GNF - Enhancing the socio-ecological resilience of rural communities in Maputaland

Enhancing the socio-ecological resilience of rural communities in Maputaland



The Maputaland region in the northern part of the KwaZulu-Natal province is often referred to as the forgotten area of South Africa due to limited development of infrastructure, industry and modern services. The area is one of the least developed in South Africa and is more similar to neighbouring Mozambique than the rest of South Africa in terms of landscape. Poverty is widespread. There are few job opportunities and people live mainly on subsistence farming.


The area is well endowed with natural resources. However, global climate change is gradually affecting the area and people's livelihoods. Changing weather patterns and a growing population are putting increasing pressure on subsistence agriculture and the natural resources on which local people directly depend. As a result, the natural environment is no longer able to withstand the pressures of a growing human population. Drastic changes are therefore needed to enable people to transition to climate-smart agriculture and sustainable use of natural resources, and to develop an economy based on the sustainable use of wilderness from which local people can benefit in the long term.

Project goals

The experience of Wildlands, which has been working in this region for more than 10 years, shows that the climate-adapted agriculture demonstration gardens established at the community centers have been successful in demonstrating techniques for growing locally adapted crop varieties. After further study and research into best practices and new technologies, this community center approach will be used on the one hand to help farmers adopt different permaculture approaches and improve the productivity of their land, while also reducing the impact on the environment and mitigating the need to clear new land.


In addition, a new economic opportunity is partially established near the Tembe Elephant Park but require further development to be profitable: Tshanini-Bhekula is a protected area established by the local community to protect and make accessible the unique sand forest habitat, which has significant potential for nature-based tourism, especially bird watching. There is a small lodge but support and capacity building is needed to make it fully operational and attract tourists. Through this project, the accommodation offer in Tshanini-Bhekula will be expanded with a tented camp and training of local people to become bird guides. This will increase the economic potential of the area to create jobs and support local livelihoods in the wildlife-based economy.

Project measures

Various activities will be carried out together with the community to achieve the project's objectives:


Socio-economic baseline study to guide project interventions

A baseline assessment will provide information on current levels of economic activity and social resilience. A second survey will be conducted at the end of project implementation to assess the impact of the project on the stated objective of improving local livelihoods. 


Identify and promote appropriate conservation agriculture techniques through demonstration gardens and mentorship at community hubs

This improves subsistence farming and also creates opportunities for household income through sales, as surpluses can be produced. Sales take place locally within the community-based market system, so there are no transport costs and the transportation of food does not have a detrimental impact on the environment. This project component will thus support the local economy by ensuring that the wealth generated through agriculture circulates within the community.
The main focus is on restoring and maintaining soil fertility. Thus, the health of soils is tested and the impact of farming practices is assessed for their contribution to human well-being as well as carbon sequestration and ecosystem health restoration.


Establishment of a tent camp

A new tented camp will be constructed at Tshanini-Bhekula Community Reserve. This will provide accommodation for additional people on the reserve, enhancing tourism and employment opportunities. As far as possible, local service providers are used to ensure maximum benefit for the direct target group of the project.


Capacity building of community members in tourism and as nature guides through training and mentorship

Community members receive accredited training as nature guides and training in bird identification. The mentoring will teach participants the basic principles of financial management and business management. This significantly improves the chances of success for the new businesses. 


Capacity building to generally improve understanding of climate change, regenerative agriculture and the benefits of wilderness-based economies

This activity will be carried out locally at the community centres by means of the project staff with the support of the experienced technical staff of the local executing agency from the main office in Hilton. It includes the creation and use of innovative communication materials translated into the local language.


 German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)



Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

The project should make a concrete contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

 Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
 Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
 Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
 Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
 Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Project partner

Wildlands Conservation Trust (Wildlands) is a non-profit organization and public benefit organization registered in South Africa. Wildlands is a national organization with a focus on the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.  The Wildlands Conservation Trust consists of two programmes, WILDLANDS and WILDOCEANS, the former focusing on terrestrial conservation and development, the latter on work in the marine environment. The organisation works primarily at the intersection of community development, resilience building and conservation to empower local communities to build sustainable futures in the face of climate change, natural disasters and global pandemics such as COVID19.

Project partner



Mr Thies Geertz

Global Nature Fund (GNF) - Office Radolfzell

Phone: +49 7732 9995 83



Project period:


Project country: 


Project partner:






1 November 2021 – 30 June 2024


South Africa


Wildlands Conservation Trust (Wildlands)


German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)