The Gumbi and Makuleke leaders – both trail blazers in community conservation – bring together years of experience to lay plans for the next 10 years.
In June this year, the members of the Emvokweni Community Trust (ECT) and Gumbi Traditional Council, both led by Nkosi Zeblon Gumbi, embarked on a leadership journey with fellow countrymen from the Limpopo Province, the Makuleke Royal Council and their Community Property Association (MCPA).
The Makuleke community, located in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, entered into a co-management agreement with SANParks to retain the status of their land (successfully re-claimed in 1998) inside the Kruger National Park, adopting a strategy to provide a sustainable source of economic development and income for the community while maintaining the ecological integrity of the land and protecting wildlife.
In a similar vein, the Gumbi community, after their successful land claim, made a decision to establish Somkhanda Game Reserve, a 12,000 hectare Big 5 reserve, also with the aim of generating economic activity through a conservation and tourism-based economy.
The learning workshop, initiated by Nkosi Gumbi and implemented by Wildlife ACT, aimed to build a common vision for the ECT leadership, learning from the experiences of the Makuleke, and putting in place strong governance and a road-map to lead the next 10 years of the ECT’s journey.
In these complex social systems, where traditional and democratically elected structures are brought together to oversee and lead large communities of people – as well as drive economic development – good governance and leadership are crucial to long term success and sustainability. The platform established provided a place for this group of leaders to talk openly about their own experiences, learning from each other and taking any criticism constructively.
“It is crucial that we support communities through opportunities and platforms such as this, allowing them to strengthen their structures and institutions, shape and drive their own visions, thus attracting relevant and market-related investment”, said Mark Gerrard of Wildlife ACT.
Discussions ranged from diversity among the leadership and the interface between Traditional Council and the community trusts, to the process of establishing consultative forums for effective member engagement.
Fana Gumbi, the secretary of the Emvokweni Community Trust, highlight how “this has been such an inspiring learning opportunity, allowing us to take some of the years of experience from the Makuleke community and apply it to our own situation. We have really appreciated this learning exchange and hopefully can continue to use such an initiative to share our own experiences with other communities as they lead their own conservation journeys.”
This learning workshop would not have been possible without the input and eagerness to share experiences from both the Makuleke CPA and Emvokweni Community Trust, the valuable contributions of the African Conservation Trust and the Southern African Wildlife College, and support from the Rhino Recovery Fund and Wildlands Conservation Trust.