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Lesotho, Land and Resources

In the west, lowlands varying from about 1,500 to 1,800 m (about 5,000 to 6,000 ft) above sea level provide most of the cultivable area of Lesotho. The land rises in the east to the Drakensberg Mountains, with heights of more than 3,400 m (more than 11,000 ft). The Orange River has its source in Lesotho. The climate is mild, with hot summer days in the lowlands relieved by cool nights. Winter can be cold, particularly in the mountains, and heavy snows occasionally occur. Precipitation falls mostly from October through April. In Maseru, located in the lowlands, average temperatures range from 14° to 28°C (57° to 82°F) in January and from -1° to 16°C (30° to 61°F) in July. The city averages 690 mm (27 in) of precipitation annually.

Lesotho is poor in resources. The principal source of wealth is livestock raised on the country’s grazing land. Lesotho’s rivers and mountainous terrain offer potential for hydroelectric development. Some diamonds are found, although the country’s only large production mine closed in the early 1980s.

Much of Lesotho is permanent pasture, and there is a problem of erosion arising from unrestricted grazing. Because of the low organic content, much of the soil lacks fertility. While there are no forests in Lesotho, some reforestation has occurred. However, this is not enough to keep pace with the growing demand for fuelwood, which provides a large part of the energy requirements of the country. Less than one-half of the population has access to safe water.


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