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 delivered numerous educational workshops in the community on topics such as pollution, biodiversity, conservation, animal care and sustainable living. LAEO assisted with infrastructure development, 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 hectares and is 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
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 kilometres of perimeter fence, 10 kilometres of double fence (next to the community), 5 kilometres of cattle fence, and the construction of a wildlife release boma (coral). In addition, 56 kilometres 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 has brought to the community. The first phase of the study was completed in 2018.
LAEO 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. 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.
The National Skills Fund, provided 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.
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.
All these programs aim to empower the local community with knowledge and the skill set to achieve economic sustainability.