Protected areas in South Africa present one of the best opportunities for economic development, especially for local communities living around them. It is understood that protected area wildlife based tourism initiatives contribute more than R2 billion to South Africa’s GDP. The solution is to create a guaranteed business opportunity for the locals through linkages of SMMEs with procurement revenue of a PA. The strategy is to assist PAs to identify goods and services and ring-fence procurement revenue for qualifying local SMMEs. In addition, ResourceAfrica would assess the local SMMEs, select and train them in order to provide relevant and quality goods and services to the park
The main problem is addressing the issue of fair access and equitable benefits from protected areas by locals. The alienation from historically owned land by locals has created a situation that constrains most residents of South Africa from participating in, and benefiting from the tourism and wildlife economy within protected areas surrounding them. Efforts are being made to streamline park business opportunities to local enterprises in communities affected. In the process of creating business linkages between parks and communities, a key challenge is lack of institutional capacity amongst the locally owned small enterprises. Other key challenges to local enterprise development, facing rural communities in particular, includes: Access to finance (capital) or credit; lack of managerial and technical skills; lack of access to information and communication technology; transport and access to markets; raw materials supply; product quality; government compliance – company registration etc.
ResourceAfrica has developed a model of business linkages between locals and protected areas based on the principle of supply-demand matrix. The purpose of our intervention is to assist the protected areas to realize their value in the wildlife economy and more specifically to channel their business opportunities to local enterprises as affected stakeholders of conservation area management. The model approach is described as follows:
- Partner with protected area agency;
- Identify and evaluate business opportunities;
- Secure management commitment;
- Select relevant and strategic project partners;
- Form steering committee;
- Design program strategy;
- Select and invite local SMEs;
- Identify/recruit and train mentors;
- Training and/or link local enterprises to identified opportunities; and
- Facilitate linkages with other markets and enterprise development agencies as part of the sustainability strategy.
- Land claim process, attaining title deeds in particular remains the major challenge hampering development between protected areas and local communities.
- Strong commitment by protected area agency/park towards local procurement and SME development is critical.
- Enthusiastic and committed partners and small business mentors are necessary for this model.
- Willingness of SME to change business practice, and become entrepreneurs.
- Appointment of a capable program coordinator.
- A clear and well-defined SME development strategy.
- Personal introductory visit to the SME to signal commitment of program partners.
- Linkages with other development initiatives and small business support programmes is key.
ResourceAfrica has over the past four years demonstrated the facilitation of direct wildlife economy benefits through a business linkages programme between protected areas and communities to the value of more than R10 million and thousands of jobs were realised as a result. In addition, there are number of key lessons learned through this programme and we can share with the world our systematic approach to local jobs creation model from protected areas. Our business linkages model has played a key role in responding to the government policy and legislative mandate to assist protected areas in learning key model approaches in channelling wildlife economy to local communities as a one of the key response to unemployment and poverty challenges. Specifically the following outcomes were achieved:
- Jobs were created
- Skills development
- Local small businesses were empowered and developed
- Parks business model for local development were improved
- Synergies and leverage to other capital and development initiatives were established
- Developmental targets for women and youth are realized
On a broader policy level, one of the key lessons learned is that protected areas can become the engine of economic development and sustainable livelihoods options for the locals. Secondly, the perception (by locals) of protected areas as a colonial system of segregation and that only benefits the minority groups tends to change over time, especially when they realise the benefits derived from the PA. Poaching still remains a major challenge in South Africa, and initially locals were reluctant to participate in activities and programmes focusing on anti-poaching campaigns. Through efforts of access and benefit sharing programmes, locals are now playing a key role assisting the PA to root out poaching.