Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment (RISE)

Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment (RISE)

RISE helps empower people in rural communities across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to manage and conserve their own natural resources in a way that sustainably supports their livelihoods.


This unit was established in 2015 with the support of the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA). The goal was and still is to work with communities near and within Protected Areas to help involve them in the conservation of their natural surroundings while using their natural resources in a sustainable way. 

It is critical that we support people’s existing livelihoods while teaching conservation, so that ultimately communities can have access to regular income without over-utilising their natural resources. RISE also works to support socio-economic development by implementing legal mechanisms that allow local communities to benefit from wildlife tourism.

Supporting Partners

Department Contact Info

Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment (RISE)

Southern African Wildlife College

Sboniso Phakathi
Contact the Unit

Mon – Fri 9:00A.M. – 5:00P.M.

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RISE facilitates the community engagement programmes at the College and is involved at a number of project sites thanks to the generous support of donors. 

Project areas, past and present, include the Greater Lebombo Conservancy, the Limpopo and Olifants River Basin (funded by USAID), Mayibuye Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal, Mangalane Community in Mozambique, and the Mnisi Traditional Authority Area thanks to the support of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The RISE team has initiated a working relationship with Coaching Conservation. Coaching Conservation harnesses the power of sport and merges it with their Learning from Wildlife model. This wildlife conservation initiative’s core mission is to Inspire Kids to Care and to be more empathetic towards wildlife and the struggles they face.

As a learning-by-doing unit, our approach is more holistic than conventional Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). Working towards achieving a sustainable environment in rural areas, we treat each community project according to its unique context. We put people at the centre by prioritising resilient livelihoods and skills development in conservation and good governance.

We adopted a rights-based approach, which focuses on making direct connections between the wellbeing of people and the health of the environment. At the core of our projects, we work to establish the link between conservation and human rights. We want to ensure that people live with dignity, with secure livelihoods, and in healthy, productive environments. 

It is important that these communities are governed in a way that is inclusive of the people, allowing participation in key decision making. Through this, RISE aims to enable the sharing of benefits and encourage overall economic growth, while providing education and training on how to practice self-governance and maintain resilient incomes.

Donate to the SAWC’s RISE Unit via direct deposit

Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa

Account number: 230118860

Branch: Hoedspruit

Branch code: 052752

Account type: current account

Swift/Iban code: SBZAZAJJ

Bank address: 187 Panther street, Hoedspruit, 1380