Lesotho, formally known as the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a tiny, landlocked African country located like an island within the borders of a larger country, Republic of South Africa. Lesotho’s high mountains, some reaching as high as 3,500 meters, and rolling, lush green terrain have earned it the nickname, “The Kingdom in the Sky”. The population of Lesotho is about 2 million and the name of its capital is Maseru. Due to poor infrastructure, remote villages are accessible only on foot or horseback. Two main problems confronting Lesotho are widespread rural poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Due to its rather unusual geographical location, the country’s economy is largely influenced by the policies and developments in the surrounding South Africa.
For administrative purposes, Lesotho is divided into 10 districts. Each district is sub-divided into constituencies (in total 88). The constituencies consist of 129 local community councils. All districts are headed by District Administrators, and have their own individual capitals.
Lesotho enjoys a variety of climates. Winters are generally cold and dry in the highlands where mountains are covered by snow. In the lowlands, temperatures are a bit high during summer but very low during the winters. Rainfall varies, but mostly occurs in the highlands.
Almost all farmers in Lesotho are subsistent, cultivating on plots of less than 1.5 hectare size. Old laws of community ownership of land are being gradually reformed. Factors like limited arable area, serious soil degradation especially in rangelands, a lack of irrigation facilities, droughts, little private investment due to land ownership laws, and low public spending on agriculture have kept the agricultural sector underdeveloped. The main crops cultivated include maize, sorghum, wheat and barley while major vegetables include beans, potatoes, and peas. Peaches, apples, apricot, peaches and walnut are main fruits. Cattle, sheep (for high quality wool and mohair), goats, horses, donkeys, pigs and poultry constitute the livestock domain.
Key Statistics and Indicators
Agricultural land (sq km)
Agricultural land (% of land area)
Arable land (hectares)
Arable land (% of land area)
Arable land (hectares per person)
Fertilizer consumption (kg per hectare of arable land)
Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)
Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)
Food exports (% of merchandise exports)
Food imports (% of merchandise imports)
GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)
Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)
Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)
Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)
Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)
Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)
Internet users (per 100 people)
Population density (people per sq. km of land area)
Rural population (% of total population)
Agricultural population (% of total population)
Total economically active population
Total economically active population in agriculture*
Total economically active population in agriculture (in %
of total economically active population)
Female economically active population in agriculture (% of
total economically active population in agriculture)*
History of Extension and the Enabling Environment
From 1924 to 1960
The first ever three Agricultural Demonstrators were appointed in 1924, long before Lesotho gained independence in 1966. The National University of Lesotho, the only institution of higher learning with a faculty of agriculture, was established in 1945 in Roma as Catholic University College by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Southern Africa.
During the period when Lesotho was still a British colony, the Department of Agriculture selected “Progressive Farmers” who could be promoted with time to the position of “Master Farmers”. The objective was to use the selected farmers as extension agents for other farmers.
The Lesotho Agricultural College was established in 1955. By 1986, the college was offering three certificate programs in general agriculture, home economics, and agriculture mechanization, and two 2-year diploma programs in general agriculture and forestry. The college was further strengthened under the USAID-funded Lesotho Agriculture Production and Institutional Support Project (LAPIS) that was implemented from 1986 to 1991. This project also upgraded and strengthened three Farmer Training Centers, located at Leribe, Mohale’s Hoek, and Matela.
Prior to the early 1960’s, when there was no formal extension service for livestock, activities like dipping, vaccinations and dosing were carried out by the Temporary Agricultural Demonstrators. In 1960, the Agricultural Information Service was established in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
During the 1980s
A GIZ-funded Mafeteng Development Project, launched in 1986, strengthened district planning, decentralization, and the agricultural extension services. Also in 1986, the IFAD-funded Soil and Water Conservation Project was started, which contributed to agricultural development in three northern districts. A SIDA/UNDP-funded Production through Conservation Program was launched in 1988 with the focus on agricultural extension and community development.
During the 1990s
The Phutiatsana Rural Development Project, funded by the African Development Bank, was started in 1990. The project concentrated on agricultural development in Berea district. The Livestock Production and Rangeland Management Improvement project, funded by the European Union was launched in 1994. The project focused on wool and mohair production. From 1996 to 2006, two IFAD-funded CARE projects (TEAM and LRAP – Livelihoods Recovery through Agriculture Program), promoted the concept of community-based Farmer Extension Facilitators in Lesotho.
Unified Extension Service
The World Bank-financed Agricultural Policy and Capacity Building Project (APCBP), implemented from 1999 to 2003, was the first major project that tried to unify four separate public approaches, being followed by the public departments, through the introduction of a single Unified Extension Service (UES). The UES was expected to have a number of features such as multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, village/community needs assessments, empowerment of farmers and organizations, demand-driven, cost-effective, and gradually leading to a level where extension services could be contracting out and also following cost sharing modality. The UES for each of 10 districts of the country was to be broadly based on the outcome of district economic strategic studies. The UES, which had 648 staff in 2009, was also to collaborate with researchers in activities such as applied research carried out on farmers’ fields.
In terms of UES implementation, the Action Learning Cycle (ALC) approach was followed for the purpose of problem identification and prioritization by the communities to prepare Community Action Plans (CAPs). Also, staff were trained to be placed at Agricultural Resource Centers located in the field. The project did introduce the UES but it failed to achieve all extension-related targets, as reported by an Implementation Completion Report of the World Bank.
Two other projects that further assisted Lesotho in adopting the ALC and CAP modalities were the World Bank-financed Sustainable Agricultural Development Program for Mountain Areas (SADPMA), and the IFAD-funded Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Program (SANRMP). The government’s Medium-Term Expenditure Plan 2006-2009 included “fast track operationlization of an effective UES in all 10 districts by March 2009”. The GIZ has supported the process through its Decentralized Rural Development Program. There has been no evaluation of the performance of the CAP approach as yet, but it has been observed that both the rural communities and the district staff are not that motivated for continued preparation of CAPs because there is little funding for their implementation. From 2006 to 2009, the Priority Support Program under the Poverty Reduction Strategy of Lesotho also used the community-based Farmer Extension Facilitators.
Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Program
The Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Program, which is jointly financed by the World Bank and IFAD, was launched around early 2012. The program’s development objective is to increase marketed output among program beneficiaries in Lesotho’s smallholder agriculture sector. The program comprises the following components:
- Increasing agricultural market opportunities. The two sub-components are: promotion of innovative agri-business initiatives; and market linkage development.
- Increasing market-oriented smallholder production. The two sub-components are preparation and implementation of Agricultural Investment Plans (AIPs); and technology packages for smallholders.
- Program management
Presently, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has overall responsibility for the public extension services, and discharges this particular function through its decentralized agricultural offices (described in the next section).
Major Institutions Providing Extension/Advisory Services
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security www.gov.ls/agric/ (not operational at the time of this writing)
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has overall responsibility for providing public extension services to the farmers. This responsibility is carried out by national, district and lower level offices under a decentralized structure.
National level: At the national level, the Department of Field Services (DFS), one of the seven departments of the Ministry, has the mandate for carrying out extension responsibilities. The DFS comprises three offices, i.e. Extension Office, Nutrition Office, and Agricultural Information Office. Each of these offices is headed by a Chief.
District level:There are seven District Offices in each district to individually cover extension, crops production, animal production, veterinary, nutrition, irrigation and horticulture. These offices are coordinated by District Agricultural Officers. A District Extension Working Group is also present in each district. There are six to eight Agricultural Resource Centers, located in various Areas of each district, and each of these centers has three to five Agricultural Resource Sub-centers located in Areas.
Area level: There are Area Extension Offices in each district, which supposedly collaborate with the five Area Technical Offices that individually cover crops, livestock, nutrition, mechanization, and irrigation. The Agricultural Assistants (AAs) are the frontline extension workers, based at the Agricultural Resource Sub-centers.
Agricultural Information Service
Agricultural Information Service (AIS) is one of the four Offices under the Department of Field Services, located in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. The AIS comprises separate Sections for radio, television, print media, campaign and library. It performs two main functions: first, to disseminate agricultural information in support of agricultural development, and second, to serve as public relations unit of the Ministry. AIS plays an important supporting role for extension as it prepares, publishes, broadcasts and telecasts useful agricultural information for farmers and other stakeholders. Its audio-visual products include posters, newsletters, extension folders, booklets, photographs, color slides, video lessons, field campaigns, farm radio broadcasts, magazines and news articles. The AIS staff works closely with the National Extension Office, and also with the District Agricultural Offices.
The following government ministries are also involved in delivering direct or indirect extension advice to farmers in their respective technical disciplines either independently or in collaboration with the extension service staff:
- Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation: Soil and water conservation; range management and forestry; integrated catchment management.
- Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship: Soil and water conservation; range management; and forestry.
- Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture: Environment and conservation.
- Ministry of Youth and Women: Women and youth clubs.
- Ministry of Industry, Trade, Cooperatives & Marketing: Marketing.
Lesotho has several parastatal organizations which are semi-autonomous or autonomous bodies such as Lesotho Highlands Development Authority and Lesotho National Development Corporation. These organizations usually facilitate the implementation of major public or donor-funded projects such as Lesotho Highlands Water Project, without engaging in complex and lengthy government bureaucratic red tape procedures, and making relatively quick decisions to expedite project operations. These parastatal organizations are not regular extension service providers, but they participate in extension activities when collaborating with externally funded rural and agricultural development projects that have extension component.
Department of Agricultural Research
The national level Department of Agricultural Research is one of the departments in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. At lower level, there are Regional Research Stations. Their role of adapting and generating improved agricultural technologies specifically for Lesotho seemingly has not been fully played due to financial constraints and some other factors. The research staff has been more active in activities like conservation of plant genetic resources, and participation in the formulation of regional research policies. The provision of extension services is not the responsibility of research institutions. However, they do collaborate with the Department of Field Services in extension matters. The conducting of trials in farmers’ fields, demonstration of released technologies in the regions, membership of extension coordination bodies at various levels, and serving as subject-matter specialists at times are examples of collaborative activities of extension and research staff.
Lesotho has three main academic institutions in Lesotho related to agriculture, and none of them is a regular provider of extension services to the farmers. However, their academic and training programs in agricultural extension and related subjects make important contribution to the extension work in the country. The three institutions are:
- National University of Lesothohttp://www.nul.ls was established in 1945 at Roma; has Faculty of Agriculture that offers diploma and degree programs (B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D.) in various fields of agriculture; the Faculty has a Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension; undertakes community block farming in the vicinity of the campus.
- Lesotho Agricultural College (located in Maseru); Also has a Leribe, Lesotho address; starting 1986, the college was strengthened for five years under a USAID project; specific information on its academic programs is not readily available.
- Lesotho College of Education www.lce.ac.ls/ Established in 1975 as National Teacher Training College; located in Maseru; although education dominates the academic program yet the Faculty of Sciences offers courses in agriculture and home economics
Agricultural extension services in Lesotho are public. Some donor-funded projects have introduced the concept of fee-based services especially for veterinary in certain areas, but it is not a common practice. Presently, no private companies provide extension and advisory services to the farmers as the country has minimal commercial agriculture for a number of reasons including the absence of land ownership rights for foreign investors. The Millennium Challenge Corporation has been assisting Lesotho in this area, and a new Land Act was passed in 2010. At times, dealers of farm inputs give extension type guidance to the farmers who buy their products. Also, some private contractors provide tractors during peak seasons in those areas where government tractors are not available. Botha-Bothe Farm Center, Boloka Hardware & Farm Equipment and Paulina Seedlings Center, located in Muela and Ha Lejone, are examples of private agricultural companies.
Apart from what various NGOs’ missions are, most of the donor-funded rural and agricultural development projects in Lesotho, and especially those funded by IFAD, have encouraged the participation of qualified NGOs in undertaking certain project activities. None of the NGOs in the country provides extension services to the farmers as a regular activity, but both international and local NGOs, while working with the farming families, do perform extension or extension type tasks in rural areas. Names of a few NGOs working on agricultural and/or rural development issues are as follows:
- Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN)
Umbrella body for NGOs in Lesotho; based in Maseru; membership about 23 NGOs; provides information on environmental NGOs.
- Rural Self-Help Development Association
Based in Maseru; has been implementing the Sustainable Land Use Program and other relevant activities in Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek districts.
(based in Mokhotlong)
- CARE Lesotho
Country office in Maseru; among other projects, this international NGO has been involved in the implementation of the Highlands Community Forestry Project near Katse Dam.
- Bethel Business and Community Development Center (BBCDC)
Based in Mt. Moorosi; works in the area of solar energy and sustainable agriculture among other environmental matters; offers training courses.
- Joining Hands Against Hunger Network (JHAH)
- Lesotho Association of Non-formal Education (LANFE)
- Lesotho National Council of Women (LNCW)
- Lesotho Youth Federation (LYFE)
- Women in Business (WIB)
An international charity/NGO founded by Prince Harry of United Kingdom and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho; works with grassroots organizations in areas linked to extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies
There are several farmers-based associations and cooperatives in Lesotho, formed with the aim of achieving maximum economic benefit for their members. However, recent developments like free trade and market liberalization have allowed imports of agricultural products from the surrounding South Africa. This has mostly benefitted the South African farmers who own large-sized farms and enjoy low cost of production as compared to the farmers of Lesotho who are subsistence and resource poor. Some of the farmers’ organizations are involved in extension activities but not on regular basis. Most of them benefit from the public extension service and also from donor-funded projects. Quite a number of associations are local, created under major projects. A few examples are given below:
- Lesotho National Farmers Union
- Lesotho Cooperative Credit Union League (LCCUL): established in 1968
- Lesotho Horticultural Farmers Association (LEHOFA): created in 2003
- Lesotho National Dairy Farmer Association (LNDFA): established in 1993
- Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA): formed in 1967
- Basotho Poultry Farmers Association (BAPOFA): started in 2001
- Sankatana Cooperative Alliance of Lesotho
- Pelaneng Range Management Association: based in Ha Lejone
List of Extension Providers
The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Lesotho. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.
Training Options for Extension Professionals
The pre-service education in agriculture may be pursued at the National University of Lesotho, Lesotho Agricultural College and Lesotho College of Education. These institutions have been briefly described in an earlier section.
Opportunities for in-service training may be explored at the following:
- The three national academic institutions, mentioned above.
- Department of Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security
- Regional Research Stations for training in specific agricultural disciplines.
- NGOs, such as Bethel Business and Community DevelopmentCenter, may be interested in organizing need-based special training courses.
- Any ongoing donor-funded projects in agricultural and rural development that have capacity building and training components.
- If funding is available, relevant institutions in South Africa may also be approached.
Info-mediaries and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension
According to the World Bank, in 2012, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Lesotho was 59.17. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 4.58. The Ministry of Science and Technology, which is responsible for ICT development in Lesotho, prepared a National ICT Policy in 2005. Ten cross-cutting catalysts have been selected by the government, in order to provide a strategic framework needed to guide successful implementation of the ICT policy and to realize national development goals as articulated in the Lesotho National Vision statement and its Poverty Reduction Strategy. One of the 10 catalysts is Agriculture and Food Security, which has the following objectives:
- Improve agriculture productivity to ensure food security for the country.
- Protect the investment of livestock farmers and prevent the spread of disease.
- Improve the flow of information between crop officers in the districts with headquarters and with the public.
- Increase access to agro-related information for farmers and other stakeholders through appropriate, scalable ICTs.
- Encourage the use of ICTs among farmers and agriculturists in order to benefit from a wide range of information services.
- Link rural agricultural producers to markets and to market information.
- Monitor the sustainable utilization of natural resources in agricultural production.
Although certain ICT in education initiatives like NEPAD eSchools Demo Project, and ICT Literacy Program have been launched in Lesotho, the only initiative in agriculture and food security so far has been a project under the Pan-African Network. This project involves Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Milan (as external service provider), Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and Faculty of Agriculture of the National University of Lesotho (as national service providers), and the extension staff at the Agricultural Resource Center located in Mahobong.
Resources and References
FAO (1996). Lesotho Country Report. Report prepared by the national authorities in the context of the preparatory process for the FAO International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, Leipzig, Germany, 17-23 June 1996. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Gwimbi, P., T.S. Thomas, S. Hachigonta, and L.M. Sibanda (2013). Chapter 4 in S. Hachigonta, G.C. Nelson, T.S. Thomas, and L.M. Sibanda (Eds.). Southern African Agriculture and Climate Change: A Comprehensive Analysis. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute
Hassan, F.M.A. and O. Ojo (2002). Lesotho: Development in a Challenging Environment: A Joint World Bank-African Development Bank Evaluation. Abidjan: The African Development Bank/ Washington, DC: The World Bank
IFAD (no date). Enabling Poor Rural People to Overcome Poverty in Lesotho. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development
IFAD (no date). Lesotho: Soil and Water Conservation and Agroforestry Program (SWCAP); Focused Evaluation. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development
Isaacs, S. (April 2007). ICT in Education in Lesotho (Lesotho Country Report from the Survey of ICT and Education; available at www.infodev.org )
Jere, P. (October 2005). Inventory and SWOT Analysis of Farmer Organizations in the SADC Region: A regional synthesis report on strengths, weaknesses, capacity needs and communication needs of FOs in the SADC; submitted to Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). Lilongwe, Malawi: PJ Development Consultancy Company
Liphoto, M. and T. Matla (July 23, 2013). Financing the Research System. Article published in The Silo
Ministry of Communications, Science & Technology, Kingdom of Lesotho (October, 2004). National ICT Policy for Lesotho; Discussion Draft
Mokone, G. and G.J. Steyn (2005). Evaluation of performance of extension workers in Lesotho. South African Journal of Agricultural Extension, Vol. 34 (2) 2005: 275-288
Mokotjo, W. and T. Kalusopa (2010). Evaluation of the Agricultural Information Service (AIS) in Lesotho. International Journal of Information Management (2010), doi;10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.01.005
Molomo, T. (2012). Towards Rural Innovation Extension Delivery in Lesotho: The Perceived Benefit of a Multi-Stakeholders Intervention Approach. Unpublished M.Sc. (agricultural extension) thesis. Pretoria, South Africa: Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria
New Agriculturist (no date). Country Profile – Lesotho
Selebalo, Q.C. (2001). Land Reform and Poverty Alleviation: Lesotho’s Experiences during the Last Two Decades. Paper presented at the Regional Conference for Land Reform Poverty Alleviation in Southern Africa, held at Pretoria, South Africa; 4-5 June, 2001
Silici, L. (2010). Conservation agriculture and sustainable crop intensification in Lesotho. Integrated Crop Management, Vol. 10 – 2010. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Thite, L.T. (2012). A Highlight on the State of Information & Communications Technology (ICT) in Lesotho. PowerPoint presentation made at the EuroAfrica-ICT FP7 Awareness & Training Workshop, held at Maseru, Lesotho; June 13-14, 2012
Turner, S.D. (April, 2009). Promoting Food Security in Lesotho: Issues and Options. Report prepared for the Priority Support Program, Lesotho
USAID Funded Lesotho Agriculture Production and Institutional Support Project (LAPIS) (July 1990). Leribe, Mohale’s Hoek & Matela Farmer Training Centers (August 1986 to July 1990). Program Termination and Assessment Report
USAID Funded Lesotho Agriculture Production and Institutional Support Project (LAPIS). March 1991. Lesotho Agriculture College (June 1986-March 1991). Program Termination and Assessment Report
World Bank (May 28, 1998). Project Appraisal Document of Agricultural Policy and Capacity Building Project. Rural Development Operations, Southern Africa Country Department, Africa Regional Office
World Bank (2011). Project Information Document (PID) Appraisal Stage for the project, “Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Program
- Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (March 2014)
- Edited by Burton E. Swanson