Lesotho is a mountainous lower middle-income country that occupies an area of 30,000 km2 and is ranked 158 out of 186 countries according to the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index. One quarter of the country's 1.8 million people (source Census 2006) live in mountainous districts and about 67 percent are considered poor. Key threats confining the country's development include chronic poverty, high unemployment rates, food insecurity exacerbated by weather-related shocks, widespread chronic malnutrition with stunting for children under five years at 39 percent, iron deficiency anaemia at 47 percent, HIV and AIDS at 23.3 percent-the third highest in the world. Grandparents often need to provide and care for orphans whose parents have died from AIDS - there are about 360,000 orphans in Lesotho.
Lesotho has faced the devastating effects of two successive crop failures compounded by a litany of socio-economic adversities. The preliminary results of the 2013/14 Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) estimate that 223,055 individuals will face food insecurity. Although this is an improvement from last year's report, there are still serious issues to overcome. In 2012 the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) estimated that at least 36% of the population (725,000 individuals / 145,000 households) would be food insecure.
The 2012/13 Bureau of Statistics Crop Forecast have indicated that production of sorghum and wheat will be higher compared to last year's production (2012 was the lowest in 5 years). However more work is required to improve production beyond the 2009/10 results.
Although 82 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture and informal sector activities in rural areas, this only contributes to about 10 percent of the GDP (down from 12 percent in 2001). Lesotho's "Education Sector Strategic Plan 2005-2015", aims to expand access to basic education for all and improve the quality and efficiency of the education system by providing free school meals. However many poor households cannot meet associated education costs. Enrollment and attendance in lower grades increased significantly in the wake of the Government's introduction of free primary education, however, drop-out rates are high at higher grades. Even with free education, many poor households cannot meet associated education costs.