Kuzuko Lodge & Game Reserve — Eco-Tourism

Kuzuko Game Reserve, South Africa is an approximaely 40,000 acre game reserve situated adjacent to Addo Elephant Park (second largest after KrugerNational Park) in a malaria-free zone. Its partner is the South Africa National Parks (SANP). The land is fenced and disease-free animals indigenous to the region are being staged released by SANP. It offers a safari experience to tourists in a 5-star lodge managed by Legacy Hotels, a leading hotel group in Southern Africa. It employs more than 80 people directly. This project combines conservation, job creation and social transformation in a region of 70% adult unemployment. Other local partners include a number of financial agencies such as the Disability Employment Concern Trust (DECT), South African Development Bank (DBSA) and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC). A Workers Trust has also been created to enable employees to become shareholders in the business. The UK Foreign Office seconded an officer for a year to see first hand the project take shape. With their support, new commercially-viable business opportunities are currently being assessed with the aim of creating further jobs in the area.

The Eastern Cape Province is the poorest province in South Africa with a regional unemployment rate of 70%. Kuzuko is located in the Blue Crane Route Municipality (BCRM) which comprises three towns namely Somerset-East, Cookhouse and Pearston in the Eastern Cape.  The main source of income from this region is from agriculture.  BCRM has a total population of 54,000 people. Estimated adult unemployment is 87% with household income in 1999–2000 of R83 per week, equivalent to around US$2 per day per household. Assuming an average household of 4 people, this amounts to US$0.5 per person per day. The area has all the social problems associated with high unemployment including a 20% HIV infection.

Given the depressed social conditions, Kuzuko was set up as a project to stimulate economic activities in the region.  Over a 5 year period, the following impact has been achieved:

Economic impact

  1. Employment for a core staff of 30 on the game reserve, most of whom had never been permanently employed before.
  2. 70 men employed to fence around 70 miles over a 9 month period. These men were subsequently assisted to form their own fencing business.
  3. 30 men plus sub-contractors employed to build 10 staff housing.
  4. 70 men plus sub-contractors employed to build the main lodge and the staff village comprising 21 houses.
  5. 50 staff employed at the lodge.

According to the mayor of BCRM, Kuzuko has been the most significant contributor to the economy of the district over the past few years. Kuzuko together with theAddo Elephant Park, are attracting other economic activities into the area including tourism related businesses such as bed-and-breakfast lodging. BCRM is now in the process of completing the building of an airport in Somerset East. This airport will open up the district to further economic developments.

Eco-tourism is the fastest growth industry in this area and Kuzuko has been a catalyst in this process. It has been estimated that every 10 foreign tourist creates one local job. Assuming a minimum of 100 tourists per week at Kuzuko, this will translate to over 500 jobs a year. Kuzuko expects to continue being a major catalyst for job creation in the coming years. In addition, Kuzuko’s management team will also be involved in the starting of new enterprises with its local partners in the areas of agriculture, bio-fuel, laundry, waste management and building maintenance.

Social impact

  1. Wages paid by Kuzuko are substantially higher than the minimum wage (R35 per day) in neighbouring farms.
  2. R3.5m has been invested in 21 houses with inside bathroom and toilets, hot and cold water and free services. The standard of housing is well above farm labourer or government urban housing for the poor.
  3. Staff receive training in a variety of areas including driving lessons, vehicle maintenance, building skills, fencing and electric fence maintenance, game guards and conservation.
  4. Staff hold shares in the business giving them a stake in profits and encouraging interest in the venture. In addition, staff are encouraged to build up capital through savings and a number have bought cattle that graze on adjoining fields.
  5. For the first time in many cases, staff have contracts, disability and life insurance, unemployment cover and workmen’s compensation. Staff are informed of their working conditions and rights.
  6. Staff also receive guidance on life skills and HIV-Aids prevention. Counselling and rehab are facilitated for those with alcohol dependency.
  7. Kuzuko is committed to the training up, skilling and personal development of our staff. Added to this, Kuzuko has partnered with Umzi Wethu, a pioneering programme set up by the Wilderness Foundation, whereby young adults from broken backgrounds are selected for an eighteen-month course for ecotourism jobs. Kuzuko has employed some of these young people and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow in confidence and experience as they develop their careers in the hospitality industry.

Environmental impact

  1. Kuzuko has rehabilitated 40,000 acres of land previously used for stock farming, and have incorporated it into the 1.2m acre Addo Elephant Park.
  2. It is running conservation programmes with its partner, SANP for the black rhino, elephant and wild dog.
  3. The first black rhinos and elephants to graze the karoo in 150 years have now been released.
  4. Game had to be introduced in phases – antelopes, elephants and buffaloes were introduced when the vegetation had begun to recover. Predators were only introduced in 2007 when there was sufficient game to sustain their numbers.

The Kuzuko project has drawn much local support including that of Mr Mzwandile Mjadu, the mayor of the BCRM: “We are delighted with the new Kuzuko Game Reserve which is assisting our community to gain new skills and employment. It is also acting as a catalyst to attract other investors and major funding institutions to our rural area. This is no small achievement in an isolated impoverished area. Thank you for being a catalyst for social transformation.”

Project nameKuzuko Lodge
LocationSouth Africa
Contact for more informaitonFor more information on this project contact the TBN office at [email protected]
Background, purpose and progress to date
What was the problem / opportunity?The vision behind Kuzuko Lodge in the Eastern Cape was to create a 'Big Five' safari game park combining conservation, job creation and social transformation in a malaria-free area in South Africa. The area of the small Karoo was chosen for itÕs unique vegetation and beauty as well as being an area of over 70% unemployment and endemic poverty.
What is the ProjectÕs vision?The task was three fold: build a unique lodge, create jobs and allow the chosen area to revert to its original habitat. Thus was Kuzuko born. Kuzuko Lodge is the first private game reserve to be incorporated into the Greater Addo Elephant Park, the third largest national park in South Africa, giving it traversing rights over 1 million acres
How is this vision to be achieved?Twenty-two farms comprising an area of about 40000 acres were bought and around 70km of fencing erected by a team of 70 men over a period of 10 months. Wildlife was then re-introduced in partnership with the South Africa National Parks. Elephants, black rhinos and buffaloes were re-introduced into the small Karoo at Kuzuko
What progress has been made to date?Building a luxury lodge in the wilderness was no easy task. Building it on a hill with stunning views made it even harder. Water, electricity and telecommunications had to be trunked in from over [12km].
The building of the lodge, chalets and staff housing by over 100 workers took 20-months and required a substantial investment. All the work was done by local contractors or from nearby towns using local material where possible. The establishment of the reserve has now created 30 permanent jobs with another 50 employed at the lodge. Kuzuko has been one of the largest investments of its kind in the district and we expect it to stimulate further economic activity.
When will the project be self funding, i.e. cost covered by earned income?Currently the case
What has been the direct and indirect impact of the project to date?1. Employment for a core staff of 30 on the game reserve, most of whom had never been permanently employed before.
2. 70 men employed to fence around 70 miles over a 9 month period. These men were subsequently assisted to form their own fencing business.
3. 30 men plus sub-contractors employed to build 10 staff housing.
4. 70 men plus sub-contractors employed to build the main lodge and the staff village comprising 21 houses.
5. 50 staff employed at the lodge.
Specifically, how many FTE jobs have been created or sustained? 80
How much direct and indirect investment has been made to date?R3.5m has been invested in 21 houses
Lessons learned
What lessons have been learned? What do you know now that you wish you knew at the outset?
Expansion and replication
What are your plans to expand or replicate the project?
How many FTE jobs do you expect to have been created or sustained in 3 years?
What help do you need to achieve your goals?As a reserve Kuzuko is in its infancy. A five-year environmental study has provided us with the benchmark for a sustainable regrowth of the area to its natural habitat. Working in conjunction with South African National Parks a programme was embarked upon to re-stock the area with game that was indigenous to the area. Due to the negative impact that years of goat farming have had on the vegetation, the current stocking levels are low and on par with a sustainable utilization approach
Could this project be replicated by others elsewhere? What would be needed to do this?
Are there documents to aid replication in the TBN resource library?No

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Eco Tourism Game Reserve - Kuzuko Lodge
Eco Tourism Game Reserve – Kuzuko Lodge

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