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 no longer have to limp along waiting for handouts but that they could realize the incredible value of their asset that they own 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 projects that are currently being developed cover two sites one near Pietermaritzburg and the other in Zululand between Empangeni and iMfolozi.
The Mayibuye and Buhle Bemvelo Game Reserves which measure ± 5000 and ± 20 000 respectively will consists of: The local community, the Ximba people, a strategic development partner to help develop into a game reserve with several components including residential property, commercial sites and hotels, agriculture, industry etc. The development will also engage in large scale community upliftment initiatives which thus far include sports programs and child care, and in the future will include education facilities, agricultural expansion and sustainable farming. Through the land expansion component of this project, namely Ubuhle Bhemvelo, Eskom and local municipalities have been engaged to bring water to 250 homes and power to 500 households/families previously unable to secure these services.
Another one of Lawrence’s legacies is the creation of a 20000 hectare game reserve, called The Royal Zulu Game Reserve, which is a unique partnership between The Earth Organization, the local Amakosi (Chiefs), the developer and the existing game reserve. The community are The Fundimvelo Community Conservation Trust comprising Nkosi Biyela, Nkosi Mtethwa, Nkosi Cebekhulu, Nkosi Mthembu and Nkosi Mtiani whom the late Dr Lawrence Anthony partnered to develop a large scale game reserve that runs from Thula Thula Game all the way to Hluhluwe Imfolzi Game Reserve.
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; eco-tourism operations that will be developed on a build-operate-transfer basis; and 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.
These businesses will all be majority locally-owned, creating equity and shareholding for the land owners of both areas. Underpinning the establishment of the wildlife economy for the Royal Zulu reserve is a comprehensive program of appropriate skills development in game reserve and wildlife management; small enterprise management; eco-tourism; wildlife farming, etc. Once established and fully operational, this economy will forever positively transform the lives of the community by driving local socio-economic development, contributing to poverty eradication and improving the levels of education and skills within the communities.