Awards 2002 The Worldaware Award for Not-for-Profit Organisations

The Worldaware Award for Not-for-Profit Organisations

This award is given to a non-profit-making organisation which has promoted sustainable economic development in poor communities in the developing world through the use of commercial best practice.

The runner-up: The Africa Foundation

Receiving the certificate

Nelson Mandela wrote in 2001: "Ultimately, conservation is about people. If you don't have sustainable development around these wildlife parks, then people will have no interest in them and the parks will not survive." This is also the thinking behind the Africa Foundation. It works with impoverished people living in and around conservation areas in Africa, helping form partnerships between them and conservation initiatives. Lions, elephants and other big game attract growing numbers of tourists, a big source of national income. In the past, local people saw too little benefit. Many resented being fenced out of areas which, though remote, had offered them a livelihood.

The Africa Foundation was set up by Conservation Corporation Africa as a central pillar of its mission. The Swiss Trust also made a donation, and further gifts are received from visiting tourists and British and American companies and trusts. The foundation grew out of the ambition of Dave Varty of CC Africa to create a new wildlife reserve, Phinda, out of abandoned pineapple and cattle farms in an area between Durban and South Africa's Mozambique frontier. CC Africa knew that, to succeed, it must lend a hand to the people of the area, most of them living below the poverty line. In the Phinda area, AF has built and equipped the Mduku clinic which caters for 11,000 people, opens 24 hours a day and works with traditional healers to curb the spread of HIV. For pupils who formerly met under trees, it has built 46 classrooms and 19 pre-schools. Providing classrooms makes schools pleasanter and protects their equipment. In South Africa, it also obliges the government to provide teachers.

In addition, AF gives bursaries to bright students so they can go on to higher education and become leaders in their home communities. And AF backs the 90-litre 'Hippo' water roller, which looks like a small roller for lawns. It enables people to trundle water home instead of carrying it. Even men are now willing to help with this task. After Phinda, the Africa Foundation started working in villages near the Kruger National Park on South Africa's north-east frontier. In one village, Lepesi, it works with a Canadian couple, Ray and Christine Menard, who have adopted the local school and helped improve the education it offers.

Nicolette de Bruyn of the Africa Foundation says of the Menards: "Their personal commitment has really changed lives." The Africa Foundation also now works outside South Africa, in Zanzibar and in villages around the Serengeti Park and the Masai Mara, on the Kenya/Tanzania frontier. It has helped build a footbridge so that children can get safely to school over a river teeming with crocodiles. But it is also concerned with people's livelihoods, teaching beekeeping and vegetable growing. Schools and clinics are not enough. Communities are increasingly seeking the AF's help in securing a stake in conservation areas. One AF response, sponsored by the champagne firm Moet et Chandon, is Siya Kwamukela (Zulu for warm welcome). It puts students from villages into safari lodges for two years to learn the hospitality trade. Moet's marketing manager in South Africa heard about AF through a chance remark at dinner. For Siya Kwamukela, he arranged an auction of two magnum bottles of Moet's special millennium champagne. Actor Robin Williams hosted an auction of more bottles in San Francisco. The Africa Foundation offers loans for small enterprises. It has also set up a skills training and production centre at Nibela, near Phinda, concentrating on carpentry, welding and sewing. Women make uniforms for lodge staff and beaded craftwork for tourists. The AF is planning an associated centre offering information and appropriate technologies. The hallmark of AF initiatives is that local people are involved in setting them up. If they aren't, they don't work.

The judges say

The Africa Foundation has achieved much. With the goal of providing economic and social benefit to the poor, it has improved land use, education and health care in an impressive manner, and has made real differences to many people. We were impressed by the link being made between the commercial safari and game lodge business and the surrounding communities.

The Africa Foundation, P.O.Box 784826, Sandton 2146, South Africa
Tel: +27 11 809 4429 Fax: 4345