The African Ivory Route (AIR) ecotourism project


Livelihood opportunities for remote rural communities in Limpopo (South Africa) are typically extremely limited. Ecotourism offers complementary and more sustainable livelihood opportunities, in particular to assist the transition by rural communities from livelihoods based on direct use of natural resources to those based on employment. Sustainable ecotourism in healthy ecosystems is an important contributor in delivering livelihood opportunities for rural communities while promoting sustainable development.

Many tourism developments occur with limited involvement of, and benefit to, local communities. In addition, many rural areas have significant tourism resources but which are not exploited or remain underutilized.

The African Ivory Route (AIR) Ecotourism project

Ecotourism development in the African Ivory Route is achieved through a multi-stakeholder partnership enabling different actors to operate in a synergistic fashion. These include the public sector to provide an appropriate enabling environment (e.g. policies, strategic planning, framework infrastructure); communities pro-actively participating in local environmental protection thus providing suitable conditions for attracting and hosting visitors; and a private operator to ensure efficient delivery of management and marketing services.

This project’s focus is to build on and strengthen the capacity of the existing innovative partnership arrangement between LEDET, 41 rural communities organised in primary cooperatives and one secondary cooperative, and TFPD to deliver resilient livelihood opportunities based on the sustainable use of natural resources. Through this action, it is intended to develop and showcase best practices in terms of application of environmentally friendly technologies to the ecotourism sector, and in doing so to minimise the environmental footprint of the AIR. The AIR specifically targets the sustainable development of indigenous people, many of whom are members of minority ethnic groups (BaHananwa, BoLobedu VaTsonga and TsiVendas). The project has a strong impact on gender as women make up 75% of TFPD staff members and 45% of AIR employees.

This action aims to enhance environmental sustainability and resilience to climate change and at the same time to secure existing jobs and create new jobs in the “green economy”, thereby improving livelihoods and reducing poverty. This will be achieved through strengthening systems of environmental management and supporting ecotourism based on the sustainable use of local resources.

Through supporting the development of sustainable ecotourism, and providing opportunities for communities to participate in the benefits derived from the sustainable use of natural resources, this European Union funded project contribute to the establishment of healthy communities protecting healthy ecosystems.

The African Ivory Route

The African Ivory Route comprises 8 destinations in Limpopo Province. The camps spread from Masebe in the east, through the Waterberg, along to Makuya Park and down the Western side of Kruger National Park. These safari and cultural camps are all owned by their local communities.

African Ivory Route provides adventure travelers an opportunity to visit remote and fascinating places in South Africa. The name of the route has its origins in the exploits of the hunters of old. With time, things have changed and today the route is grounded in responsibility and respect – for the people, nature and the environment.

The camps are:

  • Mtomeni in Letaba Ranch
  • Mutale Falls in Makuya Park
  • Modjadji, in the realm of the Rain Queen Modjadji and the Cycad forest (near Tzaneen)
  • Baleni at the Sautini Natural Hot Spring where salt is harvested by hand (near Giyani)
  • Fundudzi in the Land of Myth and Legend near the inland lake of Fundudzi
  • Blouberg at the foot of the Blouberg Mountains in the Waterberg
  • Mafefe in the Lekgalameetse
  • Nthubu in the Masebe Reserve

The Europen Union

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The European Union is a major player in international cooperation and development aid. It is also the world’s largest humanitarian aid donor. The primary aim of the EU’s own development policy, agreed in November 2000, is the eradication of poverty.

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This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of CESVI and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.