All land in Lesotho is held by the king in trust for the Sotho nation and is apportioned on his behalf by local chiefs; non-Sotho may not hold land. Only a tenth of Lesotho's land is arable. Corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, and barley are cultivated; much of the workforce is engaged in subsistence farming. Many staples, however, must be imported from South Africa. Agricultural production has been hurt by soil exhaustion and erosion and recurring drought. Sheep are bred for wool, and cattle and Angora goats are raised.
Lesotho is a water-rich nation in a water-starved region. The Lesotho Highlands water scheme, a six-dam project scheduled to be completed in 2015, already provides water and hydroelectricity for Lesotho and South Africa. Mineral resources include some diamonds.
The country has light industries, including food and beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, and handicrafts. Tourism is also important; the country has two national parks bordering on the Drakensberg Range. Some 60,000 citizens are employed in South Africa's mining industry, down considerably from the 1980s; their remittances nonetheless provide an important source of revenue. Lesotho's main exports are clothing, footwear, road vehicles, wool and mohair, foodstuffs, and live animals. Imports include food, building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, and petroleum products. The United States, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are the main trading partners.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.