Up in the highest nature reserve in Africa accessible by motor vehicle, Mantoa Moiloa teaches people how to take care of the land and the animals and plants living on it.
“My passion for my country influenced my decision in a career,” says the 33-year-old Lesotho park manager and 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow. “I want to protect the beauty of the Mountain Kingdom for future generations.”
Moiloa manages the Bokong Nature Reserve, one of the Lesotho Northern Parks in the southern African country. It’s a position that has helped her understand that conservation and business have close ties. Lesotho “boasts” of its areas’ natural beauty, she exclaims. “We are bound to conserve our natural environment so as to keep our tourism business going,” she adds.
Moiloa holds a bachelor’s degree in technology in ecotourism management from Tshwane University of Technology. She recently transferred to Bokong from the Liphofung Cave cultural and historical site nearby.
The conservationist works on many fronts to protect her country’s natural resources. She helps Lesotho’s community conservation groups identify and approve infrastructure restoration projects. She is involved with conservation awareness campaigns and helps law enforcement officers in efforts to stop illegal wildlife poaching.
While most of Lesotho’s most beautiful but fragile lands are protected by the government, Moiloa would like to see public officials establish an independent body to manage those areas and the country’s budding ecotourism industry. That body could reach out to international partners to help it identify other areas in the country deserving of national protection and conduct environmental impact assessments of proposed development projects, she says. It also could develop local and international marketing campaigns to entice visitors to Lesotho, touting the country’s geography and wildlife.
Moiloa says ecotourism can benefit Lesotho’s citizens economically. Job-creating businesses include those that sell handicrafts made by people living in the area; guide horseback-riding, hiking and bicycling tours to remote areas; offer cultural performances; and provide meals and overnight accommodations at lodges, in homes and at camps.
Moiloa says environmentally friendly businesses can help make conservation a nationwide behavior, encouraging employees to use at home the same resource-saving practices they use at work. Such businesses “help the sustainable use of natural resources, conserving them for the next generation,” she says.
Moiloa says one way people can protect their natural surroundings is to adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles. That means doing things like recycling paper and glass products, reusing shopping bags, composting organic matter for garden fertilizer, using only the amount of water needed, not discharging pollutants into the air or water, and hunting and fishing legally.
So far, Moiloa, originally from Botha-Bothe, says that “only people in the communities near natural protected areas are aware of environmentally friendly ways of living.”
Long-term, Moiloa hopes that all Lesotho schools will teach students about the environment and conservation — lessons that are easily learned at a young age, she notes.
She urges other YALI Network members to do their part for conservation by pledging to plant at least one tree a year. “Let’s use our resources sustainably,” she implores. “The legacy of your grandchildren is in your hands.”
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.