Reacting to an appeal from a northern KwaZulu-Natal induna (chief), South African rugby player Joe Pietersen, Mziki Conservancy’s Stephen Mulholland and Chris Small, and Project Rhino ambassador and author of ‘Saving the Last Rhinos’, Grant Fowlds have launched the ‘Feeding the wildlife community’ project.
The induna told of dire food shortages and growing hunger in communities bordering game reserves as a direct result of Covid-19 lockdown lay-offs of breadwinners in urban centres and the complete collapse of tourism-related jobs in and around wildlife areas.
The feeding initiative was formed in response to this and, within a week, Rhino Art ambassador Richard ‘Mahlembe’ Mabanga headed for Potchefstroom in his ‘rhino rig’ to fetch the first 2.5 ton load of vitamin-enriched, pre-cooked porridge from the CFAM manufacturing plant.
The load is equivalent to 25 000 meals.
With all essential permits in place, a small team of conservation-minded folk volunteered to help distribute the meals using their own vehicles and resources.
This included celebrity explorer and Land Rover Ambassador Kingsley Holgate and Empangeni-born Protea cricket plyer Kyle Abbott.
Abbott’s 2020 season with Hampshire Cricket Club in the UK has also been disrupted by the global Covid-19 pandemic.
‘At just R1 a meal, it is a cost-effective way of ensuring that thousands of people receive proper daily nutrition to maintain a healthy diet in this desperate time of Covid-19,’ said Holgate.
‘And with the help of community liaison staff from game reserves we’ve been able to quickly distribute these nutritional meals to disadvantaged families identified by the indunas.’
The DoMore Foundation also came on board, donating tons of their fortified nutritional cereal.
The Goodbye Malaria team, long-time malaria prevention partners of Holgate’s humanitarian expeditions in Africa, donated hundreds of their colourful ‘shweshwe’ face masks for the recipients of the feeding programme.
‘Working in small groups, with only a handful of beneficiaries at a time, we’re able to main social distancing rules,’says Holgate.
‘We are extremely strict about hygiene.
‘Everyone – the team and beneficiaries – wear face masks and have their hands vigorously sprayed with strong sanitizer before the food distribution takes place.
‘We also share Covid-19 health tips.’
Eight weeks on, the Feeding the Wildlife Community initiative has distributed more thn 300 000 nutritional meals to rural families in northern KZN and in the Hoedspruit/Kruger National Park region.
Partnering game reserves in Zululand include Babanango, Loziba, Thula Thula, Manyoni, Thanda, the Munyawana Conservancy, Somkhanda, Pongola Private, Ven-Africa and Tembe Elephant Lodge.
‘We definitely cannot stop – at least not until game reserves are fully operational again and income starts flowing back to rural homesteads,’ said Holgate.
To contribute to the feeding scheme, one can visit either the Nkombe Rhino www.nkomberhino.org, or the African Conservation Trust’s online donation platform at www.givengain.com/cc/feeding-the-wildlife-community/.