Agriculture in Lesotho
Lesotho is a landlocked country located in the eastern part of Southern Africa and entirely surrounded by South Africa. The country is characterized by a strip of arid arable land on the western border, and steep and rugged mountainous terrain for most parts of the country . Lesotho has a land area estimated at 30,355 km 2, of which 60% is rangelands, 10 % is arable land, and the remainder is mountains and steep hills (the highlands cover about two-thirds of the country’s land area). In terms of altitude the country is located between 1400 and 3480 metres above sea level. It has four distinct agro- ecological zones, namely the lowlands (17 per cent), the mountains (59 per cent), the foothills (15 per cent) and the Senqu river valley (9 per cent). The country has a temperate climate which is marginally suitable for arable crop production, as it experiences erratic and spatially variable rainfall ranging from 500 mm per year in the Senqu River Valley to approximately 1,200 mm per year in a few locations in the northern and eastern parts of the country. The majority of Lesotho’s population lives in rural areas, where 85% make a living from agriculture. Less than 30% of the country’s needs are met through cereal production. Lesotho imports over 60% of its food requirements and livestock from South Africa.
Terracing is a regular agricultural practice in Lesotho. Crops are grown on planes that have been cut into a series resembling steps in the side of hills and mountains. Terracing works to help prevent soil erosion. The mountainous terrain means that only 10% of the land can be cultivated. Despite this, Lesotho’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture. Agricultural crop production activities in the highlands of Lesotho are mainly under smallholder rainfed systems which are characterized by very limited input use and heavy reliance on maize production. Lesotho’s primary crops are corn (maize), beans, wheat, sorghum, and peas. Maize (accounts for 60% of the cropped area), sorghum (10% to 20%), wheat (10%) and beans (about 6%). The most common production system in the country is the wheat-maize mono-cropping system, which despite its prevalence is unsustainable and insufficient to feed the country’s population. Home gardening is also an important source of horticultural produce, with an estimated 70 percent of rural households producing vegetables. Most home gardens are rainfed, supplemented with irrigation from household and/or community domestic water supplies. The produce from home gardens is mainly for self-consumption, with limited quantities for the local markets.
Livestock production in Lesotho
The main types of livestock reared are sheep and goats, as well as cattle, with a minimum livestock ownership per household ranging from around 30 to more than 300. Sheep and goats are key for the production of wool and mohair. Wool and mohair form an integral part of the economy, supporting approximately 50 percent of the rural households particularly in the mountain districts. Cattle on the other hand is mainly subsistence for household use such as draught power, milk, fuel (dung) and meat. Animals such as donkeys and horses play a major role in crop production since they are used for ploughing and transporting produce to markets. The short cycle stock (chicken and pigs), especially kept by women contribute significantly to household food security. Rearing of small ruminants and poultry under intensive management systems is common in the urban areas. Cattle are reared under an extensive system for subsistence milk and meat production. However, beef production is limited and the country relies heavily on beef imports from neighbouring South Africa.
Forestry industry in Lesotho
Lesotho is heavily deforested with forests now covering just 1.5% of the country’s land area.
Lesotho's water resources are mainly in the form of rivers. There are, however, a few medium-sized reservoirs, although the largest, Katse reservoir, is only 36 km2. The rivers form part of the Senqu (Orange) river system, the largest system south of the Zambezi. There are basically three river subsystems in Lesotho. These are the Senqu (Orange), Makhaleng and Mohokare (Caledon). The total length of these rivers and their main tributaries is about 2 160 km.
Fish industry in Lesotho
The diversity of fish species in Lesotho is very limited, consisting of only 17 species. Nine of these are indigenous and eight are exotic. The indigenous species with potential for development of capture fisheries are: small mouth yellowfish (Barbus aeneus), large mouth yellowfish (Barbus kimberleyensis), Orange river labeo or mudfish (Labeo capensis), mud mullet or moggel (Labeo umbratus) and sharp tooth [North African] catfish (Clarias gariepinus). Fish farming plays a very important role in the development of the fisheries sector in Lesotho. It is in fact the most economically viable fisheries development, with potential for further development. This is particularly true for the newly impounded Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) reservoirs, as previously the country had limited resources suitable for the development of sizeable capture fisheries.