In 2001, 16% of GDP came from agriculture. Crop production in Lesotho is a high-risk, low-yield activity due to poor soil quality and a harsh climate. All land is held in trust for the Basotho nation by the king and may not be alienated. The local chiefs allocate farmland to individuals, and user rights are generally available to married males; nevertheless, one out of seven households is landless. A 1979 act increases security of tenure by recording rights of inheritance and allowing mortgaging and subletting of land. The average landholding per family head is 1.9 ha (4.7 acres).
Only 10.7% of Lesotho's land area is arable, but less than 1% has high potential. Most cultivated land is in the western lowlands. The principal food crop is corn. Main agricultural production in 1999 included (in tons) corn, 125,000; sorghum, 33,000; wheat, 15,000; dry beans, 9,000; and dry peas, 3,000. The country suffered from recurrent drought conditions in the 1980s and early 1990s. Lesotho is a large importer of grains and other foodstuffs.
Lesotho has one of the most advanced soil conservation programs in Africa. Terracing, grass stripping, and the construction of dams and irrigation canals are widely employed to cope with the severe erosion problems.