Descending from one of the communities adjacent to the Park, Mr Philani Samuel Mathenjwa tells a storay of growing up in the community plagued with abject poverty. Talking about his upbringing one can sense from his voice the hardship he grew up under, raised by a single mother with his siblings, they at times didn’t know where their next meal would come from. But today that is all in the past. He got his first job from a company subcontracted to iSimangaliso Wetland Park back in 2012 as a paper picker cleaning public areas and roads used by visitors to the Park.
Taking a deep breath with a sense of pain Philani continues telling his story of how difficult it was to make ends meat out of his monthly salary which was not enough to cater for his needs and those of his siblings as the bread winner.
His face soon sparkles when he starts sharing the story of his breakthrough. Three years ago, Philani registered a company called Maguga Trading which does general maintenance work like plumbing, electrical, painting etc. He then approached iSimangaliso with his company papers in hand after hearing about opportunities being offered by iSimangaliso to empower the emerging businesses from the disadvantaged neighbouring communities to alleviate poverty in the communities living adjacent the Park.
To date Philani now owns 2 company cars and has employed 3 youth from the local community of Dukuduku on full time bases. He has currently landed a contract which saw him employ an additional 16 casual staff from the same local community.
In the previous financial year alone iSimangaliso gave business opportunities estimated at R 241,5 million majority of which went to local entrepreneurs.
Commenting about Philani’s story the CEO of iSimangaliso Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini said he would love to see more stories like Philani Mathenjwa’s story because it resonates with the mission of iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The World Heritage Convention Act 1999 (WHCA) sets out the objectives of iSimangaliso. These objectives, have been incorporated into the iSimangaliso’s mission, namely:
- to protect, conserve and present the Park;
- to empower historically disadvantaged adjacent communities;
- to promote and facilitate optimal tourism and related development in Park.
Mr Bukhosini has further made a commitment to bolster the programme to empower historically disadvantaged communities living adjacent the Park, a programme which he says is already bearing fruits not only by creating job opportunities, but it is bearing positive results in conservation as well. The Park has seen the reduction of Rhino poaching incidents in recent years due to the change in public sentiments towards the Park. Business opportunities like maintaining the fence for instance are done by businesses belonging to the local communities, which in return gives them the sense of being part of protecting and conserving the Park since they gain direct benefits in doing so explains Mr Bukhosini.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment vision for a prosperous and equitable society living in harmony with its natural resources led to the establishment of programmes focussing on the Biodiversity Economy and the Blue economy (Operation Phakisa). Biodiversity economy sectors have experienced growth over the last few years, contributing to GDP and employment, whilst Operation Phakisa has seen government’s expand its marine protected area network alongside the development of the ocean economy, such as tourism and fisheries. The opportunity for transformation of iSimangaliso’s biodiversity economy exists and is an imperative that drives its business plan due to the high levels of unemployment, poverty, and inequality.
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