The dams in Lesotho’s highlands help the tiny country generate income from water exports and hydropower generation. But there are increasing problems from droughts and villagers who’ve lost their fields and grazing lands don’t feel their situation has improved.

In Lesotho, a tiny landlocked country in Southern Africa, water is a crucial issue. Though it is one of the poorest countries in the world, Lesotho plays a vital role for its richer and bigger neighbor, South Africa. It’s located in the mountains, and several important rivers rise from here – a lifeline for the entire region. In recent decades, huge dams have been built that are pumping water to South Africa. 

Without the imported water, South Africa’s economic center around Johannesburg would be left high and dry. So it sounds like a win-win: South Africa pays millions in water fees to its neighbor every year and Lesotho generates electricity from hydropower.

But for locals, the project is controversial, and ecologists are raising the alarm as well. 

This report is part of the Riffreporter project ‘Countdown Natur‘ and was supported by the European Journalism Center. 

(Report: Leonie March / Presenter: Ineke Mules)