Nelson Mandela famously once said ‘…it is time for new hands to lift the burden. It is in your hands now…”. This Tourism Month serves as a reminder to all to use their talents to find ways to create positive change in society. We take a look at how some of the top tourism projects within Africa have put Mandela’s words into action over the years.
Singita, (Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa)
For almost a century, this wildlife conservation brand has been a pioneer in combining sustainable hospitality and community development. Operating in 4 countries, Singita creates an authentic expedition experience by providing eco-lodging within a number of national parks. As much as their model branches into biodiversity and sustainability, community partnerships are central to enriching economic and social livelihoods. These are achieved via a number of partnerships, trusts and fund programmes that focus on improving learning opportunities, local food production and traditional craft.
Other components include the Singita Community Culinary School – a professional cooking course empowering locals into junior chefs; and the Child Nutrition Programme aimed at benefitting over 20,000 young school children with a daily cup of ‘mahewu’ – a cereal-based drink, high in vitamins and minerals.
Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya
This gold-rated eco-tourism camp has propelled in its efforts in community building, environment and sustainability. Whilst providing a true African wilderness experience (via luxury safaris), emphasis is placed on the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT). This aims at empowering and funding the Maasai communities for natural resource management within the Massailand; as a means of preserving the historical wilderness, wildlife and local culture. In fact, it is central to the camp’s sustainability mission that almost every infrastructure on site is a result of the employing and training of the Maasai people; enriching their capacities to source raw materials and build. In addition, Campi ya Kanzi continues to foster greener innovations in water, electricity and waste management – all this whilst keeping their carbon footprint at zero!
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
At the southern tip of Africa lies an eco-reserve immersed into the different wonders of nature’s biodiversity – from tropical wilderness to botanical gardens to aquatic adventures. It has thrived on creating a progressive and inclusive goal as they work towards transforming community livelihoods within their functioning. The Grootbos Foundation is at the heart of this movement. With an initial focus on conservation of the rare fynbos vegetation, the foundation has taken bigger strides into training and boosting local community skillsets. These include ecological research, education and sports development. Ultimately, this multiple award-winning project has embarked on fusing the existing surrounding harmony with an organic way of life; that generates income for the community through agriculture, cuisine and other small businesses.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Sierra Leone
In the deep tropics of Western Africa, is a home to over 100 chimpanzees merged into the green forest canopy. Having achieved over 25 years of chimpanzee rehabilitation, Tacugama has gradually become more of a movement; as they diversify their conservation efforts. With a passion for eco-tourism, this project has fuelled its growth through community outreach programmes, environmental education and law enforcement. The Tacugama Community Outreach Programme (TCOP) works closely with over 40 rural communities; promoting sustainable farming techniques, water cycle systems and wildlife protection. Alongside this, is the Tacugama Kids Environmental Education Programme (TKEEP) which liaises with over 800 students at over 20 urban and rural schools; creating a practical learning approach within their curriculum.
Il Ngwesi, Kenya
This ranch is another community-based tourism project focused on enriching those in the Massailand. Connected by 6 Massai villages, the ranch thrives on its eco-lodges which in turn contributes to the development within the communities. Such contributions include new local schools, health centres and sustainable grazing zones. Il Ngwesi is also a strong advocate of women empowerment and therefore have found ways to provide jobs and educational setups to achieve this. One way has been the embracing of the Maasai beadwork culture – a true representation of beauty amongst the women. These women are given the opportunity to engage in local production of these traditional ornaments as well as setting up pop-up shops within the ranch as a form of income. Additionally, partnerships with the Mukogodo Girls Empowerment Programme runs educative sessions about women’s welfare; and the Kenya Health Care Initiative which promotes income generation through the local making and selling of sanitary packs.
Chumbe Island Coral Park, Tanzania
Immersed between the turquoise waters of Tanzania and the Zanzibar archipelago is a private nature reserve striving for ecological sustainability. Home to some of the rarest wildlife and pristine coral reefs, the reserve integrates education programmes into its functioning; as a means of supporting the communities. A number of free capacity-building and training exercises are woven into the reserve’s work. Such exercises include field excursions – wherein over 5000 children and youths are exposed to swimming, snorkelling and walks. Local fishermen are also educated and encouraged to adhere to protected coral reef zones kept under the no-take policy, thus allowing the natural restock of neighbouring fishing waters. Moreover, Chumbe’s eco-lodges encourages the promotion of the Zanzibari culture by utilising local market produce in their furnishings e.g. textiles and artwork – which in turn, funds local families.
For 30 years, &Beyond has grown from its first establishment as the Phinda Private Game Reserve to promoting ecotourism in over 10 countries in Africa. Whilst providing the ultimate luxury lodging experience, their model incorporates a core blend of care for the land, wildlife and people. Examples include their zero-plastic water bottle campaigns – funding set-up of recycling stations and almost 20 bottling plants across the continent; the Rhinos (and Oceans) Without Borders partnerships; and numerous community development schemes. With support from the Africa Foundation, &Beyond continues to empower the lives of the neighbouring communities dwelling within the safaris. These range from healthcare provisions, funding education opportunities and stimulating small enterprises growth.
Londolozi, South Africa
Born in 1926, this accredited game reserve showcases a ‘futuristic African village’ infused with traditional Zulu ethos; whilst maintaining its drive for environmental and community impact. Central to their mission to use technology to create better living standards, integrate new conservation models and increase social enterprise development. The reserve has made efforts in solar farms, water reticulation systems and local food supply chains. As efforts to sustain biodiversity continue, Londolozi works tirelessly to protect the Sabi Sands eco-system by anti-poaching advocation, removing apartheid fencing and river catchment maintenance. In addition, their social enterprise goals have seen them enrich farming capacities, health clinics; and a number of educational institutions such as the Londolozi Learning Centre and the Good Work Foundation benefitting over 20,000 school children.
Wilderness Safaris, (Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Managing over 40 safari camps, this ecotourism operation has been key to marketing Africa’s fauna and flora; incorporating social responsibility in making a difference to adjacent communities. This is undertaken using their 4C model that blends in commerce, conservation, community and culture into their work. The formation of the Wilderness Wildlife Trust promotes species monitoring hence boosting research opportunities via aerial surveying and human-animal conflict studies. Furthermore, the partnership with the Children in the Wilderness programme has proved to enrich development and education support for over 3000 children. This has been able to host over 7000 training camps and clubs by allowing children to dwell into their national and natural heritage, as a way of empowering them to becoming part of the field in the future.
Great Plains Conservation, (Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe)
This eco-reserve strives in blending its conservation efforts with the provision of the wildest and authentic safari experience across its many camps. Their emphasis on responsible travel is supported by their drive towards using new technologies to support the communities in which they function. These include Tesla solar power systems, waste conversion plants, plastic elimination processes and carbon offsetting mechanisms. Additionally, the Great Plains Foundation continues to invest into a number of projects to help empower the local communities. Such include the Maasai Olympics – a sporting event beneath Mount Kilimanjaro whilst promoting lion conservation; a solar lantern project – which provides sustainable lighting for the Okavango Delta villages; and student conservation camps – which provides a number of educational activities such as field trips for young students.