Guest Blog – Growing Resilience in Wildlife Communities by Sarah Bergs
I was born and bred in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (TPNR), living at Motswari for most of my childhood which instilled an indelible love for nature and an urge to protect it. I started Nourish, a non-profit organisation (NPO), in 2011 as a platform to link conservation with community issues and ideals - finding integrated sustainable solutions to issues plaguing conservation such as poverty, low levels of education, food insecurity, and unemployment. The project is situated in Sigagule Village near Acornhoek along the Orpen road which is located on the border of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.
Solutions to break the poverty cycle and create healthy resilient communities are ultimately those that link individuals and communities back to their wildlife heritage. This has become Nourish’s focus with the establishment of a food security garden, an aftercare facility, a library, a feeding scheme and a creche to address the immediate needs of food and education.
Nourish has also established social enterprises to support entrepreneurs and provide job creation opportunities for the local community. Nourish believes the journey towards sustainability lies in making tangible impacts on both biodiversity conservation and community well-being.
“The name Nourish was chosen because the word embodied so many things; nourishing the soil and the earth (through tree planting, recycling and sustainable living), nourishing children (with food), nourishing the mind (with education), nourishing the soul (with love, compassion, with Ubuntu)...to NOURISH; to supply what is necessary for life. Living in isolation with poverty and poaching is not what is necessary... and that is what I wanted to do something about, and so Nourish the project and the dream was born!”
Our TPNR Connection
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, its lodges, as well as the Timbavati Foundation support Nourish in more ways than one. In 2019, Nourish was provided with the gift of water through a donation of a borehole. This donation has provided a new way of living for Nourish, no longer are they required to walk kilometers to collect water in barrels to water their gardens, to have water to drink, to have water to wash their children's hands, and have issues of limited water for their guests staying at their backpacker accommodation (Shik-shack).
The TPNR lodges support Nourish through providing much-needed donations of pre-loved clothing items, sheets, blankets, books, toys, and other items that can be sold to generate small revenue through their thrift shop. Tanda Tula, through their foundation, assists with adult literacy and by providing time in educating the environmental monitors to carry on this important teaching skill.
In the near future, the TPNR aims to run and facilitate community tours in partnership with Nourish. These tours will not only allow guests to experience the local landscape and the amazing community projects implemented by local NPOs, but also give back to Nourish and its people.
Our Nourish Story
Nine years ago, being only 22 at the time, I approached the chief of Sigagule village and explained my vision to him; to re-connect local residents to their natural heritage, and to make sure that they benefit from the tourist industry that thrives all around them. The chief gave me his blessing and a 99-year lease on a hectare of land.
Over the years, the project and I have matured. Now at the age of 32, I have gained the trust and respect of the local community and have been rewarded with strong relationships and more land. Two more hectares have been added to Nourish, and Nourish is making a bold move to move away from the “charity” model and pioneering an eco-village that is a working farm and serves as an incubator for micro-enterprise, as well as a tourist destination, including a bakery, craft centre, village tours, backpackers, and bush spa.
However, this is still a work in process, and every bit helps to build a more sustainable model.
Nourish initiates programmes based on five pillars:
- Sustainable farming,
- Economic empowerment.
The COVID-19 Crisis
Our response to Covid-19 has been to focus even more on COMMUNITY RESILIENCE. One of Nourish’s key aims has always been to fight poaching through fighting poverty. Poaching is one of the biggest threats to wildlife and biodiversity conservation, and through the creation of a ‘people-first’ conservation approach, Nourish endeavours to link poaching to poverty and address these issues through a holistic project ethos.
Pandemics such as Covid-19, or any incident causing severe loss of tourism revenue, creates a ripple effect resulting in job losses, and thus a loss of income security. Many families were solely reliant on their breadwinner who was employed in wildlife tourism in some way, and therefore this loss of socio-economic stability makes the vulnerable even more vulnerable, and the poverty even more severe. An increase in poverty in these buffer zone areas is thus a direct threat to wildlife, as people will resort to poaching to feed their families.
For communities to not seek benefit from wildlife landscapes and reserves in an unsustainable and unethical way – they need to have the opportunity to access income and food security in a different way.
We hope through our RESILIENCE projects to address the issues of poverty caused by increased unemployment and lack of access to income and therefore food – and in so doing- to create a viable alternative to wildlife crimes.
Our Resilience projects have focused both short term and long term on food security and hygiene. This is how we have adapted as Nourish to focus on growing resilience in our wildlife communities:
1. Our Weekly & Monthly Food Parcel Program
In May 2020, 34 425 meals were provided.
Sustainability here is key, for us to continue month after month to provide this support to families who are suffering and hungry. The demand grows daily. If you would like to help contribute to our monthly food parcels you can donate to: Nourish NPO, FNB, 62321718324, Hoedspruit
2. Home-based Food Gardens - provide a long-term answer to nutrition and vitamins. We all know the wise saying about teaching a man to fish… and this home food garden allows families to take ownership and contribute to their well-being. At a time, many people fell victim to the circumstance, and this puts the power back into their hands in a small way,
3. Mask Sewing Initiative – generates income for 4 community-based women who are sewing and enables us to provide masks free of charge to community members, vulnerable children, Tintswalo hospital, Mhorotso clinic, grannies and so many more. Our masks cost R 35 each if you would like to contribute to this worthy cause.
We have distributed over 3000 masks over the last 6 weeks.
4. Moringa Food Supplement- we are boosting our Moringa orchard, with the goal of donating a tree to each of our 150 households to have their own SUPERFOOD growing in their backyard. Vitally important with flu-season looming.
5. Tippy Taps- “wash your hands” is a Covid-19 prevention mantra, not everyone in rural villages has access to running water but has to walk kilometers with a wheelbarrow to access water. This makes continually washing hands very difficult. We have set up Tippy Taps with soapy water at highly trafficked areas in our community to allow people the ability to sanitize their hands and keep clean.
6. Going online – we are taking our traditional Community crafts, our reusable sanitary pads and funky shwe-shwe yoga products online and setting up an online shop so we can still try to access income during these lockdown times.
7. Blankets to warm up African communities – this is our latest project, as winter starts to bring a chill to the air. Many families are already in dire financial situations and don’t have the extra income to buy a blanket. Staying healthy and warm is critical, especially now. Our blanket fundraiser allows people to either donate, or sign up to be a fundraiser, to help us bring in funds to provide blankets to our creche children, elderly grannies, and vulnerable homes. Everyone deserves to stay healthy and warm this winter. If you want to help, perhaps you could send a newsletter or email to your database or clients and help expand our reach. Every $ counts.
We know everyone is in a dire situation right now, but even just getting the word out there will help.
Now more than ever we are focused on our shared humanity, and our spirit of Ubuntu – we want to end our blog by sharing a little 2-minute video clip taken by Photos for Food, capturing in an authentic way how food parcels get delivered, and showing how despite the fear and stress and chaos, there are smiles, and joy, hope, and Ubuntu.
"Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future." ~Nelson Mandela