Connecting with communities

This places an additional onus on the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve to succeed economically, as well as ecologically. The two are of course, interdependent: successful management of the ecosystem will boost the revenue from ecotourism and enable the Nature Reserve to offer additional employment and training opportunities.

This approach also changes the narrative around natural resources, by assigning them a quantifiable long-term value. This in turn provides a tangible incentive for protecting them.

Our full-time Community Liaison Manager provides a vital bridge between stakeholder communities and conservation, and regularly engages with community leaders to identify challenges and brainstorm solutions.

Sabi Sand Community-based Natural Resource Management Programme

Through environmental upskilling initiatives, this programme improves access to economic opportunities such as professional conservation roles and better outcomes for local agricultural workers.

It’s aligned with ecological initiatives aimed at rehabilitating ecosystems, preventing future mismanagement, and enabling revenue generation through ecotourism (with revenue being generated by Community Conservancies).

During the first three years of the programme, almost 375 local job opportunities were created (300 in the first year and 75 over the following 2 years), and some 13 000ha of community land was cleared of invasive plants. All participants received training, which included First Aid, Health & Safety, Herbicide and Environmental Awareness Training.

Youth Employment Service (YES)

The villages closest to the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve have a very youthful demographic,  with high rates of unemployment. This reflects a pattern that can be seen across rural South Africa.

YES is a government-backed initiative launched in 2018, with the aim of securing individual and national prosperity through the creation of internship programmes.

To date, YES and the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust have trained and mentored over 100 local young people, thereby significantly improving their economic prospects.

Environmental Infrastructure and Protection Programme

Local community members have a real passion for wildlife conservation and preserving their natural heritage, and the Sabi Sand Environmental Monitors (EMs) scheme has tapped into this energy, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Environmental Infrastructure and Protection Programme.

Environmental Monitors

There is a real depth of talent amongst our neighbouring communities, and the commitment of community members to their training programmes has given the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve an incredible resource: skilled, dedicated anti-poaching operatives and environmental monitors, all of whom have in-depth local knowledge and a vested interest in succeeding –for themselves, and for their communities.

Rhino Ambassadors

Rare species can only be protected with the buy-in of local communities, who become readymade intelligence networks. Rhino Ambassadors, drawn from local villages, are relatable advocates who can share conservation messages, as well as information that can help thwart poaching attempts. This completes the circle from passion to protection.

Sabi Sand Nature Reserve Trusts

While we understand that conservation and community initiatives go hand-in-hand, we have divided this vital work between two focused charitable trusts. The Sabi Sand Nature Conservation Trust focuses on tackling environmental challenges, while the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust concentrates on community development projects in the 12 communities surrounding the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve.

Both Trusts are dedicated to making tangible differences to the long-term viability of the Sabi Sand ecosystem, and to the lives of the many people whose fortunes are inextricably linked with the survival of the Nature Reserve.

The work carried out by both Trusts is vital to achieving the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve vision, and we actively encourage people who have a passion for nature conservation and community development to get involved.

By donating financially, you’ll be making a direct contribution to grassroots projects that have been proven to work. With minimum overheads, almost every cent goes towards our local initiatives. It’s hard to think of an investment that will pay greater dividends.

You can also get involved as a volunteer by giving your time, and sharing your skills. Within our neighbouring communities, there is a real thirst for practical knowledge and a genuine desire to improve their own circumstances, rather than relying on handouts.

Mentorship is an incredibly rewarding way to give back: watching mentees grow in confidence and optimism as they learn skills that they in turn can pass on to others.

Each successful project inspires new initiatives, and each donation enables us to engage with more of our neighbours and create an ever-greater sense of shared purpose. Working together on the ground and with our friends and supporters around the world, there is no challenge that we cannot overcome.

The Sabi Sand Nature Conservation Trust and the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust both have a long track record of success. With your help, we can write many new chapters in these inspiring stories.

Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust

The Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust undertakes community development projects focused on the three key pillars of environment, education and enterprise. These initiatives are particularly important given the key statistics around the Bushbuckridge area.

The name “Pfunanani” comes from a Xitsonga word meaning “communities helping one another” which perfectly describes the ethos of the SSPT.

Currently, over half the adults who could be economically active are unemployed, while almost one-fifth of adults have had no access to formal education. The percentage of households without mains drinking water also remains stubbornly high.

This data goes some way to explaining the challenges that community members face in their quest to be healthy and economically productive, and to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities that arise.

To learn more about how you can help, please contact 


Education gives people the chance to advance and the confidence to take a longer-term view. It’s a vital driver of social progress – well-educated societies experience lower rates of crime and poverty, and are better equipped to work together to change their circumstances. Providing daycare and educational facilities means that parents can go to work without worrying about their children. This contributes to a rise in family incomes and improves prospects for the next generation. Environmental education initiatives are nurturing an ecologically minded generation of future conservationists and community leaders.


A healthy environment makes people healthier, too. The viability of the Sabi Sand ecosystem is in everyone’s best interests. Local communities are essential stakeholders in all our conservation programmes, and their knowledge and cultural capital informs everything we do. Wildlife-related jobs and other opportunities are the best way to help people see that conservation boosts livelihoods, and to create a sense of ownership.

This in turn leads to expressions of outrage with poaching being seen as theft from the community, and the chances of perpetrators being deterred or apprehended increase dramatically.


Social entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for helping people to lift themselves out of poverty. It can encourage people who are not currently active in the formal economy (such as women and youth) to tap into new revenue streams. Additional benefits can flow when a community’s culture inspires business opportunities, such as creating traditional craft items for sale to tourists. This helps preserve artisanal skills as well as strengthening the positive associations between ecotourism and communities. Social entrepreneurs with access to microfinance and markets can in turn create employment opportunities for their neighbours.

To learn more about how you can help, please contact 

Make a difference

To learn more about how you can help, please contact:

Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust –, Sabi Sand Nature Conservation Trust –



With 12 rural surrounding villages, the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve actively supports these communities through the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust & various NPOs affiliated with the reserve.


A key focus in the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve’s history has been passionately preserving its natural biodiversity. Multiple conservation efforts in place makes this goal a reality.

Saving Rhino

Sabi Sand stands out as a leading landmark for conservation in Africa. We have created a protected sanctuary for species that are at risk. Over the last six years we have implemented an intensive wildlife protection programme and continually build on this work to defend our precious species.