South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs and stakeholders within the environmental sector are identifying 10 million hectares of suitable land so that previously disadvantaged individuals and communities can participate as owners of sustainable wildlife-based business ventures.

“Support programmes, such as infrastructural development (game fence, ecotourism facilities etc), game donation/loaning, skills development and training, access to markets and funding will be facilitated to ensure sustainable businesses,” says Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Thompson.

Whilst addressing the launch of the Mayibuye Game Reserve Wildlife Economy Pilot Project in the Umkhambathini Local Municipality in KwaZulu Natal on April 12, Thompson said the environmental sector was ideally placed to increase the ownership percentage of black women, youth and communities in the country’s economy.

Giving perspective, Thompson said the potential of the South African wildlife sector was significant, as it currently employed 100 000 people across the value chain.

The sector’s value chain is centred on game and wildlife farming activities that relate to the stocking, trading, breeding and hunting of game, and the services and goods required to support this value chain.

Key drivers of this value chain include domestic and international hunters, as well as a growing retail market demand for wildlife products.

“It is believed that the domestic hunting market was approximately R6.4 billion (€430 million), while the international hunting market was approximately R1.4 billion (€95 million) in 2013. In addition to hunting, game farmers can generate income from the sale of game meat, wildlife products and live game,” said Thompson.

Back in 2013, the retail and export game meat market was estimated at R230 million (€15,4 million).

The Deputy Minister mentioned that the sector, as it stood, had little domestic and international market multiplier effect, as well as the job creation characteristics of the tourism industry, making it a sector with large economic transformation potential.

Unfortunately, the structural inequalities characterising our economy have placed several barriers, including insufficient access, ownership and inefficient utilisation of land and lack of infrastructure development support for entrepreneurs on black South Africans.

“In particular, the high capital costs for acquiring land, fencing and game species are major barriers to entry and transformation. Overcoming these barriers to entry or challenges requires co-ordinated efforts from the government, private sector and communities,” she said.

Mayibuye Game Reserve received R10 million (€671 000) funding from the Department of Environmental Affairs and, with this, the game reserve has made notable progress, with a 35 kilometre wildlife fence erected, two houses refurbished, 15 field rangers have been trained and employed while a commercial ‘Business for Good’ site has been refurbished. A gate house and offices are also being constructed and wildlife introductions have also been initiated.

“In terms of employment, 76 temporary Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) jobs have been created through erection of the fence. This has unlocked a further R100 million (€6,7 million) private investment for the development of the eco-estate,” she said.

 The local community, the Ximba people, were awarded a land restitution claim in terms of a settlement agreement in April 2007.

The Mayibuye Community Trust formed by the community entered into a 99-year lease with the developer and the strategic development partner, whereby the land would be developed into a game reserve with a component of residential property, commercial sites and hotels.