Five families living in Kome Caves in Berea district were presented with M500 each on Thursday by the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC).
LTDC Manager-Investment Promotions, Mamello Morojele, said the money was part of proceeds realised from tourists who visit the caves that have since been declared a national heritage site.
“This initiative of giving the families money, was started by the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture in 2003 and LTDC took over in 2006. The money is aimed at helping the families who live in these caves, which are now a tourist attraction,” Ms Morojele said.
According to Ms Morojele, the families used to be given the funds every six months, but now get the money annually.
“Out of the 10 percent that we get from the Information Centre here, 20 percent of the money is distributed to the five families, while the remaining 80 percent is for the development of this community. We ask advice from the residents on the kind of development they would want to have,” Ms Morojele said.
“The money these families get is determined by the number of tourists who visit the caves. So if the tourists come in large numbers, the amount goes up, so it is important that the families treat the visitors well so that they would want to come back again or market the caves when they return to their respective countries. However, we still have a problem of tourists visiting the cave but not passing by the Information Centre to avoid paying the required fee.”
The heads of the five families—Matlalane Khutšoane, ‘Mamotonosi Ntefane, ‘Mapheello Kome, Jereta Kome and Teboho Kome—have lived in the caves for more than five decades after inheriting them from their parents and grandparents.
The caves, which were home to Chief Teleka of the Basia (cat) clan in the early 1800s, served as a hideout from other Basotho who had resorted to cannibalism during the drought of the late 1700s.
The five families still reside in the caves, and say they have no intention of leaving their comfortable mud-dwellings built inside the caves.
Nkhono ‘Mapheello Kome said she was born in 1933 and inherited her home from her parents in 1954 .
“We survive through agriculture because we have plenty of land here,” she said.
“I am so happy with this money that I have just received. I want to send my children to the shops to buy some maotoana (chicken feet), which I like so much,” Nkhono Kome said.
On her part, Nkhono ‘Matlalane Khutšoane said the caves are their home and they have no plans to leave them.
“We are so happy here. This is a village of peace which the rains do not touch. We live happily like one big family although each of us lives in her own dwelling,” Nkhono Khutšoane said.