Lesotho land reclamation project

Trip Start Jan 21, 2007
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Trip End Feb 21, 2007


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Saturday, February 3, 2007

A long day on the bus. Bjorn realized that he had left his passport and money under his pillow about 20 minutes into the day. Luckily we weren't any further along and even luckier was that they were still where he had left them. After that he used the safe like the rest of us.
 
Beautiful scenery in Golden Gate National Park: sandstone, limestone, etc. We also saw black wildebeest, springbok and gemsbok, although from very far away. We had no difficulty crossing the border. Our first glimpse of Lesotho included litter-lined roads. The capital city of Maseru is not impressive, at least not when you are just passing through.
 
We arrived at Malealea - a lovely lodge with many activities. At soon as we had put our baggage away, Lotta, Kristal and I went to see about a tour to a reclaimed donga project. Amazingly enough there was a guide available and we were immediately on our way. This project was begun by a man called Mr. Musi and is now carried on by his widow and son, who was our guide at the donga.
 
Lesotho has a major problem with erosion. Because the Basotho have had to plant on mountainous terrain, erosion has carried away much of the topsoil, causing the formation of dongas (ravines). One man in the village, Mr. Musi, had an idea to control erosion by building low stone walls. He proposed that all the villagers get together and transform the eroded land into a garden. However, the other villagers said they would only do it if the government paid them. So Mr. Musi decided to work on his project with only his own labor and that of his family.
 
At first he carried stones in an apron to build his low stone walls across the hillsides and ravines. He started at the top with the first wall, which he then planted with grass to hold the soil. Gradually he built more walls and planted trees which grew well in the wet soil at the bottom of the ravine. Next fruit trees were planted: peach, apple, guava, as well as grapes. Although he died in 1995, his wife and son carried on with the project and now an eroded ravine has become a garden. Although the other villagers have never followed his example, other people in the country have.

 
In the evening I went to a concert by the local church choir and band that played with homemade instruments. It was fantastic. Listening to this wonderful music brought home once again how lucky I was to be in Africa. The peacocks roosted in the pine trees around the concert area as the choir sang. Although this was a bit of a distraction, it added to the atmosphere. Incredibly one of the dances the band members did was the Macarena.
 
For dinner we had a meal at Malealea's restaurant, a delicious meal cooked by ladies from the village. After dinner Michelle talked about African men and her life under apartheid. When she was growing up she lived in an area for coloreds. There were different areas for whites, coloreds and blacks - each with its own infrastructure: schools, hospitals, shops, etc. Apartheid was a way of life and Michelle says that she didn't really think about it but lived it. She knew what shops she could buy in, where she could go to school, etc. As she grew up inside the system, she did not question it. After living in Germany, she returned to South Africa. By this time the situation was tense. She said you could feel the tension in the street. At this point in time, the early 1990's, the government was being forced to make a difficult decision because international sanctions and internal turmoil were reaching a stage at which the country could collapse.
 
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