NEW YORK, New York — Safaris are one of the most popular ways of tourism in Africa, attracting people from all around the world each year. Singita is a luxury safari lodge with locations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Rwanda. Singita predominately works with conservation; however, it has several projects dedicated to helping local communities. The Borgen Project spoke with the group head of conservation Inge Kotze about these projects to learn more information.
Singita’s first lodge was opened in 1993. Today, Singita owns and operates 16 lodges and camps in six locations. Singita is an ecotourism and conservation brand, with a commitment to protect Africa’s wilderness while also empowering its local communities.
Community Partnership Trusts
Kotze explained that in each country that Singita operates, nonprofit community partnership trusts have been created to support impoverished local communities in the areas surrounding each lodge. These trusts focus on education, skill development, rural enterprise development and environmental education. Each trust is designed to create income opportunities, to support economic opportunities and to improve the livelihoods of locals.
Singita Lowveld Trust (SLT)
The Singita Lowveld Trust was created in 2007 as the nonprofit partner of Singita to support local communities in the areas surrounding Singita Sabi Sand and Singita Kruger National Park. In South Africa, Kruger National Park spans nearly 2 million hectares, and the region is home to more than 2 million people. The majority of these rural villages suffer from extreme poverty. The Singita Lowveld Trust aims to support quality education and skill development, to create rural entrepreneurs and enterprises and to promote environmental awareness and natural resource management. To ensure long-lasting and meaningful partnerships, 75% of the Singita Lowveld Trust’s funds and resources go toward helping these communities, while the remaining funds go toward wilderness and wildlife protection. The Singita Lowveld Trust currently supports three main projects, they include The Holistic Early Childhood Development Program, The Singita Community Culinary School and The Hustle-Economy Program.
Early Childhood Development Program (ECD)
Early childhood education provides a foundation for future learning, behavior and health. Ninety percent of a child’s brain development happens before the age of five, so early childhood education is crucial for all children. Fortunately, in the past two decades, South Africa has made strides in its ECD sector, with 99% of children attending primary school, and 90% attending secondary school as of 2019. However, there are disparities between children living in poverty and children who are not. Despite the increasing access to ECD centers, the quality of education at these centers is often poor. In rural areas, the challenge of finding quality education becomes greater, and schools often lack basic safety equipment and classroom toys and furniture.
In the interview, Kotze spoke about how the Singita Lowveld Trust has recognized the importance of early childhood education and supports 17 ECD centers in 11 villages. As of 2022, The Singita Lowveld Trust has 1,700 children ages 5 and under enrolled in school. The SLT has supplied every classroom at the 17 ECD centers with the proper learning resources for every age and learning level. These resources include classroom furniture, outdoor play equipment, health and safety equipment, arts and craft supplies, educational toys, libraries consisting of 430 local language books, and kitchen equipment. The SLT delivers these resources once a year to each ECD center. The SLT also funds the training of more than 80 teachers and 17 center managers to ensure that each child receives a proper education.
Singita Community Culinary School (SCCS)
The Singita Lowveld Trust also works with underprivileged adults and empowers them to develop professional skills and build their careers. The Singita Community Culinary School is a longstanding community partnership that the SLT shares with local communities. The culinary program offers young adults ages 18–24 the chance to partake in a year-long professional cooking course. Professional cheffing skills open many career opportunities for these young adults. Students who complete the course will have the skill set to be employed in the hospitality and tourism sectors across Africa. In 2022, the SCCS launched a new partnership with the Prue Leith Culinary Institute, and graduating students now receive a level 2 diploma in professional cheffing and are internationally recognized.
To date, 151 students have graduated from the SCCS, and 92% of them are currently employed. 91% of those graduates are professional chefs, and 25% of them work at Singita lodges, Kotze explained.
In rural African Villages, the word hustle means opportunity. There are high levels of unemployment in rural South Africa, and youth unemployment rates can be more than 50%. The Singita Lowveld Trust supports the Africa Foundation Trust South Africa (ASFA) and its Hustle-Economy Program. This program gives 1 out of 6 South Africans the opportunity to find work when formal jobs are not available. The program focuses on aiding young entrepreneurs to achieve their business goals and create micro-enterprises. When a community member who holds a passion for developing their own micro-enterprise is identified, support is provided by ASFA. They begin a three-month process of learning business and finance skills. They then take part in a nine-month mentorship process where they work towards achieving a minimum net income target. Developing entrepreneurs is critical when trying to fight the high unemployment levels in rural villages. Today, 525 entrepreneurs are being supported in the region where the SLT operates, Kotze shared.
The Singita Lowveld Trust will continue supporting rural Africans in neighboring villages. The team is driven by passion and personal commitment to make a difference for each community.
– Jack Wells
Photo: Karin Schermbrucker