The name Lesotho translates roughly into “the land of the people who speak Sesotho”. Officially known as the Kingdom of Lesotho (Sotho: Muso oa Lesotho), is an enclaved country in southern Africa, completely surrounded by South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size and has a population of around 2 million. The population distribution of Lesotho is 25 percent urban and 75 percent rural. However, it is estimated that the annual increase in urban population is 3.5 percent. Population density is lower in the highlands than in the western lowlands. Although the majority of the population—60.2 percent—is between 15 and 64 years of age, Lesotho has a substantial youth population numbering around 34.8 percent. Its capital and largest city is Maseru, with a population of approximately 253,000.
Previously known as Basutoland, Lesotho declared independence from the United Kingdom on the 4th October, 1966. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The economy of Lesotho is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and mining, and depends heavily on inflows of workers’ remittances and receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The majority of households subsist on farming.
There are known to be 339 bird species in Lesotho, including 10 globally threatened species and 2 introduced species, 17 reptile species, including geckos, snakes and lizards, and 60 mammal species endemic to Lesotho, including the endangered white-tailed rat.
Because of its elevation, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Most of the rain falls as summer thunderstorms. Maseru and surrounding lowlands often reach 30 °C (86 °F) in summer. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7 °C (19 °F) and the highlands to −18 °C (0 °F) at times. Snow is common in the highlands between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.