Imvelo Safari Lodges
Supporting Africa Series
By working with operators that have a passion for wilderness, wildlife and their communities we deliver more than personal service, expert advice and incredible trips, we also contribute to the future of a more sustainable and prosperous Africa.
Imvelo Safari Lodges share my passions in all these areas and have been doing incredible conservation work since their inception in 1996. Their commitment to support not only wildlife but also to collaborate and uplift local communities by utilizing communal land and generating an income that reaches the people that it should be supporting.
An approach such as this (shared by others that we work with such as Cottars in Kenya) results in these communities being directly invested in the wellbeing of their wildlife and the conservation of the surrounding habitat as they see a positive return for its protection, they have an income from the wildlife and an increased quality of life with better healthcare, education, access to clean and safe water and future opportunities rather than simply elephants that destroy crops or predators that kill livestock.
The attitude of Imvelo is one that should be shared across Africa, tourists here enjoy incredible experiences in wonderful camps all in the knowledge that by travelling with this organisation they are making a difference to both conservation and the people that call the land home.
Imvelo’s definition of Ecotourism is this, and I couldn’t agree more…
“Ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel whereby portions of the funds generated from visitors are used to directly benefit and empower local communities and promote environmental sustainability.”
During the difficult times being faced and yet to come Imvelo will be focussing its efforts on its key areas of responsibility, in an email from Mark Butcher, Managing Director, he emphasises this:-
“In anticipation of the day when our valued guests return to Zimbabwe, we will continue to support the very people and wildlife that make it such a magical place to visit, doing everything we can to safeguard our communities and wildlife.”
When you enable a population to benefit directly from conservation it grows to care for its wildlife and wilderness, therefore reducing the need for outside involvement; poaching is decreased, destructive land use stops and human encroachment is discouraged all by the people themselves.
The majority of the lodges operated by Imvelo are located in and around Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, an area which faces unique challenges even when not confronted with a pandemic having a catastrophic impact on worldwide tourism revenue and in turn conservation efforts.
Hwange is one of the few wilderness areas in Africa that does not have a large permanent water source, instead the wildlife relies on a series of waterholes which become more and more scarce through the dry season, this lack of water leads to reduced food sources for species such as elephant and drives them toward villages with crops being grown by subsistence farmers.
Last year the dry season took a toll on both wildlife and local populations with crops failing and wildlife numbers declining due to drought.
These challenging times can lead to increased levels of wildlife crime and to these local communities turning their back on conservation efforts, even aiding organised crime for money or food. This is where Imvelo Safari Lodges has made great strides and their community based conservation through tourism model comes into its own, however, with tourism now so badly impacted it is vital for them to gain support in order to continue their great work and prevent a decline in backing from their communities.
While it is possible to split projects into community and conservation sections separately the truth is that they are inextricably interlinked, without one the other will fail.
The primary community projects that will continue to be supported will be the maintenance of over 80 water pumps providing clean and safe water. Providing school meals to over 3,000 children (when schools return) and delivering food aid to villages that have had their crops negatively impacted on by drought, therefore providing food security and reducing the need to find food by other means.
While making sure that the people that are normally supported by employment in tourism and through the financial benefits of lodges on community land remain at the heart of what they stand for, Imvelo are also committed to protecting the wildlife from increased poaching and resource pressure. They are doing this by continuing to fund and support the Cobras Community Wildlife Protection Unit which consists of 19 scouts from local villages and by maintaining their 19 solar hybrid pumps and 16 water pans which will sustain upward of 10,000 elephants through the upcoming dry season.
Through continuously reinvesting profits generated by tourism it is possible to build a culture within a community that can see a future in preserving its wild spaces rather than utilizing the land for other less sustainable uses that bring about increased human wildlife conflict. It is imperative to understand however that while this model is making fantastic gains it is still in a fragile stage of its inception and for it to continue to work the people must see that it is still beneficial to protect wildlife and habitat through tough times.
Imvelo Safari Lodges plan to make this work but it is when incredible organisations such as this need the most support from those that believe in the work they do, financially if possible but also by spreading the word, encouraging them and passing on the message of just how much more than just a holiday a trip to these areas is, it is a lifeline for people, for habitat and for wildlife.
If you would like to donate to their school feeding programme click here to go to the UK Just Giving page.