April 2002


Lesotho is a small, land-locked country with an area of 30 350 km2. The country is entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa and is predominantly mountainous, with high plateaus. It rises from 1 500 m above sea level in the west to 3 350 m in the east, to the mountains forming the Drakensburg range. The fisheries sector currently contributes little to the overall national economy, but the development of aquaculture, in particular trout farming, is considered to have potential for substantial economic contribution. The relief of Lesotho is basically mountainous, and the country has into four agro-ecological regions. These are the lowlands, the foothills, the mountains, and the Sengu (Orange) river valley. Administratively, the country is divided into ten districts.

Lesotho's water resources are mainly in the form of rivers. There are, however, a few medium-sized reservoirs, with the largest, Katse reservoir, being only 36 km2. The rivers form part of the Sengu river system, the largest system south of the Zambezi. There are basically three river sub-systems in Lesotho. These are the Sengu, Makhaleng and Mohokare (Caledon). The total river length of these rivers and their main tributaries is about 2 160 km. The rivers have a total drainage area of about 31 000 km2 and have an estimated total runoff of 4.4 109 m3/year. Total national capture fisheries catch per annum has been estimated at 32 t. Species caught are smallmouth yellowfish (Barbus aeneus), largemouth yellowfish (Barbus kimberleyensis), Orange river labeo or mudfish (Labeo capensis), mud mullet or moggel (Labeo umbratus), sharptooth [North African] catfish (Clarias gariepinus), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, syn. Salmo gaidneri), brown trout (Salmo trutta), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), largemouth bass (Macropterus salmoides) and bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). Trout and yellowfish provide important recreational fisheries, of which further development is still expected. Potential annual yield from rivers and reservoirs is estimated at 200 to 300 t.
Aquaculture production rose to an average of 20 t during the late 1970 to early 1980s, but has currently dropped to a figure bellow 10 t. Common carp is the main farmed species. The development of cold-water aquaculture using rainbow trout is at a very advanced stage.


The overall objective of fisheries development in Lesotho is to increase fish production through the development of both capture fisheries and aquaculture, with the main goal of food security and income generation. A broad strategy for capture fisheries is to manage the fisheries in rivers and reservoirs to ensure that they are exploited on an ecologically sustainable basis and to maximize economic returns from the fisheries. Aquaculture development aims at producing fish as food and generating income from fish farming.

The focus for rural fish farming and subsistence fisheries is food security, while that for commercial trout farming is to supply table-size trout as well as eyed-ova for both the local and export markets. Actions taken to implement the strategies have included the

  • Assessment of fish stocks in water bodies capable of sustaining viable subsistence fisheries.

  • Promotion of capture fisheries through educating communities on resource utilization.

  • Promotion of rural fish farming through extension services addressing site selection, pond construction and pond management.

  • Establishment of a warm-water fish hatchery for the production of common carp fingerlings.

  • Promotion of recreational fisheries through stocking rivers and reservoirs and encouraging proper catchment management.

Fisheries development in Lesotho was initiated and continues to be maintained through donor funding, due to limited local investment in the sector. Assistance has come in the form of technical support from the Israeli government and the US Peace Corps, and also as funds through ODA [DFID], OXFAM, UNICEF, FAO, USCC and the World Bank, including through the Lesotho Highland s Water Project (LHWP). WFP has also assisted in pond construction through food-for-work.


Legislation currently in force is the Fresh Water Fish Proclamation of 1951. While the proclamation might have been good for its times, it is certainly not suitable for present management of fisheries. It tends to emphasize the hunting aspects of fisheries when there is a need to cover management, conservation and culture. These shortfalls have been noted as constraining fisheries development, and therefore new legislation is being drafted.


Lesotho's fisheries resources are limited in terms of species and resource abundance. Infrastructure specific to the sector currently consists of a warm-water fish hatchery and one experimental fish farm, both of which are government owned. Overall investment in these farms has been very limited. The construction of ponds for rural fish farming has so far required very little in terms of infrastructure, and so the overall investment in the sector is currently very limited. It is, however, envisaged that future investment will be high due to the commissioning of the giant Lesotho Highlands Water Project.


Lesotho's population is currently 2.14 million and growing at an annual growth rate 2.0%. Annual per capita consumption of fish has in turn increased from 0.2 kg in 1989 to 0.9 kg in 2000. This implies that the demand for fish increases as a result of population growth and changing eating habits at household level. As a result, the demand for fish is expected to increase. The expectation is, however, that the bulk of fish consumed will be the imported canned fish, due to its relatively lower price.
Local production of fish is nevertheless expected to increase as a result of better utilization of fisheries resources and the development of trout farming in the highlands of the country. The expectation is that trout farming will increase foreign exchange earnings rather than that there will be any substantial increase in local demand for this species, as trout is a higher priced species.


Responsibility for fisheries development, both capture fisheries and aquaculture, lies with the Fisheries Section. The Fisheries Section is one of the six sections of the Animal Production Division. The Animal Production Division, Range Management and Veterinary Services, together constitute the Department of Livestock Services (DLS), and together with six other departments constitute the Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperatives and Land Reclamation. The department of the ministry responsible for extension services, including fisheries extension, is the Department of Field Services (DFS). Although technically backstopped by fisheries headquarters staff falling under DLS, people dealing with fisheries extension are directly under the supervision of the DFS District Agricultural Officer (DAO). There are, however, informal linkages between different levels of the two departments that allow technical information to flow easily.