Cape Town – South Africa’s highly-acclaimed Grootbos Private Nature Reserve has been honoured by National Geographic as one of 15 finalists in the esteemed World Legacy Awards. The recognition is for Grootbos’ work in its Grootbos Green Futures Foundation, and list Grootbos as a finalist in the ‘Engaging Communities’ World Legacy Award.
This award recognises direct and tangible economic and social benefits that improve local livelihoods, including training and capacity building, fair wages and benefits, community development, health care and education.
Lean Terblanche, director of the Grootbos Green Futures Foundation told Traveller24, “the award shines a much-needed light on the importance of conservation and sustainability initiatives in tourism around the world. Our actions today affect the world for centuries to come; no one will benefit from tourism [in the future] if we do not protect our people and our planet.”
The Grootbos Green Futures Foundation, started in 2003, is non-profit arm of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve which focuses on community based training and capacity building to support poverty alleviation, provide upward job mobility and advance nature conservation in the high biodiversity region known as the Cape Floral Kingdom where Grootbos is located.
To date, 143 local residents graduated from the Green Futures Horticulture and Life Skills College founded by Grootbos and all were successfully placed into jobs.
Other community benefit initiatives include the Football Foundation which provides HIV/AIDS Awareness training in local schools to educate children about reducing transmission risk and the Siyakhula Growing the Future Organic Farm project providing valuable training in sustainable farming knowledge.
The Grootbos Green Futures Foundation is honoured alongside other internationally acclaimed institutions and organisations, but is the only South African organization to be awarded.
Sharing the nomination with Grootbos is the Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy in the United States as well as the category winner, The Bushcamp Company in Zambia.
The Bushcamp Company, says NatGeo, has worked hard to bring the benefits of sustainable tourism to the local population of the Luangwa Valley, recognizing that protecting the natural environment means fully involving the local community in management and decision making.
In 2015, Grootbos also became a founding member of National Geographic Society’s National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, which acknowledges exceptional boutique hotels in extraordinary places around the world with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability, authenticity and excellence.
The Bushcamp Company was also featured in this awards. In SA, Grootbos was named alongside two other proudly South African lodges.
Grootbos Nature Reserve, near the Garden Route has earned international recognition for championing sustainable tourism efforts.
The Western Cape reserve has been nominated for the 2015 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, handed out by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), for its acclaimed conservation programmes. It is a finalist in the Community Award category.
The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in Madrid, Spain on 15 April during the 15th WTTC Global Summit.
In addition to the nomination, the lodge earned a spot on National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World list. The list, which was published on 6 January, features 24 properties.
“National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World is a network of world-class accommodations where sustainability is the touchstone and the guest experience is exceptionally rich and meaningful,” the company wrote. “We invite you to discover how ‘staying’ can be truly extraordinary.”
“The tourism sector is a R18-billion industry that employs over 150 000 people,” said Alan Winde, the provincial MEC of economic opportunities, in congratulating Grootbos. “It’s important that we embrace practices to protect the environment so we can safeguard these resources. With such a rich cultural and natural heritage to preserve, sustainability is particularly important in this region. Their achievements are garnering attention for their own establishments as well as for the Western Cape.”
The WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are aimed at recognising best practice in sustainable tourism within the industry globally, based upon the principles of environmentally friendly operations; support for the protection of cultural and natural heritage; and direct benefits to the social and economic well-being of local people in travel destinations around the world, the council explains.
These annual awards are among the highest accolades in the industry and represent the gold standard in sustainable tourism.
In voting for Grootbos as a finalist, the council notes that of the six floral kingdoms on Earth, South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region is perhaps the least well known. Covering just 553 000 hectares, it is also the smallest.
“Small, however, does not mean insignificant. Despite accounting for just 0.5% of Africa, the region is home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora.”
The hotel and reserve overlooks Walker Bay and comprises 2 500 hectares of very high conservation value land, with 785 indigenous plant species recorded on the reserve, of which 117 are species of conservation concern and seven are endemic to Grootbos.
“It’s one thing to use the money raised from its 6 000 visitors each year to protect and restore such a fragile and unique ecosystem. What sets Grootbos apart is that it goes a lot further, designing its stewardship of the land to also bring uplift to the many impoverished communities that live nearby,” says the WTTC.
“Of the 180 people employed at Grootbos, 95% is from the local communities. Its Growing the Future project provides skills development in organic agriculture, sustainable animal husbandry and beekeeping. In the last year it produced three tonnes of organic fruit and vegetables, 980kg of organic honey, 26 000 free range eggs, and generated more than R500 000 from plant sales and landscaping. And following a needs analysis of 700 of the poorest households, the lodge launched a GreenBox planting system, which is now being rolled out to enable 200 households to produce their own food.”
Similarly, the National Geographic Society’s National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World is a collection of boutique hotels in extraordinary places around the world with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability, authenticity and excellence. They “offer an outstanding guest experience while supporting the protection of cultural and natural heritage and embracing sustainable tourism practices”, says the society.
Other African lodges on the list are Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge and Tswalu Kalahari in South Africa, and Rubondo Island Camp and Sayari Camp in Tanzania.
Source: All Africa
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