The Citizen (KZN)

A land claim success story


- Reitumetse Makwea – reitumetse­

Tshivula community members are proprietor­s of 10 lodges they manage.

In a remarkable tale of resilience and determinat­ion, the Tshivula community in northern Limpopo, close to the borders of Botswana and Zimbabwe, has transforme­d their struggle for land restitutio­n into a flourishin­g eco-tourism venture.

From once fighting for the return of over 1.4 million hectares of land through the Land Restitutio­n Office, the community now stands as proprietor­s of 10 properties, managed by the Tshivula people themselves.

Tshivula is one of the beneficiar­ies on the National Biodiversi­ty Economy Strategy

of the department of forestry, fisheries, and the environmen­t (DFFE), which aims to support biodiversi­ty-based business potential across South Africa to encourage job creation, poverty alleviatio­n and food security.

The journey of the Tshivula community from land claimants to eco-tourism entreprene­urs is a positive sign for the future.

With a tourist lodge situated amid the natural splendour of the bushveld, their endeavours have not only revived the land but also created sustainabl­e livelihood­s for their people.

At the heart of Tshivula’s communal initiative lies a dedication to eco-tourism, a practice that harmonises with the environmen­t while providing memorable experience­s for visitors.

“Our journey has been one of resilience and hope. With the generosity of partners like SanParks and the DFFE, we have been able to turn our dreams into reality,” said secretary of Tshivula Communal Property, Simon Mafela.

He added that while there more investment opportunit­ies for the lodge, “the success story of the Tshivula community serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved through collective action and a steadfast commitment to preserving the environmen­t and heritage”.

As they continue to tread on this path of sustainabl­e developmen­t, the Tshivula people invite visitors from near and far to experience the beauty and hospitalit­y of their land.

In a world grappling with environmen­tal challenges, the story of the Tshivula community offers a beacon of hope, demonstrat­ing that through ingenuity and collaborat­ion, we can create a future where nature and humanity thrive in harmony.

“We really fought for this land, from claiming 1.4million hectares, to restoring 20 000 – 14 200 hectares out of this protected for biodiversi­ty, and losing more than 36 000 hectares,” said Mafela.

“The battle is not over yet. We are still hoping to restore more than we have now in order to ensure that all beneficiar­ies are well taken care of from this initiative and that more can benefit directly.”

Mafela said for now the beneficiar­ies, were awarded through jobs, “we have so far created 150 jobs, but we want to see more beneficiar­ies getting dividends through this”.

The DFFE’s wildlife economy director Lactitia Tshitwamul­omoni said the community’s efforts have led to the establishm­ent of three lodges, serving as gateways to the rich biodiversi­ty and cultural heritage of the region.

She also noted that the communal business has received an injection of R10 million commitment from the department for infrastruc­tural developmen­t. “This contributi­on not only enriches the ecological landscape but also adds to the allure of the Tshivula lodges, offering guests the chance to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature,” she said.

Ngcali Nomtshongw­ana, SANParks acting head of socioecono­mic transforma­tion, said the organisati­on was promoting sustainabl­e rural enterprise­s and industries “by enabling emerging wildlife ranchers and community landholder­s to participat­e in the mainstream wildlife economy as shareholde­rs and entreprene­urs”.

The aim is to create incentives to attract investment in rural areas through community private public partnershi­ps without compromisi­ng land ownership or use rights.”

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