We do love a good partnership story, especially when it has a strong sustainability focus. We are extremely excited to be part of a trial initiative which will help accelerate a working relationship between our local communities and the needs of our local business markets.
Thornybush has partnered with the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region, and From the Region for the Region (fRfR) in this first of its kind pilot program. The Thornybush Nature Reserve and the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve are well positioned, relative to a large rural community, to test a supply chain model. If this project is successful, it will be scaled to the rest of the Greater Kruger Park area which will be an incredible feat.
In 2018, Thornybush joined hands with neighbouring reserves and signed a co-operative agreement which allows the Thornybush Reserve to remain part of an open system with the Kruger National Park. This co-operative agreement defines several long-term goals which the various partners within the different reserves are all encouraged to work towards, achieving a collaborative approach to an overall management plan.
After the co-operative agreement was signed a “Responsible Tourism Best Practice Toolkit” was drafted. This touches on various issues such as environmental footprint, water usage, waste management, and very importantly the involvement and benefaction of the surrounding communities, who live on the periphery of the Greater Kruger Protected Areas.
Small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) play an absolutely vital role in our local economy, historically however, community businesses have largely been excluded from the green economy. And yet these businesses have the potential to be key drivers of economic growth and job creation, particularly in small rural communities.
Poor market research, weakness in supply and demand, consistency of quality goods, lack of business acumen and transportation barriers are just some of the issues that put these SMMEs at a disadvantage. Also, their inability to access markets has been noted as one of the major factors threatening their longevity. On top of that, South African banks and lenders, who are all highly conservative, are more inclined to put resources in small businesses only in their later stages of development.
Excitingly, From the Region for the Region have been growing a database of SMME’s who are ready to trade. The idea behind this pilot program is that the Thornybush and Timbavati Reserves will work in collaboration with fRfR in order to motivate market access channels within the various lodges situated in the two reserves.
The project will create a sustainable relationship between the community and the lodges. Each lodge that participates will be encouraged to identify areas within their business supply chain where the local businesses can ‘slot’ into. This will initially only be with fresh produce and basic services.
Over time this network will grow, and the SMME’s within the surrounding communities will be encouraged to join this mutually beneficial, venture. The overall objective is to ensure that all parties are deriving benefit from an inclusive Green Economy.
It is such a privilege to be part of this incredibly exciting pilot project and we look forward to flying the flag for all other Tourism Operators within the Greater Kruger area. We like to refer to this way of operating as best practice, because ultimately everyone benefits and that is the only way to be truly sustainable and successful.