The Kingdom of Lesotho, a little landlocked mountainous enclave, lies within the heart of a giant country - South Africa. Politically, however, it was never connected to it. Because of its altitude Lesotho is also called The Kingdom in the Sky. But it has little in common with a prosperous kingdom in the clouds. Lesotho struggles in reality. Resources are scarce - a consequence of the harsh environment of the highland plateau and limited agricultural space in the lowlands. Almost all of Lesotho’s manufacturing industry is in the two major urban centres: Maputsoe and Maseru. Although the country has made some efforts in poverty reduction, the majority of its population is still trapped in extreme misery.
A lack of adequate job opportunities forced many people out of the country to find work in South Africa’s mines. Conversely, for decades Lesotho has exported water from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to South Africa.
The country has made good progress in provision of water, not only for export, also for its own people: more than 90 per cent of urban and more than 70 per cent of rural households have access to safe water sources. However, sanitation coverage is still not sufficient. Only half of the total number of households has access to improved sanitation facilities.
Historically, Lesotho's urban planning focused on colonial centres, while the traditional villages grew without any planning. After independence, Lesotho continued the same practice. The culture of spontaneous urban growth continues to this day. Informal settlements are growing much faster than planning authorities can influence.
Through the PSUP initiative, Ministry and City Government officials have been trained on participatory urban assessment, results-based management, gender, human rights-based approaches as well as planning, basic urban services, housing and land issues. Also, a Country Team was established to coordinate and spearhead housing and slum upgrading initiatives. Urban actors and residents were mobilized and engaged through bilateral and multilateral forums that culminated in a city-wide consultation. An understanding and commitment to the right of participation in urban decision making has been achieved with commitment to provide secure tenure and legislation review.
PSUP has been included in the government budget, allowing for the sustainability of urban poverty reduction actions. Commitment to design a participatory slum upgrading programme has been achieved following the first results of the urban profiling, as well as a co-financing of USD 60,000 for an in-depth housing policy review for slum upgrading and prevention. Priority areas identified for action include strengthening basic urban services through capacity building and better financial management, strengthening partnerships amongst urban actors, development of a housing policy and the physical upgrading of existing slums. In addition, the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftainship and Parliamentary Affairs has been supported to develop a National Housing Strategy in response to the fast growing urban population and the housing needs.