Category Archives: Community Development

Visual Storytelling: Community Development on Film

November 26, 2014 - Community Development,Did You Know?,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Sustainable Conservation

Singita - Place of Miracles

Singita truly is a “place of miracles”, with incredible wildlife, elegant design, spectacular food and very special people. It isn’t just about the experience at the lodges however; miracles also happen in the communities around them and in the lives of those living in each concession. The upliftment of these local communities is as important to the success of Singita as the wildlife conservation that drives the core vision to preserve and protect large tracts of wilderness in Africa for future generations.

The highlights of these development programmes were brought to life recently in a series of videos produced by Ginkgo Agency, one of our creative partners. These beautiful and captivating narratives (shown below) perfectly captured the spirit of each project while being informative and interesting to watch.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTRE

GROWING TO READ PROGRAMME

SINGITA SCHOOL OF COOKING

For our final video in the series, we approached conservationist and cinematographer Kim Wolhuter, when he was based in the Malilangwe Reserve. Shot in his signature documentary style, this short film follows the story of a young schoolgirl who benefits from the Child Supplementary Feeding Programme at Singita Pamushana. This initiative, facilitated through Singita’s development and conservation partner in Zimbabwe, The Malilangwe Trust, provides additional food and nourishment to 19 000 children in the local communities.

CHILD SUPPLEMENTARY FEEDING PROGRAMME

Our Vimeo channel showcases not only this series but also our #SingitaStories, which highlight some of our exceptional team members, and beautiful snapshots of our lodges. You can find out more about the Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme and other community development projects at Singita on our website.

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Community Projects: Early Childhood Development

November 20, 2014 - Community Development,Did You Know?,People of Singita,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

Modern conservation requires a keen focus on keeping tourism, the community and conservation in a constructive and positively enhancing balance. The health and survival of each of these aspects is crucial to the survival of the whole. This complementary approach is central to Singita’s driving philosophy, in which it is imperative that we assist communities to thrive, both economically and socially.

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

One such example of this commitment to the empowerment of local communities can be seen in action at Singita Sabi Sand, where an early childhood development programme is in place. Growing to Read ensures that 10 pre-schools in local villages are provided with professional training and guidance by a dedicated trainer from The READ Educational Trust, a long-standing, non-profit organisation and recognised child development leader.

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

The teachers from these pre-schools learn the most efficient and effective ways of developing the cognitive, physical and social skills of the young children in their care. Carefully chosen educational toys and books are also supplied to the pre-schools, along with stationary “tool-kits”. Teachers are thereby further enabled to implement the modern and effective methodologies that are shared with them.

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

Children who develop in structured and stimulating environments such as these are better able to form the foundation they need to succeed in their later schooling, and in life. Central to the programme is the importance of literacy, and the need for teachers to nurture and develop these skills in their young charges. In addition, Teach with Africa, a USA-based organisation, sends a team of experienced lecturers to work closely with these schools on an annual basis, in support of the overall Growing to Read programme.

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

Community Development: READ programme | Singita Sabi Sand

The success of this project prompted the Community Development team to partner with Singita Kruger National Park, where the children of the Welverdiend and Hluvukani staff villages are now also involved.  This means that 1700 young learners are now benefitting from the programme and Singita’s commitment to providing continuing support to these pre-schools.

Mandla Mathonsi, Community Development Officer

Mandla Mathonsi, Community Development Officer

WANT TO HELP?
The teaching and facilities in the local pre-primary and primary schools benefit greatly from support and enhancement, and any contributions will be put to sound use. For more information about becoming a funding partner to the Singita Community Development Trust, please contact HR and Community Development Manager, Pam Richardson, at +27 21 683 3424 or pam.r@singita.com.

You can find out more about Singita’s community development projects on our website.

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The Migration 2014 Arrives at Singita Grumeti

May 20, 2014 - Community Development,Conservation,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Singita Sasakwa Lodge,Wildlife

It’s that time of year again! The wildebeest have started arriving on the Sasakwa Plains of the Serengeti and the herds seem to be multiplying at an astonishing rate with each passing day. Overnight, the grassland below Singita Sasakwa Lodge has been flooded by tens of thousands of wildebeest, making for some very exciting horseback game-spotting for our lucky guests.

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

Singita Grumeti, situated adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, is an integral part of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem, the home of the Great Migration. Singita manages 350,000 acres of this land, and generates the funds necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve via low impact tourism. Visit our website to find out more about our conservation and community development projects in the area.

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Beekeeping for Biodiversity

April 04, 2014 - Community Development,Conservation,Did You Know?,Singita Grumeti,The Grumeti Fund,Wildlife

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

Singita Grumeti

There has been much written about the plight of bees on a global scale, and the disastrous impact their dwindling populations could have on commercial agriculture and food production. Looking closer to home, the conservation of bees in particular is critical to the survival of local plant life; a crucial element of sustainable environmental conservation and biodiversity enrichment.

At Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, through the Grumeti Fund and the local outreach programme, beekeeping projects have been promoted in local communities since 2010, who in turn earn an income from the sale of honey. This way, the community is supported while the bees’ natural habitat is preserved, and serves as a great example of how conservation and community development are integrally connected.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

To date, seven beekeeping groups and various individuals and families have become involved in the project, and are now responsible for 744 beehives. Among the most successful groups is the Bonchugu Community, under the thoughtful leadership of Amos Matiku. He is described as an energetic, enthusiastic and a results-oriented person who never gives up.

“I first heard about the beekeeping project from a Community Outreach officer in 2011 and although skeptical at first, eventually myself and nine others in the community applied to join the project,” Amos says.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

It started with 20 hives, and members had to contribute 33% of the cost of running each hive, with the Grumeti Fund providing all necessary support needed for the project. In a very short time, the hives were stocked with bees and the members were able to see the fruits of their labour. In June 2012, the group celebrated their first harvest, and just 2 days laters were able to sell all the honey. The income generated covered the initial contribution of each member and they decided as a group to reinvest the profits in order to grow the project.

33 more hives were added, and in 2013, their harvest was the most successful in the whole Serengeti, which afforded them to opportunity to attend an international exhibition in Dar es Salaam. Their organic acacia honey was the show’s bestseller and allowed them to raise additional funds for the project. The group was also invited to attend another regional exhibition and are deservedly proud of their achievements so far.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

The Grumeti Fund also facilitates training for the group, helping them to stay abreast of the latest in beekeeping technology. Amos says: “Through this programme, we have realised the impact conservation can have on all our lives. The acacia forests which were previously degraded are now flourishing with new growth. Beekeeping has created employment and income for local families, while helping to conserve our land and its wildlife.”

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

The keeping of beehives helps to maintain riparian zones, natural springs, and remnant forest and bush areas as these are the the optimal habitat for the bees. The presence of the hives also prevents timber and firewood harvesting in those areas, and discourages elephants (they don’t like bees!) from trampling the nearby farmland and destroying the crops.

In 2002, the Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund, a not-for-profit organisation, was granted the right to manage and conserve 350,000 acres, for the benefit of Tanzania, Africa and the world. Four years later, Singita took over the management of the property, at the request of the concessionaire and began the task of generating, via low impact tourism, the funds necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve through conservation and community partnerships.

 If you would like more information, please contact Pam Richardson, Singita’s Group HR and Community Development Manager.

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People of Singita: Irene Makhabane

October 21, 2013 - Community Development,Experience,Kruger National Park,Singita Sweni Lodge

The People of Singita: Irene Makhabane

The people who work at Singita have always been a point of pride for us; we are extremely blessed to have a dedicated and hard-working team that works together to create unforgettable experiences for our guests. Singita is the trusted guardian of over half a million acres of pristine land in Africa and employs a large number of people from nearby communities, helping to support the local economy. One such person is Irene Makhabane, the Lodge Manager at Singita Sweni Lodge in the Kruger National Park:

Singita Sweni Lodge

How did you get started at Singita and what inspired you to become a lodge manager?
I was appointed through a recruitment agency and chose hospitality because I love meeting people from all over the world. As a woman who grew up in Africa, it is interesting for me to run the lodge while learning about other people’s homes and cultures.

What would be the highlight of your career so far?
My appointment as lodge manager has definitely been a highlight, as well as the support of my colleagues at Singita who give me so many opportunities to grow.

Singita Sweni Lodge

What do you love about Singita?
Singita is a great company to work for and what I love the most is how the staff are constantly given the opportunity to improve and learn the business. I also love how Singita supports the local community with projects like the Singita School of Cooking which provides training and job opportunities for young people from the neighbouring villages.

What is a memorable guest experience?
One of my favourite experiences occurred while one particular family was staying at the lodge for a few nights. We got on extremely well and on the second night of their stay, they invited me for dinner. They insisted on serving me drinks, fetching food from the kitchen and clearing the plates. They were so kind and made me feel like a special guest at Singita.

Singita Sweni Lodge

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
One evening while our guests were in the middle of dinner, a transformer blew, leaving us with no electricity. I had to quickly assess the situation, explain the problem to the guests and tell them how it would be resolved. It was the middle of summer and guests had to go to sleep without any fans or air conditioning so it was quite a challenge but I managed to keep them happy and comfortable despite this setback.

Who is your favourite person and inspiration in the world?
Nelson Mandela. He is truly a great man, filled with grace and humility.

Singita Sweni Lodge

You can read the previous articles in this series; an interview with chef Michael Matera from Singita Grumeti and the story of tracker at Singita Sabi Sand, George Nkuna. Visit the website to learn more about working at Singita.

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People of Singita: George Nkuna

September 03, 2013 - Africa,Community Development,Conservation,Experience,Kruger National Park,Singita Lebombo Lodge

Tracker George | Singita Sabi Sand

The people who work at Singita are among its most precious assets. Each member of staff that works in the lodge, at head office or out in the bush is part of a carefully crafted team whose primary goal is to create unforgettable memories for our guests. Many of them are from the local community and have overcome significant hurdles to pursue their chosen career with us. In this blog series dedicated to the inspiring group of people we are proud to work alongside, we introduce you to some of the most interesting characters in the team. Today is the story of tracker George Nkuna, as told to Mark Broodryk, Head Guide at Singita Sabi Sand:

Tracker George | Singita Sabi Sand

How did you get started at Singita?
I started in March 2003, on the day that Singita Lebombo Lodge opened. I was part of the original team at Singita Kruger National Park and then moved to Singita Sabi Sand about five years ago. I started working at one of the neighbouring lodges in a back office position, then one day a tracker was sick and they needed someone to fill in. They asked me if I could track and I jumped at the opportunity and said yes although I had never officially done the job of a tracker. They hadn’t seen a leopard on the property for over two weeks and I found two different leopards on my first drive and haven’t stopped tracking since. That was nearly 20 years ago.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What inspired you to become a Tracker?
My father used to work as a field guide for the Kruger National Park. I used to visit him during the school holidays and he arranged for me to go out with the scouts. We would record everything we saw and make observation notes. I really enjoyed being in the bush and seeing how happy my dad was in this environment and realised I could make a career and earn a living while still being in the bush. The guides and scouts used to make me write tests once a week to see what I had learnt and ask me tough questions which I was able to answer. I was the first person from my village to become a tracker and earn a living doing this job, and have tried to be an inspiration to others in my community.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What would be the highlight of your career so far?
I have many highlights! Of a personal nature, I’m very proud of my family and especially my children. The early days of the Singita Kruger National Park were very exciting times, getting the lions used to our presence and finding animals in unchartered territory. From a tracking perspective, my highlights would be achieving my senior tracker qualification on my very first attempt and being asked to go and track leopards in Azerbaijan, as well as running the tracker training school or training and assessing trackers up in Botswana.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What is a memorable guest and or wildlife experience?
My favourite thing is seeing how one is able to totally delight guests and making their dream trip to Africa a reality. One memory that stands out was in the early days at Singita Kruger National Park, with a guest who had been coming to Africa for many years but had never seen a kill. We found a cheetah, the very first sighting of a cheetah at Singita Lebombo Lodge in fact, after tracking it for many hours. The guest said he wanted to stay with it for the entire morning in the hope that it would hunt. Sure enough our patience paid off and the guest got his wish and was able to film the entire scene from start to finish.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What do you love about the wilderness?
I love being in the bush, yes it has its problems but nothing like living in a city. I am happiest when I’m in the bush, nothing else seems to matter for those few hours each day when you are out there.

Singita Lebombo Lodge

In your opinion what is important about the work that you do for conservation?
Teaching guests about the environment, trying to teach those around me to appreciate nature and to encourage those in my village to learn the skill of tracking so they can create a livelihood for their families. By conserving the environment we have jobs to support our families and making it sustainable for future generations to appreciate and care for in years to come.

You can read the previous article in this series, an interview with chef Michael Matera from Singita Grumeti. Visit the website to learn more about working at Singita. 

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Environmental Education at Singita Grumeti

June 19, 2013 - Community Development,Experience,Singita Grumeti

There is an all too familiar story in Africa. It is one of poverty, exacerbated by a lack of education and subsequent unemployment, often fuelled by a voracious foreign market eager to exploit these circumstances. The net result is a culture of poaching – the illegal “harvesting” of natural resources, either for direct subsistence or further sale, all in an effort to feed and educate a poacher’s family. The rewards are scant for those locals who risk life and limb and the cycle is a tremendously difficult one to break.

Singita Faru Faru Lodge

Students at the Singita Grumeti Environmental Education Centre (EEC) were recently given a very stark glimpse into that world by a most unlikely champion of the anti-poaching fraternity – a hardened and once-feared poacher named Shaban Andrea.

A skilled hunter of much repute in the local communities, Mr Andrea’s grade 7 level of education precluded him finding gainful employment in the formal economy of Tanzania, so he exploited his primary skill to tremendous effect. His poaching exploits crossed international borders and his “hit list” included elephant and rhino, amongst other vulnerable and protected species. Despite his efficacy as a poacher and his position as a leader of one of East Africa’s best-known poaching gangs, he still struggled to feed, let alone educate, his growing family. Most of the money he earned was used to bail him out of jail following two separate arrests by Singita Grumeti Fund scouts who patrol the 350,000-acre conservation area adjacent to the Serengeti National Park.

Shaban Andrea, reformed poacher

After being arrested a third time, he was inspired to hang up his rifle and look for work outside of the world of poaching. The Fund saw his potential and offered him an opportunity to work with the Anti-Poaching Unit. After negotiating a reduced sentence and serving his time, Mr Andrea was released and appointed to the Wildlife Monitoring and Research team where he has worked ever since. For the first time in his life, he earned an honest wage and with hard work has been able to build a home for his family and is very proud to have two sons currently at university.

Beyond the personal success of this story, the opportunity that Shaban Andrea was given by Singita has had a far-reaching effect on the young minds that listen to him recount his experiences whilst at the EEC. He leaves the learners with a short and simple message: that there is simply no benefit to the killing of Africa’s wildlife and that the future lies in their protection.

Environmental Education at Singita Grumeti

The problem of poaching in Africa remains a complex one, one that requires a multi-faceted and often unconventional approach in the search for solutions. Through a very human act of giving a man a second chance, Singita has exposed an invaluable resource in the fight against poaching – a man with a story.

You can find out more about the EEC on our website, as well as our other community development and conservation efforts. You might also like to know about Singita’s recent involvement in the rollout of the Rhino Horn Treatment Programme to help combat poaching in the Sabi Sand. 

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Wonderful Zulu Weaving at Singita Boutique & Galleries

May 01, 2013 - Community Development,Lodges and Camps

Traditional Zulu weavers create beautiful underplates for Singita's lodges

Visitors to all of Singita’s lodges and camps are treated to a daily feast of locally-grown produce and inspired traditional fare from our industrious kitchen teams. Our elegant cuisine is no doubt one of the highlights for our guests, but another common talking point among them is the spectacular table settings at each meal.

Taking pride of place among these are exquisitely hand-crafted wire underplates, expertly created by a group of Zulu weavers in Durban, South Africa. These talented ladies work with Singita designers to develop unique designs and colour palettes for each lodge that echo the distinctive style and environment of that property. These designs are then interpreted by local crafters who create these striking, handmade objets d’art which are also available for sale at each of the Singita Boutique & Galleries.

zuluweavers_3

Behind these beautifully woven objects is a story of hope and inspiration, and a shining example of one of the many successful community partnerships that are central to Singita’s philosophy of giving back. We hold a series of workshops to teach unemployed women from both urban and rural areas how to weave the underplate designs, that are both modern works of art and practical to use at home.

Traditional Zulu weavers create beautiful underplates for Singita's lodges

Our signature tableware line is continually growing by utilizing the skills of these Zulu weavers who also create napkin rings, bread baskets and drinks coasters. Singita table accessories are manufactured to the highest quality standards, are eco-friendly and fairly traded, ensuring sustainable incomes for more than 350 home-based craft producers in four different communities.

The hand-woven under plates in the dining room at Singita Ebony Lodge

Hand-woven wire underplates at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Find out more about our community projects by reading these blog posts, or visiting the Community section of our new website.

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The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme

April 04, 2013 - Africa,Community Development,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge

Zimbabwe, like many African countries, has its fair share of challenges, not least of which is the effect of unpredictable rainfall patterns and successive droughts on agricultural production and subsistence farming. The consequent food scarcity causes malnutrition in local children and is linked to the disturbingly high infant mortality rate.

The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme

The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme was set up in response to the dire need to provide these children with a proper meal each day. In association with the national government of Zimbabwe and, following guidelines put in place by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Singita set about establishing a feeding programme on the outskirts of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, where Singita Pamushana Lodge is situated. As with many such initiatives, its success is to a large extent dependant on the involvement and support of local community members.

The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme - Ettah Mhango

One such community member is Mrs Ettah Mhango. Not only does she raise her own two children, she also takes care of six of her nephews and nieces. On top of this, she is a key member of the Supplementary Feeding Scheme team, and has been since its inception in 2003. As the manager and storekeeper of one of the scheme’s 436 feeding points, it is her responsibility to ensure that regular deliveries of the blend are received and securely stored, that there is enough porridge to feed the 34 small children in her care, that the food is well prepared and the correct portions are adhered to each day.

Children are fed a nutrient-rich meal consisting of a WFP-approved Corn and Soya blend

When asked about the value of the programme she was heartfelt in her reply: “The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Programme is the backbone of the community and, if it stops functioning, our children will die”. She also provided the insight that, as the programme also operated at the local primary school, good school attendance was being encouraged.

Ettah Mhango

In total, 19 000 children on the outskirts of the reserve receive such a meal each school day. This would not be possible without the committed involvement of local people, largely women, who volunteer their time and effort to partner with this programme. These amazing people ensure that the children of the village begin each day on a sound and healthy note.

Singita Pamushana Lodge

You can read more about how Singita gives back on our website or browse our previous Community Development posts on the blog.

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Victor’s Vegetable Garden

March 05, 2013 - Africa,Community Development,Sabi Sand

kruger-school-of-cooking-classportrait

One of the most heart-warming ways that Singita contributes to the upliftment of our local communities is by improving the lives of the children who live in them. One such example is the story of Victor Ubisi who, in his own time and with the tremendous generosity of Singita guests, has created a communal vegetable garden that helps to feed the little learners and benefits the families living in Justicia village neighbouring Singita Sabi Sand. He is an inspiration to Singita’s team at Ebony and Boulders Lodges and a symbol of the value of hard work to the smiling faces at the school.

Happy Homes Pre-School at Singita Sabi Sand

The Happy Homes Pre-School in the village community of Justicia on the outskirts of the Singita Sabi Sand is now even more of a happy home for the children who visit it every day. And it is all thanks to the generous and selfless act of a wonderful man.

The school fills a desperate need to provide essential early childhood education to many of the village’s youngsters. While filling young minds with information was a challenge readily met, ensuring that the children received a decent meal every day was another challenge all together. Despite the best efforts of the teaching staff, the children were often hungry and easily distracted, which made learning very difficult and it was clear that something had to be done.

Victor's Vegetable Garden at Singita Sabi Sand

The decision was made to start a feeding programme and was generously supported by Deborah Terhune, a former guest and foundation director for Growing Up Africa, which is a charitable organisation that focuses on enriching the early education of children across the continent. Mr Victor Ubisi, a night porter at Singita Sabi Sand, was tasked with the job and worked tirelessly in his own time to create an edible garden that provides food for the school. In addition, any surplus crops are sold to the village community or to the Singita lodges for use in the kitchen. This revenue is further used to fund various school projects and has also allowed Victor to establish a small business of his own. He passes on his skills as a gardener to the children who are now actively involved in the planting, maintenance and harvesting of the vegetables.

Victor showing the latest produce to one of our chefs

Harvesting spring onions

Victor is so passionate about being a positive and constructive influence in his community that he recently joined forces with Deborah’s team and a group of Cornell University graduates to assist in the building of a school in Johannesburg. He took three weeks unpaid leave to achieve this goal and has brought many a learning back to his village of Justicia.

The smiling faces at Happy Homes Pre-School

The challenges faced by the Happy Homes Pre-School are representative of those in rural communities throughout Africa, as is the success of implementing such a simple yet practical solution. What began as a heart-breaking problem has become a shining example of what hard work and compassion can achieve, while enriching Victor’s life and those of the children that he helps to feed.

Find out more about Singita’s community projects here or learn about Joyful Nghala, a young woman who is building the foundation of her own bright future as one of the star pupils at the Singita School of Cooking.

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