A warm smile

Lesotho is a small landlocked country surrounded by South Africa. It boasts the highest low point of any country in the world and consists of mainly mountain highlands, giving it the name ‘The Kingdom in the Sky’. Barry and Heather Mann, AIM’s country leaders, tell us more. 

Lesotho is an adventure sport playground with tourists coming to experience the beauty of the mountains, skiing in the winter, pony trekking and mountain biking in the summer. They come to have fun, but few experience the real Lesotho, a land where life is often tough. 

Lesotho ranks as one of the world’s poorest countries with its economy based on diamond mining, wool, textiles, water and tourism. If you own any well known high street clothing items from Gap, Wrangler or Levi’s, you may be surprised to find you own a pair of jeans made in Lesotho. Despite the employment these industries bring, unemployment is high and many people are forced to leave their homes and travel into South Africa in search of work, men in the mines and on farms, and women as domestic workers in homes. Each month migrant workers send much needed remittances back to family members in Lesotho but, returning workers back in the late 1990s also brought HIV infections with them too, which devastated the population. Life expectancy fell from 60 in 1990 to just 42 in 2006, but is thankfully rising again as a result of education programmes and antiretroviral drugs which are widely available. The same workers also played a significant role in bringing Covid-19 into the country more recently. Officially the Covid-19 death rate has been low, but given the challenges of testing in Lesotho it is difficult to know what the true figures actually are. 

In the mountains of Lesotho shepherds stay in remote cattle posts, tending to the animals of the stock owners who hire them. They spend many months living in small huts on the mountainsides risking their lives in snow, hail, thunderstorms, temperatures that reach -20°C at night and from stock thieves. It is a harsh and challenging life.  

Most people rely on subsistence farming for their food, but crop yields are low because of poor soil fertility and soil erosion caused by the effects of conventional farming methods introduced from the West. This has been exacerbated by the effects of climate change which has brought shifting rainfall patterns over recent years, resulting in late spring rains delaying planting, shorter growing seasons for crops to mature and long dry spells at critical times during crop growing cycles. As a result, 31% of the two million population are currently food insecure and reliant on food aid or financial support from NGOs to survive. 

Despite the many challenges faced by the Basotho people, they will always welcome you with a warm smile and wonderful hospitality. What little they have they are always willing to share, a lesson for us all.

Barry & Heather Mann

Barry & Heather Mann

Barry and Heather work with Growing Nations in Maphutseng, Lesotho. Heather is the CEO and Barry works in Communications and they are Unit Leaders for Lesotho.

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