The following morning, several of us decided to take a walk through the village of Malealea. Our young guide, LeKuo, spoke English beautifully and was happy to talk about his village and way of life. Most of the people in Malealea are subsistence farmers, growing crops and raising animals to feed themselves and their families. The Resort also provided funds to the village through the collection fees for local guides, sharing revenues generated by tours, and providing employment opportunities.
This was a typical homestead – one or two small huts that were either round with a thatched roof or, occasionally, rectangular with tin sheeting roofing held down with large stones. Frequently, a fire was burning near the doorway and farm animals were milling about in the yard.
Large parts of the village were little more than open fields. LeKuo explained that all the land belonged to the village Chief. When a young man came of age, the Chief would decide how much land to give him and where it would be located within the village.
This was the Chief’s home. LeKuo explained that the current Chief was a woman – her husband had been Chief, but had died, and her son was too young to assume his duties. She would continue as Chief until her son was at least 35 years old (he is currently about 20) and considered wise enough to become a Chief. LeKuo told us that the Chief’s responsibilities included resolving conflicts between villagers, working with the manager of the Resort to ensure funds were distributed appropriately, and acting as the village’s liaison with government administrators.
Most villagers appeared to own cattle, sheep, and/or goats. We saw shepherds tending to their small herds and other farm activities took place throughout the village.
A small general store provided goods for sale that could not be raised by the farmers. This small shop sold shoes, clothing, and a very small selection of canned goods and cleaning supplies.
As we walked back to the Resort, we passed by this fellow busily thatching a roof. The village was a busy, busy place with lots to see and do. Our time with LeKuo was over and we thanked him for his patience and hospitality. Later in the day we planned visits to a local school and the Basotho Cultural Museum.