LAEO’s founder, Lawrence Anthony, spent many years working to change the face of conservation to develop and establish community owned game reserves. Several communities decided to amalgamate their reclaimed land with the goal of create a game reserve from which they could all benefit. Our aim was to make communities aware that they could realize the incredible value of their asset and thus take responsibility for it. LAEO did a numerous educational workshops in the community on topics such as pollution, biodiversity, conservation, animal care and sustainable living. Further development include infrastructure development to create viable agricultural projects as well as furthering youth development by bringing additional education programs giving support to crèches, as well as the development of a green economy.
The Mayibuye Game Reserve is approximately 4800 hectare owned by the local community after a land claim settlement. It is based in KwaXimba and Managed by the Mayibuye Trust in partnership with a private investor. The planned reserve consists of several components including residential property, commercial sites and hotels, agriculture, industry etc. The development will engage in large scale community upliftment initiatives which have thus far include sports programs and child care, education facilities, agricultural expansion and sustainable farming.
The overall aim of these projects are to develop a Wildlife Economy around the community-owned land this economy will comprise several elements; small enterprises established to provide maintenance services to the reserve in respect of habitat management as well as infrastructure and eco-tourism operations. On the periphery of the reserve, wildlife farming operations will be established – with a focus on the entire supply chain of wildlife farming, i.e. pasture production (for bulk feed and as components for pellet feed production); pellet production as well as wildlife ranching.
In 2016 a grant application from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs was approved the Mayibuye Game Reserve. The project appointed The Earth Organization as the implementing agent for the community and funded ten million rand to complete the internal infrastructure for the wildlife preserve. In 2018 the project was completed resulting in 20 kilometers of perimeter fence, 10 kilometers of double fence (next to the community), 5 kilometers of cattle fence, and the construction of a wildlife release boma (coral). In addition, 56 kilometers of internal gravel roads were fully rehabilitated from old, overgrown gravel roads, and significant sections of new road were built. Two old farm houses were renovated to serve as offices and training centres lecture rooms, dining area, fully equipped kitchen and accommodation for lecturers as well as dormitories, at times, when we have trainees or event participants traveling to study and work with us.
Trade & Investment KZN also funded a social Return on Investment (ROI) study, to monitor the changes that the development of the area have brought to the community. The first phase of the study was completed in 2018.
The Earth Organization has had a long standing partnership with the South African Wildlife College (SAWC), the foremost training centre for education in nature and wildlife conservation throughout Africa. This year, the Mayibuye Community Trust joined the SAWC Rural Initiative for the Sustainable Environment (RISE) Unit. The RISE unit works to empower communities to govern, manage and conserve their natural resources in support of their livelihoods. SAWC conducted four, three day training sessions with the Trust and members of the local community delivering training on Roles and Responsibilities, Governance and Stakeholder Engagement.
SAWC will continue these training programs in 2019, giving the Mayibuye tools to manage their land and reserve.
The National Skills Fund, have provided the funding to train 125 people from the area on National Resource Guardianship, how to be Nature Site Guides, Conservation General Assistants, as well as Disease Control Specialists and Household Management. Training starts in April of 2019.
In the coming year the game numbers will be increased and elephants reintroduced into the area. It will be the first time in over 150 years that this extraordinary species will once again roam this land.
The Mayibuye Game Reserve was also included in the prestigious Environmental Monitors Program. This initiative aims to increase conservation capacity within the South African National Parks and provincial and private nature reserves through patrols, biodiversity monitoring, environmental education and raising awareness within different communities.
In 2018, The Earth Organization took on five young and enthusiastic environmental monitors (EM’s) who are now working on a number of vital tasks such as environmental monitoring, information gathering, alien plant control, and, most importantly, education and raising awareness in the local community and schools. The EM’s reached many people in the community with their work, handing out 1775 educational environmental booklets at 14 Schools in Kwa Ximba, caring the environmental message to the visitors and staff of the Msunduzi clinic, commuters at the Msunduzi Taxi rank and visitors to Manzolwandle Sport Centre. They also carried out a cleaning campaign with the Msunduzi Community and planted 24 trees in schools and community areas
All these programs aim to empower the local community with knowledge and the skill set to achieve economic sustainability.