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Lesotho (formerly Basutoland), land-locked kingdom surrounded by, and economically dependent on, the Republic of South Africa.

Land and climate

Part of the great plateau of South Africa, Lesotho lies mainly between 8,000 ft (2,439 m) and 11,000 ft (3,353 m). In the east and the north is the Drakensberg mountain range. The chief rivers are the Orange River and its tributaries. Annual rainfall averages less than 30 in (76 cm), and temperatures vary seasonally from 93°F (34°C) to 30°F (−1°C). Sparsely forested, Lesotho is mainly dry grassland.

People and economy

The Basuto, who comprise 99% of the population, are chiefly rural. Education is mainly in the hands of missionaries. The literacy rate is about 80%, and around 90% of the people are Christians. An agricultural country, Lesotho is heavily dependent on livestock and food crops such as wheat and maize. Poor farming techniques have resulted in a shortage of good land. Although Lesotho was opposed to apartheid, it depended heavily upon South Africa for trade and employment.


The nation was established c.1829 by Chief Moshoeshoe I, who secured British protection from Boer encroachment. As Basutoland, it was under British rule from 1884, gaining independence in 1966.


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21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Lange, Dorothea to Lilac