Agriculture employs a modest 57 percent of the labor force , mostly on subsistence farms. This figure is lower than similar developing countries as the mountain environment offers less terrain for growing crops and many adult males work in South African mines. While the CIA World Factbook estimates that 35 percent of the male wage earners do work in South African mines, it also estimates that 86 percent of the resident population is involved in subsistence agriculture, a much higher number.
Most crops and livestock are produced in small villages distant from the major roads. The products are consumed locally with the surplus shipped for sale and profit in outside markets. Maize, wheat, and sorghum predominate. As a percentage of the GDP, farming has declined from 50 percent in the 1970s, to just 18 percent in 2000. During the 1990s, about 13 percent of the country was cultivated. This amount is shrinking as soil erosion, droughts, and the destruction of farm equipment during civil unrest in 1998 take a cumulative toll. To stimulate exports to South Africa, the government is liberalizing price controls , improving roads, and encouraging monocropping of cut flowers, asparagus, and fruits.
Most farmers also raise livestock to supplement crops and maintain "food security" during drought years when crop yields are low. Animal husbandry is important everywhere and is often the only revenue source in the higher elevations. Sheep and goats that produce meat, milk, and very high quality wool and mohair are the most important animals. Cattle are also increasing because they fetch more lucrative contracts.
Lesotho's forest cover is very fragmented as neither the arid lowlands nor the colder highlands favor tree growth. The best stands are in riparian sites (located on the bank of a natural watercourse) and in sheltered mountain hillsides. Aggressive wood collection for cooking, warmth, and home construction prevents trees from attaining commercial stature. The Ministry of Agriculture manages one 874-hectare (2,518-acre) forest reserve of mostly rapidly growing eucalyptus. Fishing resources are also minimal in this landlocked country with no significant lakes. There is sport fishing for river trout, and village cooperatives are experimenting with fishponds (mostly carp) to boost protein in the local diet.