Conservation & Community at Phinda Vlei Lodge
At &Beyond we seek to maintain a low impact on the land while deriving high yield for our conservation initiatives by creating very small luxury lodges that support enormous tracts of biodiverse land, which remains untouched.
At every lodge we seek out small (and sometimes not so small) but meaningful ways of putting our values into action every day. Each &Beyond lodge supports the conservation of wildlife and contributes to its neighbouring communities in one way or another.
In addition, we seek to limit our impact in terms of fossil fuels, the use of renewable energy, water and waste management, and recycling.
At &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, a groundbreaking land claim agreement restored 22 000 acres of land to ancestral owners.
Access to Water
Many areas in KwaZulu-Natal are affected by drought or limited infrastructure that restricts their access to water. This means that women or children are forced spend hours collecting water from nearby water sources. Together with Africa Foundation, &Beyond has assisted in 28 schools, with a total of 18 000 pupils, receiving water by providing reticulation from the municipal pipeline or installing boreholes and tanks. We have also provided water pumps and tanks for the establishment of nine vegetable gardens, resulting in food or income being produced for 1 300 people.
Black Rhino Range Expansion Project
In a joint project with WWF, the Ezemvelo KZN-Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project selected &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve as the first release site for 16 black rhinos in 2004. The endangered rhinos have thrived in their new home, providing further evidence of the successful restoration of farmlands into prime wildlife habitat. Ecotourists frequently observe the black rhinos on &Beyond Phinda game drives and the reserve celebrated the birth of the first baby rhino in August 2006.
Community Business Linkage Pilot Programme
Africa Foundation and &Beyond have set up a Community Business Linkage Pilot Programme that involves three farms and has helped the farmers to develop their subsistence gardens into small scale farms. This promotes self reliance, allowing the farmers to provide food security for themselves and their families, as well as increasing their income-generating potential and fostering relationships between neighbouring lodges, who purchase the produce, and the local communities.
Community Leaders Education Fund
The Community Leaders Education Fund (CLEF) is a bursary programme that aims to provide education, reduce unemployment and increase average household income in rural communities. The programme provides academic sponsorships, which provide young leadesr with the skills gained through tertiary education, increasing their changes of employment. The second component requires bursary recipients to share their knowledge and skills with their communities. To date, CLEF has funded tertiary studies for more than 150 students.
Control of Invasive Triffid Weed
The exotic Triffid Weed (Chromolaena odorata) is native to South America but has spread to South Africa where it is classified as one of the country's most noxious weeds. In the absence of any natural control mechanisms, this plant proliferates in savanna ecosystems and &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve has embarked on an ambitious control program which uses fire and mechanical clearing.
Improved Academic Facilities
&Beyond and our social development partner, Africa Foundation, have facilitated the construction of 110 classrooms and three libraries in the communities surrounding &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. This has included projects such as Nkomo Primary School, where 10 classrooms, aftercare and creche facilities, as well as a school feeding scheme, have been established. Another example is the Qhubekani Creche, where classrooms, ablutions, an office, a storeroom and a kitchen have been built, providing facilities to care for 86 children.
Inkwazi Ranger Training School
Overlooking the Mzinene floodplains in the south of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, the Inkwazi Ranger Training School provides facilities and accommodation for groups of up to 20 learners. Trainees undertake a rigorous course that covers all aspects of guiding, such as communication, safety and wildlife knowledge. Successful candidates are employed at &Beyond, where they undergo three months of on-site training and ongoing mentorship from experienced guides.
Lion Reintroduction Research at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve
Prior to &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve's establishment in 1990, esident populations of lions were last recorded in Maputaland in 1938. Between May 1992 and January 2003, 15 lions were released into the Reserve. Research conducted to determine the success and failures of the reintroduction has recently been completed, providing valuable information to the conservation world and paving the way for more incredible victories.
Mduku Clinic and Digital Eco-Village
Working with leader's from &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve's neighbouring Mduku village, Africa Foundation have funded and facilitated the construction and staff training at a 24-hour clinic which attends to the health needs of over 10 000 people every month. The Digital Eco-Village (Dev Centre) provides easy access to technology with computer courses, skills training and internet access facilitating the advance of education, agriculture and health care.
Monitoring of Leopard in the Munyawana Conservancy
In order to establish the population density and dynamics of leopard at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and adjacent properties, a number of individuals have been radio-collared for satellite tracking. A full time researcher, working under the auspices of the World Conservation Society's Global Carnivore Program, documents the movements and interactions of leopards in the area, making use of remote digital camera trapping technology. This is the first serious study of leopard ecology in a matrix of protected areas and hunting concessions.
Monitoring of Phinda Private Game Reserve's Birds of Prey
As predators at the top of the food chain, eagles and other raptors are important indicators of ecosystem health. As a means of monitoring the full recovery of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve as a wild landscape, senior rangers are engaged in locating nest sites and documenting the breeding success of eagles, vultures, hawks and owls. This project is part of a regional study under the direction of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Bird of Prey Working Group.
Population Control of African Elephant
The African elephant is one of the continent's most loved and charismatic animals, but when confined to a fenced reserve, growing populations can have negative impacts on the landscape and other species. A total of 58 elephant were released at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve between 1992 and 1994, and the population had doubled to over 100 by 2003. In addition to translocating a number of individuals in 2003, &Beyond Phinda has also embarked on an experimental contraception program with a team of wildlife veterinarians. Lessons learned from this, and similar experiments elsewhere, may help provide solutions to the long-term management of elephant in other parts of the continent.
Skills Training at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve
Africa Foundation, &Beyond's social development partner aims to empower communities through skill development- providing them with a means of generating their own income. Seventeen individuals from the community of KwaNgwenya have recently completed a construction skills training course. The 30-day course was aimed at teaching the skills of plastering, tiling, bricklaying and carpentry. The group was divided into four smaller groups which will then be able to form separate co-operatives and can take on construction projects in the future. The group will now go on to construct 6 classrooms, 12 teachers accommodation units and an admin block at Mdolomba Junior Secondary School in KwaNgwenya, gaining valuable, on-site training and experience.
South African History is Made as &Beyond Signs Phinda Land Deal
17 March 2008 marked a joyous and momentous occasion at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve as R18 million was handed over from &Beyond to our two landlord communities surrounding the Reserve. In August 2007, &Beyond and the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi community leaders signed a groundbreaking land restitution deal which restored 22 000 acres of the Reserve to the ancestral owners of the land. Now, as landlords, these communities will continue to share meaningfully in the benefits of conservation and ecotourism and will receive substantial, escalating rental from the &Beyond Phinda land. They have engaged &Beyond to continue running the business of Phinda for the next 72 years, and the communities have in turn committed the land to wildlife in perpetuity.