Few weeks ago, the residents of Ha ‘Mamathe in the Berea District of Lesotho woke up to a carefully planned siege. Their place had been invaded in the early hours of the morning by National University of Lesotho (NUL) Economics Students, the Foot Soldiers of the Roma Valley (FSRVs).
The disciplined troops demanded to know a thing or two about a mega-tourist project planned in the area, dubbed ‘Mamathe Wonderland.
“We wanted to know the villagers’ thoughts and feelings about the proposed biopark,” said the Commander in Chief, Refiloe Mona, NUL Economics student who along with ‘Malehloa Majoro, ‘Moelo Nts’ekhe and Renang Mokeki commanded the rest of the foot soldiers.
The expedition was financially funded by the NUL and Lesotho Funeral Services (LFS), and the offensive was part of a feasibility study being done to determine the potential of the incredibly beautiful place as an exceptional tourist destination in Lesotho. NUL’s been called to assist.
If we walk back the memory lane and stop right on the 14th day of July 2016 on this page, we are greeted with this statement:
‘Mamathe Wonderland “will first emerge as a nature park. Then it will metamorphose into something of a mini-Disneyland. Then the organic city will materialize around and beyond it.”
You can be sure of this one thing. Nothing good happening in this country will escape the attention of the NUL.
That is why whereas the project was long conceived by ‘Mamathe and Khalahali residents, it has now been joined by the School in the Roma Valley and “we wanted to find out the residents’ expectations of the park,” ‘Malehloa Majoro unveiled the motives of their excursion.
“Ha ‘Mamathe and Khalahali residents own trees and agricultural fields in the area, so the sooner we engage them, the greater the likelihood that they will support this project fully,” she made a revelation.
But, you may ask, why is there so much noise about this project? Is it not just one of the tourist projects we are well too familiar with?
This is different!
That the NUL is already part of it is enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most unsuspecting of the souls.
NUL likes good things.
Here is why this is as good as it can be: You see; an average tourist place in Lesotho is about seeing!
Yes it is!
You go, you see, and you leave, never to come back again—because you saw what you wanted to see. ‘Mamathe Wonderland is on a different lane.
It’s about activity!
Let’s take the 14th day of July 2016 memory lane, again, “In this park, you will stopover and hike and camp and parachute and celebrate and balloon ride and eat and drink and dance as if there is no tomorrow.”
“Then, as the park expands, there will be zoos and aquariums and gardens and play parks, and theme parks, to school and to educate, whilst entertaining.”
The park targets the local just as the international tourists. It will be a place for playing—by the young and the old alike.
Do you recall the last time you were playing by the way?
It is true that the project is the brainchild of the ‘Mamathe residents themselves. But “If you really want the same residents to support the project, you need to respect them by first learning about their perceptions of it,” ‘Moelo Nt’seke said.
“That is the only way you can make them feel part of it—a major ingredient for its success.”
So what are the perceptions of the FSRVs so far? The analyses of the results of the study have not yet been completed, “however, we can surely tell you that the people of Ha ‘Mamathe just like it,” Renang Mokeki said.
“Some people even suggested that they would be happy to work in the project without a pay (they will be paid, of course),” said ‘Malehloa as she revealed the enthusiasm she witnessed among the villagers.
But the villagers had a clear warning as well.
You see, this is the 21st century and our communities can no longer be taken for granted. Listen to this, “they said they hoped the project better be a real deal because they were tired of being promised this and that,” Mona added.
Well, the FSRVs are working hard to ensure this project doesn’t fail. You bet!
But, lo and behold! The FSRVs themselves could not escape the magic of the place. Of course they went there to interview the residents, but they ended up being lost in the charm of the moment, as they explored the place that would soon be called ‘Mamathe Wonderland.
From the horse’s mouth:“The most stunning place I have ever seen,” ‘Moelo Nt’sekhe uttered.
“The cave is magnificent, so is the history behind it,” a bewildered Renang Mokeki made a voice.‘Malehloa Majoro gave an insight, “I was taken aback by the abundance of indigenous medicinal plants in the area.”
That is, even as Refiloe Mona elegantly summarized, “The place offers the epitome of community based tourism.” If you were them, you, surely, wouldn’t have said it any better!