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Images of Southern Africa - Lesotho scenery

Lesotho scenery

Lesotho (small landlocked mountain state) gained its independence from the UK in 1966, previously being known as Basutoland. It lies between 1400 and 3482m above sea level and has a population of 1.8 million. The population statistics for 2003 make interesting reading: the birth rate is 27.3 per thousand, the death rate 24.6 per thousand and the net migration rate is -0.74 per thousand. This gives it a population increase rate of 0.196%. Compare these data with South Africa’s: 18.87, 18.42 and -0.35 per thousand respectively, giving a rate of increase of 0.1%. At 83%, the literacy rate in Lesotho is amongst the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, at 93% the female literacy rate is well above that for men (72%).

The government of Lesotho relies on remittances from miners employed in South Africa and customs duties for most of its revenue. The controversial Lesotho Highlands Water Project has, since 1998, provided water for South Africa for which Lesotho receives royalties. Eventually the project will also provide electricity for Lesotho. (See and Collecting water 2.)

Lesotho is known as the ‘land of the people of the blanket’, which this image aptly illustrates. The mean temperatures for Maseru (altitude 1970m) range from 10°C in winter (June/July) to 25°C in summer (December/January). The photograph was taken in late July when minimum temperatures regularly fall to below freezing.

Ideas for further exploration:

Detailed information on Lesotho is provided at World Resources Institute.

  • Why do you think there are no trees in this photograph? Can you find out whether this area has always been treeless and, if so, why?
  • There are no signs of any energy supplies such as firewood, electricity and dung cakes, so how do you think the villagers cook their food?
  • What single energy source might make the most difference to the lives of these villagers?
  • The settlement in the photograph is predominantly inhabited by shepherds and their families. How might you explain their presence in this isolated area in winter?
  • What is the link between this village and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project mentioned above?
  • According to the World Resources Institute, only 18 out of 134 countries in the global South have female literacy rates that are higher than male. The female-male difference is greatest in Lesotho. Can you suggest reasons for this?

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