When Lesotho issued some postage stamps to mark the United Nations Year of Eco-Tourism, we felt deeply honoured because a picture of the main house of Morija Guest Houses was chosen to be made into one of the six special stamps! See photo on right.
At Morija Guest Houses, we strive to:
Respect the local environment:
- The guest houses are built with local materials: sandstone, trees from the nearby woodlot and thatching grass. The cottages below the main house are smeared with a mixture of mud and cow dung according to the traditional method.
- The houses all blend perfectly in their surroundings . There's no ugly wire fencing, only wooden rails are used.
- Rubbish is disposed of as ecologically as possible: all kitchen refuse is fed to neighbours' pigs, paper and cardboard are kept for burning in the wood stove and fireplaces in winter, and all glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminium tins are taken to the recycler's. Therefore only a minimum of rubbish is burnt in deep pits that are then covered up.
- Solar power is partially used in all houses, either for lighting or for hot water. However we are also connected to mains electricity to ensure that there is always a good supply of hot water and that guests can enjoy all modern conveniences.
Work with the local community:
- All our staff are from Morija and many of them are close neighbours.
- About 20 families get water daily from our borehole thanks to a communal tap at the bottom of our plot that saves women and children a long walk to the village tap.
- We buy as many vegetables as we can from several neighbours' gardens; we also buy all our eggs locally, and occasionally chickens for meat as well.
- We work closely with the Morija Museum and Archives - a pioneer in heritage management and education in Lesotho and the organiser of the annual Morija Arts and Cultural Festival.
Facilitate authentic and mutually beneficial encounters between the tourists and the locals:
- Horse rides are offered through a neighbour who acts as a guide and works hand in hand with local horse owners. The money received from the rides goes straight to the guide and the horse owners.
- Young neighbours have made up small groups to perform traditional dances to visitors from which they get some much-appreciated pocket money.
- The local church youth choir often sings for delighted visitors and uses the money thus received to travel to and participate in choir competitions.
- Groups of overseas tourists often visit the nearby nursery school. In one instance the guides became well acquainted with the teachers and raised money to buy resources for the school.
- We organise village sleepovers: see 'Things to do'.
- In 2010, we created a small Centre for the youth of our hamlet in one of the buildings on our site. It has a library and it is also a quiet place for them to do their homework, with desks, computers and lots of resources they don't have at home. Thanks to the young foreign volunteers who run it, the Centre also gives the local youth a chance to practise their English, to get exposed to different cultures while realising the value of their own culture, and generally to gain self-confidence. Guests are always welcome to visit the Youth Centre and can contribute by helping some of the youngsters with their homework or simply by chatting with them. Donations of books, stationery, posters, etc are accepted gratefully. See www.facebook.com/hamatelayouth.