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The soils are poor, a result of over-grazing, over-cropping, and serious erosion, with only one-eighth of the land being arable. The population of Lesotho, in 1998, was estimated to be 2,089,289 with a growth rate of 1.9 percent.At the end of the twentieth century these figures could alter rapidly as the HIV/AIDS crisis impacts the general population.The area is ruggedly mountainous, landlocked, and completely surrounded by The Republic of South Africa.It lies between latitudes 28 degrees and 31 degrees south and longitudes 27 degrees and 30 degrees east.Lesotho is often referred to as "The Kingdom in the Sky" or "The Switzerland of southern Africa" because of the stark beauty of its rugged mountainous terrain.It is also described as "The Hostage State" due to the unfortunate situation of being completely surrounded by and dependent upon the Republic of South Africa. Covering 11,718 square miles (30,355 square kilometers), the Kingdom of Lesotho is approximately the size of Maryland.A long rainy season during the summer months (December to February) combined with freezing conditions in the winter (June to August) creates adverse travel conditions which isolate much of the highland areas.A wealth of rivers and waterfalls makes Lesotho valuable to the surrounding arid industrial areas of South Africa.
It depicts a mountaintop, conical and topknotted, which is visible from the fortress and tomb of Moshoeshoe I (pronounced mo-SHWAY-shway) near Masaru.The lowlands in the west and south rise from forty-five hundred feet (fifteen-hundred meters) to the highlands of the Maluti and Drakensberg mountain ranges whose highest point, Thabana Ntlenyana, is approximately 10,400 feet (thirty-five hundred meters).Lesotho is unique as being the only nation in the world with all of its land situated more than 3,280 feet (one thousand meters) above sea level.The homogeneous makeup of the country has allowed Lesotho to avoid much of the civil unrest that has plagued other African nations with more ethnically diverse populations.Over 80 percent of the population live in the lowlands where soil conditions are more favorable for agriculture.