SANParks makes strides to allow communities to claim land back

Published May 18, 2024


The SA National Parks (SANParks) has made strides to allow communities who once lived in and around parks to claim their land back.

Themed “Celebrating 30 Years of Sustainable Eco-Tourism and Business Growth Through Partnerships”, SANParks hosted a panel discussion on the sidelines of the annual Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban this week.

Speaking to “The Star”, panellist and SANParks board member Edgar Neluvhulani said the claiming process would allow the entity to engage with the community so that economic opportunities would be available.

“Through the process of new democracy and now celebrating 30 years of our democracy, SANParks, through government efforts and proper legislation as well, has made efforts to allow communities to claim their land back,” Neluvhulani said.

He said through land-claiming processes SANParks was able to re-engage with communities to ensure.

“So it's not an effort to just do away with conservation, but it's an effort to make sure that conservation becomes a benefit to our communities in terms of spin-offs in business and also experiences training in the tourism industry and tour-guiding opportunities, for example,” he said.

Neluvhulani said on the priority list was empowering local communities around the parks to run their own businesses.

“We are considering funding opportunities for abattoirs for game meat but also opportunities to process certain products like animal hives and skins… There is a wide spread of opportunities that we are dealing with within our communities and it's looking good.”

When asked what challenges SANParks was facing regarding communities that are neighbours to their parks, Neluvhulani said stereotyping played a role.

“Unfortunately in the past, our communities were labelled as just poachers, which unfortunately antagonised our communities’ conservation efforts. But what we are currently seeing now is sort of mafia-style poaching, serious networks of international poachers who sometimes bribe and collaborate with some of our local people and sometimes our own rangers.

“But with the effort that has been put together, government efforts and SANParks, our rangers have been well trained and these numbers are going down,” he said

SANParks spokesperson JP Louw added that the panel discussion was meant for a conversation around what he called the “SANParks commercialisation strategy”.

“This speaks to how you mobilise SMEs… and also looks at the participation of community beneficiation programmes in a manner that makes sure that conservation becomes a matter of concern for all key role-players.

“We are quite pleased to see what now seems to be an upward trend that really puts us around pre-Covid numbers, both in terms of revenue generation but also in terms of visiting numbers into our different parks,” Louw said.

SANParks has achieved a 49% rhino poaching decrease, an estimated 4.9 million visitors (a 42% increase compared to the previous financial year) and R2.2 billion in tourism revenue.

Saturday Star

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