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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 producers in Lesotho are subsistent farmers, 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. 


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.