Boost for Zululand community game reserves

The productivity and sustainability of two KwaZulu-Natal community-owned game reserves recently received a boost in the form of a R22 million grant.

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Funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and managed by the Development Bank of South Africa, the Green Fund Project supports the country’s transition to a green economy. The 16 000ha Somkhanda Game Reserve, owned by the Gumbi community and the 3 000ha Usuthu Gorge Game Reserve, owned by the Mathenjwa community, are both in northern Zululand on land claimed through the land restitution process.

The communities, with the help of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the World Wide Fund for Nature, have been developing viable conservation and ecotourism business ventures. Through the ‘Farming the Wild’ arm of the Green Fund Project, Somkhanda has been allocated R14 million, and Usuthu Gorge R8 million, to establish infrastructure and buy game to generate an income through hunting, live game sales, game product sales and ecotourism.

“This type of project can create spin-offs for the community, with secondary businesses needed to support the core operation,” said DEA minister Edna Molewa, at ‘Farming the Wild’s’ project launch recently. The Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) will administer the project, strengthen community conservation efforts, and apply climate change adaptation and mitigation techniques in the two game reserves.

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“It is vital that these communities be mentored to ensure confidence and competence. Projects such as this make it possible,” said Kevin McCann, WCT’s strategic manager. The project manager for Somkhanda, Nathi Gumbi, said the grant would make a big difference. “We’re investing in developing community members in reserve management, from hospitality to game protection,” said Gumbi. Field rangers were already being certified for firearm competency, he added.