AN EXAMPLE OF COOPERATIVE ECOLOGY IN ACTION
Our Founder, Lawrence Anthony, spent many years working to change the face of conservation by first originating the idea of and then establishing community-owned game reserves dedicated to the economic empowerment of indigenous tribes and the conservation of the local wildlife. As a result of his urging and 16 years of negotiations, several communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and the South African government decided to join their lands together with the goal of creating a game reserve from which they could all benefit.
The goal was to bring about change in the viewpoints of the people in the local communities that their long-term survival would be far better served through proper husbandry of their property and wildlife assets than through reliance on government subsidies and welfare. LAEO International Head Office in Durban, South Africa, through the very able work of our International Executive Director, Yvette Taylor, and our Director of Community Empowerment and Wildlife Conservation, David Bozas, have developed and expanded these projects after Dr. Anthony passed away in 2012. In 2016, the South African government named Mayebuye (one of our projects there) “a Model Program of Community Empowerment and Wildlife Conservation”. A wide variety of community betterment actions are incorporated into the program.
LAEO has provided numerous educational workshops for the local indigenous people on topics such as pollution, biodiversity, conservation, anti-poaching, wildlife and domestic animal care, and sustainable living. Additionally, we are furthering youth development through education programs, sports programs and childcare support at local primary schools.
We have brought in environmentally friendly industry and commerce making it possible for Zulu families to stay together rather than the parents having to leave their children with older children or grandparents to work in cities for weeks at a time.
We have developing projects to build infrastructure with viable agricultural projects, and the provision of water and power to over 500 homes, while creating a more green economy.
There are two key projects related to this at this time. One near Pietermaritzburg, called Mayebuye Game Reserve, and the other in Zululand between Empangeni and iMfolozi called Buhle Bemvelo Game Reserve.
Another one of Lawrence Anthony’s legacies is the creation of a 50,000 acre game reserve called The Royal Zulu Biosphere, which is a unique partnership between the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization currently under the direction of David Bozas and Yvette Taylor, and the local Amakosi (Chiefs), a developer, and the existing game reserve. The community is made up of The Fundimvelo Community Conservation Trust comprising Nkosi (Chief) Biyela, Nkosi Mtethwa, Nkosi Cebehulu, Nkosi Mthembu and Nkosi Mtiani whom Lawrence partnered with to create and develop this large-scale reserve extending from Thula Thula Game Preserve all the way to Hluhulwe iMfolozi Game Reserve.
The overall aim of these projects is to develop a wildlife economy around the community-owned land that will be made up of 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, pellet production, and wildlife ranching.
The project is moving ahead very well. Once fully established and operational, this economy will forever positively transform the lives of the community by driving local socioeconomic development, contributing to poverty eradication and improving education and skills and empowering future generations.
As we are taking into account all aspects of the well-being of these communities, these projects are a wonderful example of Cooperative Ecology in action!