Title to the incredibly wild and biodiverse MCP (24 000-hectares in the extreme northern Kruger National Park) is held by the 15 000-strong Makuleke Community spread across three villages between Punda Maria and Thoyandou in the remote rural Limpopo Province. This Shangane community under Chief Maluleke was forcibly removed from the area between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu River in 1969. Nearly thirty years later in 1998, after one of the country’s most high profile land claims, they had their ancestral homeland returned to them.
As has been recognised elsewhere in Africa (and the world) the concept of community-based conservation is often the most appropriate mechanism for biodiversity protection and sustainable development. Unique to Pafuri is the three-way involvement of the community (the Makuleke), private sector (Wilderness Safaris) and state (Kruger National Park), each with a clearly defined symbiotic role. The purpose of this partnership is for the land to be utilised sustainably for economic empowerment of the community and simultaneous ongoing conservation of biodiversity. Wilderness Safaris is proud of the difference Pafuri Camp and Pafuri Walking Trails have made in this regard since their launch in 2005.
“Even though the flooding of the Luvuvhu River earlier this year resulted in the closure of Pafuri Camp, we are delighted that our well known 3-night/4-day Pafuri Walking Trails are still going strong; driving revenue back into the Makuleke Community through our lease agreement and of course employment of community members. It is gratifying to know we have played a part in the recognition of the area in the Greening the Future Awards”, said Concession Managers Rob and Landi Burns.
Now in its 10th year, the Mail & Guardian’s annual flagship, Greening the Future, celebrates a decade of honouring environmental best practice in South Africa, recognising innovative efforts to create a cleaner planet without compromising progress. The Community Conservation Award specifically showcases the efforts of community groups and organisations that dedicate time and/or resources to environmental sustainability.
The children of the Makuleke Community have also benefitted from Wilderness Safaris’ Children in the Wilderness (CITW) programme, run for the first time in November 2005 in Pafuri and annually since then (40-45 children per camp). CITW uses environmental education, therapeutic recreation and fun to open the minds of children, increase their self-esteem, build and strengthen their capacities to cope with life’s challenges and educate them with the life skills necessary to actualise their greatest potential.
The Makuleke Concession/Pafuri region is located between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers and its important water sources and their associated wetlands have been declared an international Ramsar site. It offers exceptional biodiversity, is famous for large herds of elephant and buffalo and has long been regarded as something of a Mecca for southern African birdwatchers.