In 1984 the Langa tribal committee agreed to convert a section of communal grazing land into a protected conservation area. Eventually proclaimed in 1986, Masebe Nature Reserve was to be used for environmental education, sustainable resource use, and community income generation via ecotourism.
Despite the reserves scenic beauty, rich cultural history, and the development of two lodges, there has never been a sustainable effort to attract tourists to the area and the reserve is failing on each of its original objectives. The only regular income is generated from a combination of a local hunting concession and a small levy from the provincial government, the designated management authority for Masebe. Due to financial constraints, basic reserve maintenance, like the upkeep of fences, is neglected and very little data is available to generate realistic hunting quotas. There is also resentment within the local community due to restrictions in access to important cultural sites and utilisation of natural resources, like fire wood, grazing, and game meat. There is no long-term environmental education programme.
In 2012, WEI decided that our approach of self-funded integrated conservation support could hold the key to transformation at Masebe Nature Reserve. During the development of an environmental education programme for local school groups, our research teams came across an important paper by Prof Boonzaaier at the University of Pretoria on the potential for Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) for the reserve. After meeting Prof Boozaaier, WEI developed a CBNRM facilitation workshop for the reserve and invited interested adults from each of the seven communities with an ownership stake on the reserve. The findings of our workshop were submitted to the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (LEDET) for integration into their 5 year Strategic Plan for the reserve.
WEI are now facilitating a full CBNRM scheme with the support of the University of Pretoria’s department of Anthropology, the Limpopo Tourism Authority, and LEDET. WEI also continue to run a schools environmental education programme in each of the seven villages around Masebe.
WEI’s research programme on the reserve aims to provide baseline ecological information for the newly appointed reserve manager. This includes annual Veld Condition Assessments, winter and summer bird surveys, detailed habitat assessments alongside habitat and vegetation community mapping.