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Phinda Game Reserve, Vlei Lodge, Bheki Ntuli, Senior Development Officer


The relationship between a luxury game reserve and the surrounding community is often an uneasy one. Great wealth next to great poverty is not a happy mix, and the result is usually a large amount of poaching, as the community tries to ‘take back’ what it feels it rightfully owns.

Not so at Phinda Private Game Reserve, where andBeyond (the umbrella group that Phinda belongs to) has developed the andBeyond Foundation, a truly inspiring organization working specifically in the community.

There are a number of things that make the andBeyond Foundation unique. There’s the fact that, seeing as 60% of the employees at Phinda come from the local community, poaching is much less of a problem than it is at most game reserves. While larger reserves are looking at an average of one animal a day poached from their ground, Phinda has an average of one animal a year. This remarkable result is directly linked to the relationship Phinda has established with the community, and their attempt to teach the importance of wildlife and the need for conservation. In fact, wildlife conservation is taught in the local schools, and those students who score highest on their conservation tests are treated to a game drive in Phinda – a truly extraordinary experience. As Bheki Ntuli, Senior Development Officer says, “We have changed the emphasis from ‘Why do they have to come and use our forefathers’ land?’ to being neighbourly. We have said to the community – if you need help, come to us, and we will do what we can.’”

And here’s another way in which andBeyond is different. While many NGOs and charities simply hand out money, fostering a dependant relationship where the community is not responsible for anything, andBeyond ensures that the community is as involved as they are, guaranteeing that the project will be sustainable even after the initial excitement has worn off. In fact, they have a strict set of guidelines in place to make sure all projects are processed correctly. What began as a small trust for Phinda guests to donate to the local community has grown into a well-oiled machine, and the system seems to benefit all who come in contact with the foundation. There are five communities bordering Phinda – Mduku, Mnqobokazi, Nibela, Kwajobe and KwaNgwenya – and since 1991 andBeyond has been involved with consulting with them, defining their needs and helping them prioritize what really needs to be done to improve their quality of life. The main areas of help are Healthcare, Education and Income Generating Activities (IGAs) that form co-operatives around a business idea, once a proposal and budget have been approved. The communities’ proposals are evaluated with a fine-toothed comb. Those that are deemed necessary are given the full treatment – a proper budget and plan are drawn up, and the community has to get involved and source its own builders, so that it is invested in each stage of the project. The community is also in control of costing so that there is no doubt as to how expensive each project is.

andBeyond has defined three levels of need – small, medium and large, ranging from as little as R2000 (for, as an example, a small business raising chickens) to over a million rand, to build a whole school. Guests at Phinda can then decide how involved they’d like to become. It’s a business model that seems to be working, as andBeyond has built more than 92 classrooms since 1991. The communities have populations of at least 8000, ranging to 20 000, and with more than 20 schools, so classrooms are essential if all the children in the community are to be educated. The andBeyond Foundation also works closely with government – the Department of Health supplies their new clinics with doctors, and the Department of Education supplies their new schools with teachers.

That’s not all that sets them apart, though. So many NGOs are run by one impassioned individual who, with only the best intentions for their projects, deem them to failure by not appointing an equal-power board. andBeyond Foundation has a separate board of trustees and a sustainable number of employees, so that each person can be fully committed to their tasks. They do lots of fundraising, but 80% of their funds come from andBeyond guests like those at Phinda. One of the reasons the andBeyond Foundation has become such a role model in community development is that andBeyond covers all their running costs, allowing the foundation to give 90% of their funds directly to the communities (with a very transparent 10% taken for administrative costs). This is no rose-tinted view of how a non-profit organization should be run, but an extremely well-thought-out and obviously well-run model of a sustainable way to help those in need.

Perhaps the most inspiring of all their work, though, is andBeyond Foundation’s CLEF (Community Leaders Education Fund) scholarships. Promising high school students are chosen for their potential to impact their community. “We ask them,” explains Bheki, “How will you benefit the community? How will you motivate them? Twice a year the students have to come home and do something in their community – something to inspire others, whether it’s volunteering at the clinic or putting together some kind of event.” There are 19 CLEF students at the moment, with an entire group of around 140, who all belong to the CLEF Club, a group of talented individuals committed to making positive changes in their home communities. And again, everything has been thought through – the students are only given 50% bursaries their first year of university, and if they work hard and study hard, that amount is increased. It works as an incentive, so a student might end up with 100% bursary if he studies hard, but it is not simply handed to him on a platter.

It is a rare thing to find a clear-headed, well-run, sustainable charity that still manages to do inspiring work, but the andBeyond Foundation have most certainly succeeded. The result is that while you enjoy your luxury holiday, you can be sure that the communities around you are not suffering for it.