Lesotho is a small, landlocked country in southern Africa. It was formed by its first king, Moshoeshoe 1st, who took to the rugged Maloti mountain ranges to protect his people from both the Afrikaners and the British. After a period as a British protectorate and a colony, Lesotho became an independent country in 1966 but completely surrounded by what was at the time apartheid-era South Africa.
Lesotho is the only country in the world with no land falling below 1,400 m above sea level. Because of its unique position Lesotho is also the major fresh water resource for southern Africa and the site of large dams designed to store and transfer large quantities of water to the industrial and agricultural regions of South Africa.
The country is counted as one of the least developed with few resources apart from water, diamonds, the export of labour to South Africa and a small but growing garment industry. Lesotho has the third highest adult HIV prevalence in the world of around 23.5 %. According to the National Aids Commission (2008), there are an estimated 62 new infections and about 50 deaths each day.
The country’s agriculture has also been hard hit by climate impacts – both prolonged droughts and unseasonal torrential rain which strips the thin topsoil from its steep slopes. Agriculture is in crisis, and more than 70% of food requirements have to be imported.
Action Aid International has been operational in Lesotho since 2004, initially as a cross-border initiative from South Africa implementing programmes focused primarily on HIV and AIDS. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) funded Support for International Partnership Against AIDS (SIPAA), which acted as a stepping stone for the establishment of the ActionAid International Lesotho office. Building on the success of these programmes, a decision was made to register AAI in the country and AAI Lesotho was legally registered in Lesotho as an NGO in November 2005 with a constitution and a local Executive Committee of nine members.
We have identified three priority areas of focus: Food Rights, Governance and Women’s Rights as critical to the prevailing community needs and broad challenges facing them. Other themes such as education, HIV and AIDS and human security are being incorporated in the context of the above priority areas.