Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment (RISE)

RISE’s primary vision is to be the benchmark for good practise in empowerment of communities to govern, manage and conserve their natural resources in support of their livelihoods across the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


The Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) unit started in 2015 via a partnership between the Southern African Wildlife College and the Worldwide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA). Through the Illegal Wildlife Trade project (IWT) funding was received from WWF as part of the UK Government’s Food and Rural Aid to kick start the project, additional funding received from the Nedbank’s Green Trust through WWF- SA.

This enabled the unit to work with communities residing near or within protected areas, so as to facilitate their involvement in conservation. Further to this the unit sought to find legal mechanisms to support the beneficiation of communities to support their livelihoods through wildlife whilst also supporting socio-economic development in the community as a whole.


RISE was established to essentially function as a mobile capacitating body for community engagement programmes linked to conservation and community based conservation as identified by the methodologies of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM).

This unit has since been formally incorporated into the Southern African Wildlife College’s operational and management structures, and currently operates in a number of project sites. RISE currently works with communities neighbouring the Greater Lebombo Conservancy, and has also worked on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Resilience of the Limpopo River and Olifant’s River Basin (RESILIM) programme.

Supported by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the RISE project has been able to also focus on the Mnisi Traditional Authority area in Mpumalanga, Mayibuye Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal and continue its work with the Mangalane Community in Mozambique.


As  a learning by doing unit (iterative and adaptive) our approach is now more holistic than conventional CBNRM. Our approach towards a sustainable environment is context driven, people-centred and includes a livelihoods resilience stream , targeted skills development  (focusing on training in the social dimensions of conservation and governance development), alongside a governance support stream in collaboration with communities (focusing on long-term site development).

Our approach is supported by our adoption of a rights-based approach which provides a way to make 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 that people live with dignity.

By supporting inclusive governance and equal and effective participation in key decision making, the College through the RISE unit aims to enable equitable benefit sharing, promote good governance and increase economic growth within communities. Whilst providing relevant and meaningful education and training for self-governance and resilience.

Contribute to the RISE outreach programme

See how you can support RISE outreach by getting in touch with programme manager Sboniso Phakathi