originally inhabited by Khoisanid people (Bushmen and Hottentots), who left various traces of their presence in suggestive rock graffiti, the territory of Lesotho was permanently occupied by the Bantu groupof the basutho or sotho, probably in the sec. XVIII; the current population, in fact, is made up almost exclusively of Sotho (80%), followed by Zulu (14%) and other ethnic groups (6%). The country’s population, which has increased rapidly since the beginning of the twentieth century, experienced a negative growth rate between 2000 and 2005; life expectancy is very low, so much so that in 2004 it did not reach 40 years on average. Lesotho has a density of 63 residents / km², very high for an African country, especially in relation to the morphology and climatic conditions that are not always favorable, but above all in relation to economic resources. Almost all the population lives in the villages, which have the kraal at the center, the cattle enclosure: a typical form of settlement, linked to an agricultural-pastoral economy. The western part of the country is the most densely populated, hosting the largest centers, such as Mafeteng, Leribe and the capital Maseru, the main economic and industrial center developed along the railway line that connects it with Kimberley, in South Africa. The standard of living is low and many residents (about one fifth of the workforce) are forced to emigrate, albeit temporarily, to South Africa, to mines and plantations. Visit harvardshoes.com for Africa geography.


Lesotho has poor vegetation, with mountainous grasslands and, in the western part of the country where rainfall is less abundant, a leaner grassland with hints of steppe and xerophilous plants. On the eastern side and on the mountainous sides most affected by the rains, arboreal spots grow. The small size, combined with the high altitude and the limited range of natural habitats make the country a difficult territory for animal life. Baboons and jackals are very common, moreover there are numerous species of birds, including the rare hermit ibis (Geronticus eremita). The entire vegetation has been profoundly transformed by man and everywhere the land is subject to erosion as a result of their prolonged and irrational exploitation (deforestation). Only 0.2% of the territory is protected: there are two national parks.


The geographical position of Lesotho, completely surrounded by South Africa and without an outlet to the sea, its predominantly mountainous territory and the scarcity of resources it has, are the factors that negatively affect its development possibilities (GDP per capita US $ 661 in 2008). The fate of Lesotho depends almost entirely on South Africa which, in addition to providing substantial financial aid, offers opportunities for work as miners to a large number of immigrants. In confirmation of this link, the country was affected in the 1980s by the recession that occurred across the border following the application of international sanctions; moreover, a currency agreement provides that in the country, in addition to the issuance of the national currency (the lati), there is also the legal tender of the rand, the currency of South Africa. The country’s greatest resource is its water heritage: in 1986 the large hydraulic project (Lesotho Highlands Water Project): a large artificial basin built near Muela on the Orange River which has allowed the country to achieve energy self-sufficiency. GDP in 2008 stood at US $ 1,620 million, but international aid remains indispensable, which comes (as well as from its large neighbor) mainly from the US, the EU and the African Development Bank. § The economy is based on almost pure subsistence agriculture and livestock farming, which provide most of the national income and which can be said to occupy the entire active population; their production however fails to guarantee the food self-sufficiency of the country. The arable land affects only a small part of the territorial surface; main agricultural products are maize and wheat, followed by other cereals, such as barley and sorghum, and some vegetables and legumes. § Over half of the territory is made up of permanent meadows and pastures: these are the support of the livestock heritage, a good resource for the country but which is affected by pastoral overload: it poses serious problems for the high erosion and the degradation of the soils that inevitably determines; sheep (from which wool is obtained for export) and goats prevail, but cattle and horses are also quite numerous, the latter also used as means of transport. § Industry is almost absent; the main sector is textiles. The manufacturing sector, at the service of very modest domestic consumption, has nevertheless received a certain boost from the state body Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), thanks to which some workshops have been created for cutting diamonds, small chemical complexes, furniture factories, tanneries etc. § Mining activities are limited to the exploitation of the not huge diamond deposits which, however, supply the first export commodity. § The trade balance is in deficit, since exports (wool and diamonds) do not in any way cover imports (foodstuffs, machinery and means of transport). § The harsh morphology of the territory makes communications particularly difficult; the road network developed for approx. 4900 km (1999), only partially accessible all year round; railways are missing except for the short section that connects Maseru with Marseilles, on the Bloemfontein-Natal line (South Africa). The capital is home to an airport.

Lesotho Geography and Economy

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