Land-locked Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa and gained its independence in 1966. Mapping systems were established by British colonial agencies when the territory was Basutoland in the 1950s. The British Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS), (now Ordnance Survey International (OSI)) collaborated with the national mapping agency the Department of Lands Surveys and Physical Planning (LSPP) to map the country in a series at 1:50,000 scale. Later versions of this 60-sheet series still serve as the national map, and are published on the Transverse Mercator projection, modified Clarke 1880 ellipsoid, with the South African Survey grid. The third restructured edition was completed in 1983 and based upon new aerial coverage with 20 m contours – subsequent versions of the map use a sequential numbering system. An in-house revision program is under way for some lowland areas of the country. Other larger scale topographic programs have resulted in 1:20,000 Basic agricultural areas mapping, published in 1980 in 80 four-colour sheets with 10 m or 20 m contours covering the western third of the country, as well as a number of more local line and contoured ortho-image map projects at 1:10,000 scale, including seven-sheet coverage of Maseru revised to 1990, and 1:25,000 scale maps of the Thaba-Tsaka region. Other LSPP mapping includes 1:250,000 scale line and image maps giving two-sheet coverage of the country. There is also an extensive program of cadastral mapping and major settlements are all mapped at either 1:5,000 or 1:2,500 scale; most are issued as diazo editions, but some are contoured ortho-photo editions.
Soviet military topographic mapping of Lesotho exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (1 sheet, complete coverage, published in 1978); 1:500,000 (2 sheets, complete coverage, published in 1986) and 1:200,000 (10 sheets, complete coverage, published in 1985). These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.
The national earth sciences mapping agency is the Department of Mines and Geology (LDMG). The country is mapped in a composite (1:50,000 to 1:100,000) scale series, compiled in the early 1980s with British aid and jointly published with DOS. Western and northern areas are available as 15 full-colour 1:50,000 sheets on topographic sheet lines, the remaining two-thirds of Lesotho is published in 12 1:100,000 maps mostly covering half-degree quadrangles. These maps incorporate explanations of the geology on the sheets themselves. 1:250,000 scale mapping of the country is also available and a 1:500,000 scale gravity map has also been published.
A 1:250,000 scale hydrogeological map of Lesotho was compiled in 1994 by the Hydrological and Meteorological Services Branch of the Ministry of Land Energy and Mining, who have also produced a 1:1,000,000 scale hydrogeological coverage of the country in conjunction with the United National Development Program.
The Regional Centre for Services in Surveying Mapping and Remote Sensing (RCSSMRS) Nairobi recently completed land cover mapping of Lesotho at 1:100,000 scale, derived from SPOT imagery. Space maps covering the whole country at 1:50,000 were also published, and included some topographic enhancements. These two products formed part of the French-sponsored SIRENE project (SPOT for the Inventory of Resources and Natural Environment). DOS also carried out a variety of land resource mapping in the 1960s and 1970s, including three themes mapped at 1:250,000 scale. Responsibility for these maps passed to the Land Use Planning Department (LUPD) of the Ministry of Agriculture.
A 1:400,000 scale tourist map is currently being developed and a database of geographic names has been completed.
A town map of Maseru is published by Intratex Holdings and a general road map of the country is issued by Map Studio.