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Socially Responsible Safari Lodges Drive Zimbabwe’s Tourism Recovery

Despite being plagued with social and political problems, Zimbabwe is experiencing a renaissance in tourism as the nation struggles to thrive under the devastating effects of President Robert Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule.

Thanks in part to improved infrastructure, the increasing availability of food, and the adoption of the U.S. dollar as Zimbabwe’s main currency in 2009, the once flailing tourism industry is bouncing back, and doing so in an ethical way due to a new generation of safari lodges that aim to support local communities and preserve the environment.

One such lodge is the exclusive Singita Pamushana Lodge, the only lodge on the pristine 40,000-hectare Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in the southeastern part of the country. As reported by the Times Online, the lodge is owned and operated by the Malilangwe Trust, a Zimbabwean-owned nonprofit organization that seeks to balance conservation and development with commercial tourism. The lodge is the tourism arm of the Trust, and all proceeds from the $800-a-night oasis are injected into the Trust and used to fund conservation, community projects and development programs.

Each year, up to $2 million dollars is spent on welfare projects, including education, health and farming, which benefit 10,000 locals. With the help of other donors, the Trust provides porridge that feeds up to 27,000 children a day. The Trust has also spent money on protecting and preserving over 100 historical rock art painting sites found on the reserve.

One of the Trust’s major initiatives has been to use its funds to reintroduce rare species such as rhinos and roan antelopes to the reserve. Poaching, a big problem for other reserves, has been minimal, due to how dependent local communities are on the lodge.

“Because they rely on us so heavily, we have been able to educate them about the value of wildlife,” Pamushana Lodge Manager Jason Turner told the Times Online. “Go to other places around here and they’re littered with traps and snares. The game has been written off. But, thankfully, most of ours is left alone. And so are we.”

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