A responsible recovery of the Timbavati intergrated landscape
There has been much excitement with the world opening up its doors and the slow return to the ‘new-normal’ post-pandemic lifestyle. As many readers of our previous blog posts may remember, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (TPNR) embarked on a new journey to discover and connect the local neighbouring businesses to the wildlife eco-tourism economy. This was a goal set out by the ‘Responsible Tourism Best Practise Toolkit’ by a consortium headed up by Fair Trade Tourism South Africa, with inputs from numerous lodges and tourism operators within the Greater Kruger network.
The toolkit has, as one of its goals, the need to contribute to the transformation of local economies. This point cannot be overstated in its importance both for political reasons – with the government increasingly scrutinising the value of Protected Areas against their long-term transformational goals – and, more importantly, for the real viability of those Protected Areas as relevant economic contributors to our country. Our relevance, and therefore our long-term sustainability, is weakened by having poor communities within our boundaries. The wealthier a community and the more invested that community is in the economy of our Protected Areas, the more likely will be the survival of that Protected Area and community landscape.
Despite the knock that the COVID-19 pandemic had on our Tourism sector, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (TPNR) is now in full swing developing and working on our economic transformational goals. The reserve has identified six areas for opportunity to link the wildlife economy to the local supply chain, namely: fresh produce; poultry & eggs; curio & craft; sewing & upholstery; transport & logistics; and services.
In late 2021, the reserve undertook an exercise with the Timbavati eco-tourism sector to identify the supply and demand levels which lodges operate within. Once this baseline was determined, a detailed needs analysis brought forward the opportunity for the reserve to start with two of the identified economic support areas, fresh produce and curio & craft.
The starting point saw the Timbavati Foundation source, assess and select local small, and medium enterprises (SMEs) for development and support. Through this process, two SMEs were selected as a starting point: Benica’s Fruit and Veggies, based in Arthur’s seat, and Munene Art Gallery, based in Hoedspruit. Through lessons learnt within the Greater Kruger landscape, the Timbavati knew that the mentorship and support processes needed to connect local businesses would require great efforts to ensure its success.
So far, collectively we have achieved the following:
- Benica’s Fruit and Veggies:
- A strong borehole with tanks has been sunk and put into operations, with thanks to our Timbavati Foundation.
- A large shade netted garden has been built, thanks to supporting lodges Kings Camp, Rockfig & Tanda Tula.
- A Skills transfer and development program is underway.
- A well-recognized logistics distributor has been approached to create a tripartite relationship between themselves, Benica and the TPNR, which will see Benica’s distribution to TPNR lodges handled by this existing supplier.
- Munene Art Gallery:
- On-site lodge visits with curio & craft sales have been conducted to introduce products to the TPNR lodges - a big thank you to all the Timbavati lodges involved.
- A program to introduce new marketing skills has been established and is underway.
- Assistance and guidance have been provided to improve client communication techniques.
- Assistance is being provided for the refinement, design and development of products.
The next step...
As a step forward, the Timbavati has rekindled conversations with Indalo Inclusive, an organization which focuses on the development of business skills within SMEs. Indalo Inclusive will act as a third partner in a mentorship and skills development program as we embrace transformation and ensure that quality and professional skills are transferred to our supported businesses.
The lodges of the TPNR are pioneering the wealth growth of our local communities and, when others follow, the Greater Kruger network and its surrounding neighbourhood are set to become a wealthier and truly sustainable economic model for Protected Areas that the rest of the world could learn from.
What we aim to achieve in the next 6 to 12 months:
- Stronger business skills development and training.
- Market linkages and purchasing.
- Product development and sustainable resource use.
- Economic impact on the two selected businesses.
Next time you visit the TPNR lodges, know that you are part of supporting the responsible recovery of the Timbavati integrated landscape. Each one of our lodges is committed to making a turnaround with social impact as one of its key objectives.