Community Development is one of our bedrocks, more than 140,000 people live around Majete but prior to 2003 and African Parks involvement, the reserve delivered almost no benefits for these communities, aside from the unsustainable and illegal use of wildlife as a food supply. Devoid of wildlife, the park had few to no tourists and no revenue was being generated at all. However, this all changed in 2003 when we assumed management of the reserve and launched our community development initiatives. In 2019 we supported communities in numerous ways, from initiating income generating activities to investing in public health programmes.
One of the most important benefits to local communities is employment, especially considering that each economically active person supports six people on average in Malawi. Employment has risen more than ten-fold with now 140 people being employed on a full-time basis, including our growing ranger force who patrol the park daily and whose efforts have resulted in not one rhino or elephant being lost to poachers since 2003.
A scholarship programme provides school fees for schoolchildren who may have otherwise not had the opportunity to attend school. In 2019, over 100 children benefitted from this programme. Majete also runs an Environmental Education Programme to teach schoolchildren about the importance of the environment, while also bringing them in to experience the reserve first hand.
An important goal has been winning the support of the local people. Community structures have been established to ensure community participation in park management. Community-based micro-enterprises have been established including businesses such as bee-keeping, cultural tours, local crafts, and a community-owned and run campsite for tourists. Sustainable resource harvesting of thatch grass, bamboo and reeds is permitted within the reserve in June and July each year. In addition, African Parks has worked together with partners to introduce programmes aimed at controlling malaria. In 2014 a state-of-the-art malaria research and prevention centre was constructed in Majete with the goal of reducing the incidence of clinical malaria by 80% in surrounding communities by 2018. This research has shown great success with zero recorded infectious bites in sites that utilised the suggested tools such as nets and management of standing water.
Majete provides substantial social infrastructure in the surrounding areas, including schools, teachers’ houses, libraries, boreholes and health clinics. A rural growth centre called Majete Epicentre 1, comprising a maternity centre, community hall, rural bank, nursery school, library and food processing room was established in 2013 in partnership with The Hunger Project and funded by the Dioraphte Foundation (formerly the African Villages Foundation) with the aim of empowering the rural poor to end their hunger and poverty. This centre services 21 villages that previously had little access to health care and other services. In 2018, we also signed an MoU with Americares to increase and improve health services in the area. Current clinics will undergo much-needed improvement such as the restoration of running water. Americares will also deliver medicines and medical supplies to government-run clinics.
A community-managed campsite provides a direct source of income for the community from camping fees and tuck-shop sales. This revenue is channelled towards community projects such as the purchasing of school uniforms and writing materials, as well as food for the elderly and nursery schools. A globally-renowned tourism company, Robin Pope Safaris, opened Mkulumadzi Lodge in Majete in July 2011, which has provided more jobs and further stimulation of the local economy and has also elevated the profile of Majete as a tourism destination.
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