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SA: When parks break the borders 0

Immense areas, natural resources, and huge possibilities of development.  Transfrontier parks are a basin of projects in the development process in Southern Africa, but not all the local populations had simple access to the projects, which can still raise some doubts.

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park gathers numerous areas that go from the National Limpopo Park in Mozambique, the National Kruger Park in South Africa, three National Parks in Zimbabwe to the land of Sengwe and the Makuleke area in South Africa.

Even if the park is considered an “Area of Peace”, the South African necessity of preserving its natural resources had caused numerous problems to local people, who were expulsed from areas included in the natural reserves and forced to settle in new and less fertile lands.

It all started in 1969, when the Makhuleke population, rooted in the Pafuri area – which today is in the Kruger Park – was forced to settle near the southern region of Punda Maria because of military reasons.

But even though their return seemed to be impossible, in the 90s people claimed for their lands as the army occupation was finished.

“It took almost 29 years, but thanks to the Land Restitution Act, we are finally back,” says Mrs Vettlee Sukani Macebele, one of the main actors of the Makhuleke’s return.

Before coming back in their lands, Makhuleke agreed with the South African government to use the land for ecotourism and environmental conservation purposes.

According to the deal, they currently receive a percentage of incomes from the activities taking place in the so-called Makuleke Contract Park, which belongs to the Community Property Association.

“However, we are getting only 10% of the total profits and the money is not flowing as it was supposed to,” Macebele says “but we hope to increase the percentage and try to invest more in the area, even if private investors say it is too small for new operations”.

Ecotourism is the main focus of the area, which disposes of two structures, “that are not always fully booked”.

Even though the projects aim to help local people to improve their ability in sustainable natural resources management – through ecotourism too – results are still unsure for local population.

Most of employed people are young, but just few people are working in such a project. Even the government cannot help us to find jobs. We cannot employ every person in this job,” Macebele explains.

“It is true that the others are benefiting from these community projects, for example when new school projects are made or in the cases of temporarily employed people. But I think that the more we develop, the more people will be employed,” Macebele claims.

“However, even if people can be shocked, they are very excited for this kind of projects,” says Maphala Mathuseli, an operator in the Great Limpopo project of CESVI, a NGO focused on development issues.

“Thanks to the possibility to go from South Africa to Zimbabwe without visa problems, our main focus is environment, but we should not underestimate the possibility for these people who live in remote areas to interact each other”.

By Chiara Caprio – Afronline.org

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