MOKEMA Homestead Eco-tourism Association has relaunched its Mokema Natural Heritage Conservation tourism project that is aimed at preserving and maintaining the area’s rich natural and cultural heritage.
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The relaunch was held at Thabana-Bokoro in Mokema on the outskirts of Maseru at an event that was attended by the Ministry of Tourism, the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) represented by its Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP), legislators and University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao.
LTDC public relations manager ‘Manchafalo Motšoeneng said the natural heritage conservation project is a living testimony of the potential that ecotourism can offer to the communities especially the youth.
She added that the initiative is directly addressing the government’s sustainable development agenda as it emphasises environmental conservation which is essential for tourist attraction.
“We regard this as an important initiative which is significantly contributing towards advancing the tourism agenda in the country and we would like to assure them of our support in their journey,” Ms Motšoeneng said.
As part of the support to the Mokema project, LTDC also donated branded blankets for herd boys to use during the Cow Festival which is held in August annually. The festival is also marketed through the LTDC website, newsletters and included on the national tourism calendar.
The ecotourism association was established in 2011 to preserve and maintain Mokema’s rich natural and cultural heritage as an important element in sustainable tourism. It has preserved tourist attractions and established activities like the Mokema Cow Festival to bring forth a unique tourism package.
The association has developed a tourism package called Tour De Mokema, which covers different tourist attractions within Mokema at one inclusive price.
The natural heritage places that have been preserved under the Mokema Project include Thabana Bokoro or Mount Bowker, which is a historical monument; a sprawling wetlands area which is home to a host of 12 species of exotic water birds near Thabana-Bokoro; Bushmen art-painted cave at Ha Khoho, Ha Raboshabane famous slippery rock structure and Bohomeng’s mysterious dark tunnel among others.
Thabana-Boroko is a small hillock a named after a British Ambassador to Lesotho, James Henry Bowker who lived in the area around 1868.
This place is regarded as the earliest form of Lesotho’s capital, since it is where the founder of Basotho nation Moshoeshoe I convened a meeting for the signing of the agreement that saw Lesotho being a protectorate under the British government as the Boers were fast conquering many parts of the modern-day Lesotho. The place also has two unidentified graves which are believed to date back to 1868-69.
As part of preserving heritage, the Mokema project has erected a half body statue of Mr Bowker on top of the hillock.
Through engaging the community living in the area, the project has successfully preserved the sprawling wet land area from livestock grazing as well as barring use agricultural activities in the preserved area.
According to the chairperson of the association, Leloko Lisanyane, the idea behind the association is to preserve heritage for future generations.
“If nobody ensures that these history bearing places are not preserved, we will have future generations who do not have the kind of rich history about themselves.”
Prof Mahao, as a prominent member of Mokema community said the association is doing an important job of restoring the country’s natural heritage which have been carelessly destroyed by the inhabitants of the area.
“When I was growing up there used be a lot of reeds around the wetlands with a lot of water but that has since made way for agriculture.
“Those reeds, which are useful natural resources for our people, are no more. That is why today we thank these youths for overturning the actions of us their elders,” Prof Mahao said.
Prof Mahao the youths’ initiative was also contributing towards reducing unemployment as they have created jobs for themselves and others.
He promised to throw his weight behind the initiative as it is showcasing the beauty that is within Lesotho.
Meanwhile, the association also announced five educational sponsorships to vulnerable children from the area who will be assisted with school fees from forms A to E. This is part of the association’s social responsibility initiative.
“This is our way of giving back to the community as well as to encourage children to take interest in preserving and showcasing heritage.
“We would like to emphasise and showcase how taking part in preserving our heritage can positively impact on improving livelihoods,” Mr Lisanyane said.
Mokema Natural Heritage Conservation Project is financially supported by the Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under its Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP).