- Rhino on Phinda Reserve, South Africa.
Story and Images by: Michaela Guzy, Founder of OhThePeopleYouMeet.com.
The Africa Foundation, created by &Beyond, currently runs 382 projects in 42 communities in five countries. I had the pleasure of meeting several of the dedicated &Beyond staff, one notable character was Les Carlisle. Among the many titles he carries, are head of conservation, a game catcher and relocator. I wasn’t quite sure what a relocator’s job functions consisted of. Les, was happy to put in simple terms for this city girl and gave an example that clicked– relocating endangered rhino from the Phinda Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa to areas of Botswana where the rhino can be well protected from poachers. This does not mean that there aren’t rhino on Phinda—quite the opposite actually. In my three month journey across seven African countries, I have yet to see that many rhino thriving in one place. Check out their work “Footprints of Hope”.
- Rhino on Phinda Reserve, South Africa.
But the Africa Foundation goes far beyond the animal conservation initiatives. To quote Les, “ We action the mission statement everyday. Care of the land, care of the wildlife and care of the people. Phinda is a model of it’s own for sustainable conservation and one that I am most proud of.”
Wildlife in parks are starting to deteriorate and the government subsidiaries are being stretched to include the human element, which puts more pressure on the parks for land resources and poaching levels threaten to increase because there is no outside source of income for the local people. The wildlife therefore needs to pay for itself.
Before the days of Phinda, 250 farms were taken over and the people were displaced to make way for cattle ranching. Phinda purchased the land and returned to it’s natural state. &Beyond understood the challenge and returned 10,000 hectors (or 24,000 acres) of the land which the six Phinda lodges sit upon to the three surrounding local communities (Makhasa, Mngobokazi and Mdhlebshe). Phinda now voluntarily pays rent to the community trust funds (approximately $2.5-3.0 million rand per year). Phinda assisted the communities in learning how to set up bank accounts, accounting and taxes. Phinda is only there if the trusts ask for help, otherwise Phinda believes that the trusts need to be self-sustainable to be successful.
It was agreed between Phinda and the three communities to use the rent money for development. Every year the Makhasa trust gives $10-15,000 rand towards the education of local students. The trust has also provided tractors for the farmers , fencing to protect schools and community buildings from the wild animals and the start up needed for revenue generating businesses (RGB) such as chickens or beehives. The long-term goal is to build each of the towns with a sustainable infrastructure, allowing for some basic modern day conveniences like grocery stores and filling stations.
At Phinda, I met with Simon Naylor, the Conservation Manager who brought me to visit some of the community projects in the Makhasa community. Outside the Tribal Authority Building, Simon introduced me to Thokozaani Malanbo, a member of the Makhasa community trust and tracker for Phinda. Thokozaani has been with &Beyond for 13 years. I asked him what &Beyond meant for the development of his village, “&Beyond offers us many helps. We work together to finalize the main project the trust will support from the rent they pay us every month. &Beyond voluntarily gave us our land back. They gave us the chance to try and catch up. They are more than friends. We hope they will continue to work with us”.
Currently the Makhasa trust works with Phinda on several services for the community, including:
– The Medical Mduku Clinic. While Phinda built the structure and provided computers and the fridge, the trust keeps the clinic functioning which is run by Sister (doesn’t stand for a nun, rather a nurse) Gumede.
– Phinda also built a development center to teach the community how to use computers and the internet. Unfortunately the computers are very out of date and only six are currently working.
– The Khulani Special School where there are 160 special needs students, 65 board at the school (grades R-3). Phinda built the school and donate supplies. The trust and donations from guests of Phinda keep the operations running.
The long term challenge for Phinda is that they only manage the lodges now. The revenue from travelers is what allows Phinda to pay rent to keep the trusts and community development moving forward, making it imperative that Phinda and the community continue to work together.
Currently $10 million USD has been invested by the Africa Foundation into community empowerment projects. “We never do for the community, but with the community,” says Les, “It’s about engagement and delivery”. To date, the foundation have built 170 classrooms in 80 different communities and in the process of building three orphanages for vulnerable children.
Julius, who works with &Beyond’s properties in Masai Mara, Kenya, Kichwa Tembo and Bateleur Camp, took me to visit several of the foundation “people projects” in progress the area. &Beyond and the foundation work to empower local communities through fundraising to support community education, positive health (care and prevention) and sustainable income generating activities.
On our tour, Julius showed me some of the classrooms built by the foundation at primary schools, and ample supplies like textbooks and desks that had been donated by the foundation or generous guests of Kichwa Tembo and Bateleur Camp.
However, Julius and the team recognize that the children need to be taught the importance of wildlife conservation as it directly relates to inbound tourism and money to their villages. The Africa Foundation works with the local schools to arrange field trips to take the children into the same parks the tourists visit, for the experience of what international guests see and provide an ongoing conversation about the importance of wildlife preservation.
And education doesn’t stop at secondary school, the Africa Foundation, created the Community Leaders Education Fund (CLEF) which sponsors students to go to go beyond secondary school to study at a tertiary level. This year, Kichwa Tembo started sending five students for a two year teacher training college to learn to be provisional teachers. The plan is to add five plus students to the program every year. Kichwa Tembo pays half of the tuition for the family, and will consider paying the full amount if the need exists. However the investment from the community for the other half of the tuition is to ensure that the local community feel involved in the students’ futures. The hope is that the students will return to the community and teach in the schools for a couple years. The need for more teachers, especially those who have professional training is great, the largest school in surrounding Mara communities is Emurutoto (primary) which has 310 students and ten multi-tasking teachers.
Beyond breaking the poverty cycle through the education of future generations, &Beyond and the Africa Foundation provide both healthcare and teach healthy living to their local communities. &Beyond have a positive health team for their staff (&Beyond employs a “preferential employment treatment” for locals– 60%+ of lodge staff are residents) and surrounding communities lead by a doctor in the area. The team teach the importance of a balanced diet through their “Food for Life” program, home gardens (such as supplying seeds for veggies), hygiene and disease prevention (from AIDS to ringworm). &Beyond bring the chef of the lodges in to the villages to demonstrate healthy cooking, nutrition and preparation techniques. The positive health team at Kichwa Tembo built one long drop toilet and two showers in surrounding villages thus far. The medical clinic at Kichwa Tembo for example is a paid for service but heavily subsidized by the Africa Foundation. By asking for a small payment, when can be afforded, teaches the locals to take responsibility for their actions. The mobile clinic provides basic services like children’s vaccinations, first aid, referrals, prenatal care, planned parenthood and contraception.
And without water, there isn’t life. &Beyond and the Africa Foundation are providing safe drinking water in the communities in which the operate. The Emurutoto Primary school in the Masai Mara, Kenya is one of the first tests. The foundation is working with the government to train them how to build more dams and tanks, as well as the general upkeep needed. By working in conjunction with the officials, as the population expands, the locals will know how to build their own and service basic repairs themselves—generating new job opportunities. The second phase, to pump water into the school and run four pipelines in surroundings villages, began in the Mara in April.
The Africa Foundation, began Community Based Leverage Programs (CBLP), which identify sustainable revenue producing businesses for the local communities. These income generating activities work with especially women, in a male dominated society, to identify small business opportunities and empower them to sustain the practice. &Beyond’s methodology is to begin with an entrance strategy like supplying the chickens for the poultry farms, raising heifers to sell, bee hives for the honey production or home gardens. Then teach the women how to sustain the business and market their services. In the case of the chickens , a guest of Kichwa Tembo, donated the first 300 to get the project off the ground. There are 25 local women who take care of the chickens for seven weeks, then sell the chickens back to Kichwa Tembo and Bateleur Camp. The women also sell to other camps or in the village markets as alternate sources of income. As a few cycles of the project prove successful, the foundation then exit so that it’s up to women to keep chickens, sell them and order new ones. Projects like the chicken farm, help communities like the Masai evolve from being purely dependent on the nomadic lifestyle and cattle ranching. However, the Africa Foundation acknowledges that cattle ranching is still the primary source of income for the Masai. The Foundation created the Heifer Project, which donated five calves to local women. To offer a frame of reference, a small cow can typically be sold for $200 USD. The women can buy and sell the grown cows to support children of the community for primary or secondary school, and even university. The women are now up to 35 calves.
Another “CBLP” &Beyond supported was the donation of 80 beehives to six different community groups in Kenya. The foundation taught the locals to keep bees and in turn the &Beyond lodges buy the honey. The beekeepers can also sell the harvest to other lodges or in the village markets. For example, the 10 beehives donated to the Emurutoto School near Kichwa Temba produces approximately 16 bottles per harvest per hive at 300 khs (approximately $3.52 USD) and there are three seasons per year.
At the most basic level, &Beyond supports their local communities by promoting the foundation’s projects to their guests for visits and/or donations. At Kichwa Tembo and Bateleur Camp, each visitor pays a $40 donation to visit the village– $20 goes to village and the other $20 to the Community Leaders Education Fund (CLEF). As a guest, you get to meet local people, ask questions about the way they live, hear a traditional song, see their basic homes, meet the children of the village and you have a chance to support the community further by purchasing their local craft like the beautiful Masai bead work.
- A Masai warrior and me (Michaela Guzy) outside the village, Masai Mara, Kenya.
And while I’ve shared a lot about the good work that &Beyond and the Africa Foundation do in Kenya and South Africa, their good work is continuing to spread into a feeding scheme in Namibia and a predator reintroduction/national reserve development project in India. Click here to learn more about the Africa Foundation and &Beyond.
Oh, and the game is…BEYOND plentiful.
The five star lodges are…BEYOND luxury.
And the guides are…BEYOND exceptional.
Like the outfit of mother in Masai Mara village.