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Successful land claim leads to thriving game reserve

Written by Hlengiwe Ngobese

The KwaGumbi Community situated at the heart of Zululand are the proud owners of a 12 000-hectare Somkhanda private game reserve.Some of the visitors who travelled from far to explore the beauty of Somkhanda private game reserve.

This was a result of a successful land claim and support from KZN Wildlife and other conservation entities that played a vital role in assisting the community set up the reserve.

 The reserve is situated in Mkhuze and named after Somkhanda Gumbi, the great grandfather of Inkosi Zeblon Gumbi.

The land was forcibly taken in 1960, resulting in 250 people losing their homes. The community’s Inkosi Gumbi said people were relocated elsewhere, with some going as far as the uMkhanyakude District.

“In 2003, we registered our claim with the Land Commission and two years later, our land was returned to us. It took us eight years to decide what we were going to do with land as some of us wanted it to be a farm while others were insisting on maintaining it as a game reserve,” he said. 

 “In 2013 we partnered with the Wildlands Conservation Trust which helped us to secure grant funding to upgrade fencing and other infrastructure.”

The funding also allowed community members to be trained in management, tourism and hospitality.

Wildlands is still responsible for the day-to-day running of the game reserve but suitable community members are being trained to take over this function in the future.

Gumbi said the game reserve has provided 40 employment opportunities for community members. 

“These young people were hired after they had been trained as field rangers and in hospitality services,” he said.

The reserve is home to the big five and also has African wild dog, spotted and brown hyena, giraffe, zebra, kudu, nyala, blue wildebeest, impala, bush pigs, warthogs as well as some rarer species such as jackals, honey badger and caracals. There are also over 230 bird species.

A variety of accommodation options is available, as well as activities that give visitors insight into contemporary Zulu culture. An annual ceremony is held, to which amakhosi from neighbouring countries are invited.