THE Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation LTDC) has started injecting part of the funds generated by key tourist attractions into community development projects.
The first beneficiary was the Ha-Ramokoatsi community, which is home to the Ha-Ramokoatsi Recreational Park which received M5000 last week.
The funds are to be used for collective community upliftment interventions to be identified by the villagers.
LTDC public relations manager, ‘Manchafalo Motsoeneng, this week told the Lesotho Times during a tour of the community that the initiative was part of their empowerment drive to strengthen community participation and beneficiation around the country’s key tourist attractions.
She said this would help enhance tourist experience and the length of stay in the country and the attractions.
The LTDC has mobilised the Ha-Ramokoatsi community into establishing a community tourism development group, which liaises between the people and the management of the recreational site.
The Ha-Ramokoatsi facility is being operated by the LTDC, after the private operator who used to run it was released in 2017 allegedly for breach of contract. However, plans are underway to soon hand it back to another private operator.
“The LTDC has signed agreements with the Community Tourism Development Groups (CTDG’s) for them to receive 10 percent of the annual gate collections for establishment of a fund which the community will use for developments that will enhance their livelihoods,” Ms Motsoeneng said.
“The money, which the community will use for developmental projects, was disbursed last week.”
Ms Motsoeneng said the same community capacity building programme is being implemented in Semonkong where the LTDC will soon handover M14 000 to the community.
“This initiative is meant to instill a sense of ownership of the attraction facilities to the communities, and this will strengthen the tourism value chain as tourism takes place within the community.”
She said bringing villagers closer to the tourist attraction sites also diffuses their hostility towards tourists.
When the Lesotho Times crew visited the Ha-Ramokoatsi community this week, the villagers said they were happy to be finally benefiting from the park.
One of the villagers, Puleng Ramokoatsi said benefiting from the park would encourage the villagers to support and market it.
“We were feeling excluded from the project and we mostly did not care what happens to it. But now I feel happy we are part of the project and also benefiting it.”
‘Mamosuoe Ramokoatsi, the chairperson of the CTDG also hailed the new arrangement.
“I am happy with what is happening at the park now that we that are getting something from its operation. This will make it easier for us to work towards its success.”
She said they were planning to use the funding from LTDC to solve their water challenges.
“We have a dire need for water supply in the area, as our only water tap is broken. So, we are going to use the funds to repair it or finance the drilling of a borehole,” Ms Ramokoatsi said.