WILDERNESS SAFARIS, Zimbabwe, April 2020/ — Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, Wilderness Safaris continues to invest in community empowerment initiatives through its ongoing commitment to ensuring that its community partners receive the full benefits of ecotourism. The company has recently committed more than R500 000 from its Group Sustainability Fund to its non-profit partner, Children in the Wilderness (CITW), to roll-out three new income-generating projects in Zimbabwe in 2020.
In addition to glass-crushing and recycling, and paper-making groups already supported by CITW, the following three additional projects have been identified by CITW, in partnership with its local communities, to help drive employment opportunities and improve livelihoods:
· The construction of community halls in Jabulani and Nganyana communities to provide a safe, shaded space for women’s groups to run their glass-crushing, snare jewellery and aluminium recycling projects. The halls will be multi-use structures, providing a market place for the groups to sell their products to guests who opt for the village visit activity from Wilderness Safaris Little Makalolo in Hwange, as well as a place for community meetings.
· Repurposing snare wire to make jewellery that can be sold in Wilderness Safaris’ camp curio shops, as well as more widely in tourist centres.
· Recycling aluminium cans into buttons, zips and other products.
“We are delighted to have received this additional support from Wilderness Safaris at this otherwise difficult time”, says Sue Goatley, CITW Regional Programme Coordinator for the company’s Zambezi Region. “Our teams cannot wait to get started on these projects as soon as the current situation changes, and we can meet with our community partners to launch these income-generating projects in more detail. Once this has happened and a working group is formed, we will commence training and the provision of all the start-up materials”.
These working groups provide consistent, reliable, and sustainable methods of income, as well as train community members – many of whom do not have a high level of education – in the practical sense of skills development and learning to manage their finances. In other community groups that have been established, CITW encourages a 60/40 split, where 60 per cent of income earned goes back into the business for material provision etc., and 40 per cent is divided between group members as profit. Income-generating groups such as these naturally also have significant positive knock-on effect across entire communities.
The Wilderness Safaris Sustainability Fund is dedicated to funding a variety of community empowerment programmes in Zimbabwe, including allocating the funds required for the above projects. “In late 2019 eight women from the Jabulani commenced training for their paper-making group, and now, in conjunction with the Mapepa Paper Project, are contributing to their community’s journey towards sustainability, one sheet of paper at a time”, adds Sue.
Rolling out the project to communities in CITW’s Zambezi Region, the Sustainability Fund has allocated R88 000 to ensuring that the paper-making project is able to successfully take off here. Plans are underway to expand to St Mary’s and then Ngamo in Zimbabwe later in the year.
“By assisting working groups like these in our neighbouring communities to develop and run small businesses, we spread the benefits of our ecotourism model beyond just the individuals that we employ. Successful income-generating projects not only improve the livelihoods of these people and their families, but also reduce their dependence on natural resources, ultimately benefiting their environment and the conservation areas that we rely on to provide this support”, concludes Dr Neil Midlane, Wilderness Safaris Group Sustainability Manager.