Working with communities and building long term relationships with them involves more than saying hello to each other every day over the fence of a national park!
People and Conservation works hard at building understanding and support for biodiversity conservation within communities living around our parks, and also works on improving how communities can access our national parks for cultural, spiritual and recreational purposes.
People and Conservation also assists communities to decide how to use their natural resources wisely and live sustainable lifestyles.
The community work done by People and Conservation covers a wide variety of projects. Some examples include:
- education and awareness projects
- setting up food gardens
- indigenous nurseries
- interpretation of medicinal plant use
- forest rehabilitation projects
- performing arts and craft projects.
The programmes are usually aimed at communities neighboring the parks, but sometimes people living in the parks – staff, workers from the expanded pulic works projects – are also targeted. An exciting example from Addo Elephant National Park is the Mayibuye Ndlovu Development Trust that grew from a conflict solving body into a partnership for community projects, and Wire Frame Products project in Augrabies Falls National Park
The establishing and managing of Park Forums has recently been one of the biggest leaps forward for SANParks.
Conservation cannot function without involvement of surrounding communities, local stakeholders and other interested and affected parties. Communities are encouraged to actively participate in the management of their local park and raise issues affecting their lives and the environment.
The scope of concern is extensive, particularly in the rural areas and ranges from HIV/aids through to employment, and issues like the security of park fences. Representatives are elected by the community who help to minimize friction between the park and its neighbours.