AN EXAMPLE OF COOPERATIVE ECOLOGY IN ACTION
Our Founder, Lawrence Anthony, spent many years working to change the face of conservation in Africa 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 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 and resources together with the goal of creating wildlife reserves in which all life in the area could 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 rather than through reliance on government subsidies and welfare or criminal poaching. After Dr. Anthony passed away in 2012, LAEO International Head Office in Durban, South Africa, through the work of our International Executive Director, Yvette Taylor, and our Director of Community Empowerment and Wildlife Conservation, David Bozas, has continued to develop and expand these projects, successfully forwarding Dr. Anthony’s legacy. In 2016, the South African government named Mayibuye (a 50/50 partnership project between LAEO and the local Zulus) “a Model Program of Community Empowerment and Wildlife Conservation.” A wide variety of community betterment actions are incorporated into the program.
Since 2012, LAEO has provided educational workshops for the local Zulus on topics such as biodiversity, conservation, pollution and environmental safeguards, 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 to provide good jobs, making it possible for Zulu families to live and work in the same area, thus providing a means for their families to stay together rather than the parents having to leave young children with older children or grandparents for weeks at a time in order to maintain jobs in distant cities..
We recently completed the building of infrastructure with electric fencing to enclose the 36,000 acre preserve, and are developing viable agricultural projects, as well as the provision of water and power to over 500 homes, while creating a more green economy, helping to move the locals away from an “industry” of poaching, to an industry of eco tourism.
Once fully established and operational, this new economic basis in the area will forever positively transform the lives of the community by driving local socioeconomic development, contributing to poverty eradication, 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!