Working with communities on conservation and development

Our Community

Community development and capacity building

We’re committed to developing and building capacity in communities living adjacent to the Kruger National Park. In our work we aim to enable people and institutions to participate effectively in community conservation, communal land reform, the wildlife economy  and livelihood resilience processes, in support of their livelihoods as well as towards equitable benefit sharing. 

The establishment of the Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment has strengthened our approach towards a sustainable environment, which is people – centred focusing on the social dimensions of conservation and governance in collaboration with communities.

This is also supported by our adoption of a rights-based approach which provides a way of making direct connections between human well-being and the environment by linking biodiversity conservation and human rights in order to secure livelihoods, create healthy and productive environments, and ensure people live with dignity.

Closer to home, our neighbouring communities include 15 villages represented within the Mnisi traditional Authority, this is where many of our staff live. We liaise closely with various community structures and community based organisations in building sustainable relationships to enable us to focus on areas of strategic importance, both for the communities and the College. These collaborations include areas where we can achieve maximum sustainable community development impacts.

Where possible, the College continues to facilitate the establishment and growth of sustainable and commercially viable small and medium enterprises in these communities. In our approach, we facilitate projects, training, and linkages between businesses; and offer procurement, entrepreneurial and technical support in line with our own vision, mission and corporate governance.

Our long term goal is always to form strategic, sound, transparent and meaningful partnerships with the communities, civil society and government as we deal with community needs in an integrated and sustainable way.

However, being good neighbours extends beyond this...

Working with Nourish on Covid Relief

Tourism is the largest employer in the communities that border the Greater Kruger National Park area as well as the Southern African Wildlife College. Without income, direct and indirect beneficiaries of the wildlife tourism economy are now suffering. 

With the arrival of COVID-19, we partnered with local NPO Nourish to raise funds to help families survive these trying times, where many have lost their livelihoods. 

In the first two months this initiative fed 368 families with parcels to sustain them each for about one month.

All the dry ingredients such as rice, maize meal, flour, sugar, tea, canned foods and soaps were supplied through Spar Hoedspruit and the fruit and vegetable packs were bought through Benedict Mhlongo, a farmer in Acornhoek community.

The overall value of each food parcel is R520 and we hope that these supplies will each family of 4-8 people three weeks to one month.

This will be an on-going initiative for the rest of 2020 since many lodges in our surrounding area have announced that they will only be reopening around November 2020.

We have a list of quite a few families that we hope to keep on supporting, so for anyone looking to help us with this cause please make a donation of any size to Nourish through Paypal link below. 

Previous projects

Training and development opportunities for Mnisi Communities

The support of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as our other ad hoc donor support has historically enabled us to support community members with various knowledge and skills development needs. These development opportunities offered to the Mnisi villages include training in: the Foundational Learning Competency Certificate, specific field ranger training, the youth on the College’s specialised bridging programmes as well as the Conservation General Assistant programme.

This knowledge development extends to specific capacity building to address community needs such as experiential learning in: Community Based Natural Resource Management ( CBNRM), Stakeholder Engagement, Community Development and Conservation, Community and Conservation Governance. These learning opportunities are positioned to contribute as significant enablers for the participants to pursue careers in conservation, gain employment, self- employ or further their studies. Partnerships with other conservation implementers such as the  WWF-SA Khetha Program, have seen the implementation of Way Finder Workshops which facilitated a process aimed at enabling community leaders and representatives to systematically engage with a range of community dynamics in context of developing innovative sustainable community-conservation projects and finding transformative and innovative solutions to challenges facing the community.

Building local enterprises

As part of the College’s Phase II infrastructure development, we contributed ±R 12.9 million towards labour and specialist sub-contractors in the local communities (Welverdiend and Greater Manyeleti) over a period of 3 years. This was achieved through equitable, and fair allocation of sub-projects to seventeen (17) local contractors who in turn employed about two hundred (200) employees from the communities of Welverdiend and Greater Manyeleti ( the labour/ contractor ratio was distributed at 60:40% between our closest to our furthest villages.  

We formed a liaison committee elected by community members to ensure transparency and fairness throughout, and appointed skilled and semi-skilled members of the community who worked with these subcontractors on the new campus build. Socio-Economic impact data collected during and post the Phase II project revealed that living standards increased over the 3-year duration of the project.

Further to this, given the lack of job or contracting opportunities and development locally, it was assumed that to maintain present income levels, the participants would have to seek employment elsewhere.  For this reason, further skills development within Phase II was paramount to afford the project contractors a competitive edge in the construction field. Various economic developments are taking place in the wider Bushbuckridge area, and it is this area which will offer the best opportunities for the contractors and their staff to find work. 

Jobs Fund training

The College recruited, trained and supported the growth of 100 local enterprises along the boundary of the Kruger National Park over a two-year period through South Africa’s National Treasury’s Jobs Fund. As an organisation, we provided training and mentorship in guiding the enterprises into a position of strength and a clear understanding of conducting business in a remote, rural context.

“The real joy of our work is that we have the opportunity to engage all sectors of society, because not a living soul fails to comprehend that we all depend on the environment. With this understanding many things become possible.” ~ Sboniso Phakathi