Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


A land claim success story – Limpopo community’s journey of resilience

At the heart of Tshivula’s communal initiative lies a dedication to eco-tourism.


In a remarkable tale of resilience and determination, the Tshivula community in northern Limpopo, close to the borders of Botswana and Zimbabwe, has transformed their struggle for land restitution into a flourishing eco-tourism venture.

From once fighting for the return of over 1.4 million hectares of land through the Land Restitution Office, the community now stands as proprietors of 10 properties, managed by the Tshivula people themselves.

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Tshivula is one of the beneficiaries on the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy of the department of forestry, fisheries, and the environment (DFFE), which aims to support biodiversity-based business potential across South Africa to encourage job creation, poverty alleviation and food security.

The journey of the Tshivula community from land claimants to eco-tourism entrepreneurs is a positive sign for the future.

With a tourist lodge situated amid the natural splendour of the bushveld, their endeavours have not only revived the land but also created sustainable livelihoods for their people.

Journey of resilience and hope

At the heart of Tshivula’s communal initiative lies a dedication to eco-tourism, a practice that harmonises with the environment while providing memorable experiences for visitors.

“Our journey has been one of resilience and hope. With the generosity of partners like SanParks and the DFFE, we have been able to turn our dreams into reality,” said secretary of Tshivula Communal Property, Simon Mafela.

He added that while there more investment opportunities for the lodge, “the success story of the Tshivula community serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved through collective action and a steadfast commitment to preserving the environment and heritage”.

READ MORE: Land reform programme: An abysmal failure so far

As they continue to tread on this path of sustainable development, the Tshivula people invite visitors from near and far to experience the beauty and hospitality of their land.

In a world grappling with environmental challenges, the story of the Tshivula community offers a beacon of hope, demonstrating that through ingenuity and collaboration, we can create a future where nature and humanity thrive in harmony.

“We really fought for this land, from claiming 1.4 million hectares, to restoring 20 000 – 14 200 hectares out of this protected for biodiversity, and losing more than 36 000 hectares,” said Mafela.

“The battle is not over yet. We are still hoping to restore more than we have now in order to ensure that all beneficiaries are well taken care of from this initiative and that more can benefit directly.”

Job creation

Mafela said for now the beneficiaries, were awarded through jobs, “we have so far created 150 jobs, but we want to see more beneficiaries getting dividends through this”.

The DFFE’s wildlife economy director Lactitia Tshitwamulomoni said the community’s efforts have led to the establishment of three lodges, serving as gateways to the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of the region.

She also noted that the communal business has received an injection of R10 million commitment from the department for infrastructural development.

READ MORE: Land reform: Three decades squandered

“This contribution not only enriches the ecological landscape but also adds to the allure of the Tshivula lodges, offering guests the chance to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature,” she said.

Ngcali Nomtshongwana, SANParks acting head of socioeconomic transformation, said the organisation was promoting sustainable rural enterprises and industries “by enabling emerging wildlife ranchers and community landholders to participate in the mainstream wildlife economy as shareholders and entrepreneurs”.

The aim is to create incentives to attract investment in rural areas through community private public partnerships without compromising land ownership or use rights.”