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Lesotho Trout Take The Water

FILE: Two Lesotho locals dressed in costume on horseback attend the Phase One inauguration ceremony of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project in Mohale, Lesotho March 16, 2004.

Trout farming in Lesotho has grown on the back of another of the country's most famous exports: water. But here in this nation of just over two million people, among the poorest in the world, few seem to be benefiting so far from the water boom.

It's harvest time in Lejone, a small village more than two thousand meters above sea level.

Fishermen haul nets bulging with trout onto a floating platform, the first step on their journey to dinner tables in neighboring South Africa.

The southern African nation's dams have widened riverbeds, creating inlets and basins that are ideal for trout farming. But some people there say the government is putting business and profits ahead of their needs.

Large swathes of land were flooded after dams went up.

Some people lost their homes and access to farmland, receiving only small compensation in return.

Machaka Khalala, 31, said she received about $165 when the field where she used to grow corn and spinach was submerged.

Now she makes a living selling "fat cakes," a local doughnut.

"We are selling water [and trout] to South Africa but we have no water to our homes," says Joshua Sefali, a village leader in Lejone, but many of the village's stone houses with thatched roofs have no mains water or electricity.

Fish farming currently accounts for less than 0.1 percent of Lesotho's $2 billion GDP.

But as dam construction continues the country has the potential "to become the regional leader in aquaculture," according to the Lesotho National Development Corporation.

A cap on her head, Khalala was among dozens of people queueing up in the cold, a bucket in hand, on a mountain roadside.

Here, Lesotho's other fish farm hands out leftovers every week -- "the heads and backbones," Khalala said.