Moela Lodge in Khumaga has been described as a world class facility that will attract local and international tourists.
Officially opening the lodge yesterday, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said the facitity had led to increased income and skills improvement for the community members who built it.
Moela Safaris is a partnership between Mr Legatilemang Moela and Mr David Dugmore of the Lands Travel company from United Kingdom.
It sits on a land owned by Ngande Trust.
President Masisi commended Ngande Trust, saying it was an embodiment of the policy shift that his government talked about and included entrepreneurship and citizen economic empowerment.
Dr Masisi said Makgadikgadi game proof fence had to be moved from its initial location to allow the residents to benefit from the rich natural resources in Boteti like the river and wild animals.
“I am really proud of what you have done here, Mr Moela and Mr Dugmore because you have made dreams come true. If people are in doubt I just tell them, go to Khumaga, go to Moela Lodge, and they will be the witnesses of what happened here, transformational,” he said.
He described the lodge as a world class, creative and unique facility with mud beds.
Through digitisation , Dr Masisi said the story of the lodge built with mud bricks and songs of Moela choir could be taken to the whole world in any language.
He said uploading pictures of the lodge online, by connecting to the infrastructure that the government had availed and in line with the third priority of digitalization of the Reset Agenda, would enable them to instantaneously connect with the whole world.
President Masisi said his wish was that Moela Safaris could succeed so that they could share the skills that the young people need, and set up a foundation in which old women, who built the lodge could teach the younger ones the dexterity skills of decorative lekgapho so that local culture could be passed on from generation to generation.
“We wish you could use your resource and wealth to not only enable the old women and men to teach the younger ones but also copyright as well as patent the designs. Pack the stories or creativity behind the designs that enrich our culture and make us stand out as unique, attracting tourists to Botswana. Others could also transform designs of lekgapho on to canvas and paint and design unique abstract pieces,” he said.
He urged them to look to the future with hope, saying it only required one to apply mindset change by not only employing skills of lekgapho in mud houses but framing, digitizing, labelling, pricing the content of lekgapho and set up businesses.
Tourism business, he said was in the past dominated by non- cirtizens, noting that through mindset change Batswana had started venturing into the business.
He expressed concern that the overwhelming majority of concessions in the delta were owned by non- citizens.
“Our people should be the first to get the fattest worm,” he said.
Giving background of the project, Mr Moela said Moela Safaris was conceptualised years ago when he retired from Debswana mine.
He said he engaged with the community of Khumaga through Ngande Trust to lease the land to his company.
In October 2017 after agreement was reached with the community, they started doing Enviromental Impact Assessment which was completed in April 2019.
Mr Moela stated that construction was suspended for the entire 2020 to 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
He indicated that he tried to source funding from financiers but was unsuccessful. Later on, he said he partnered with Mr Dugmore , whose contribution came in handy.
The community of Khumaga was engaged to construct the lodge using natural resources found in the area.
Moela Lodge has 24 members of staff, majority being Khumaga residents.