Kosi Forest Lodge is one of the most encouraging examples of genuine community collaborative tourism in South Africa, and has become a model of participatory ownership for other lodges. Blessing (Sibusiso) Mngomezulu, lodge manager and himself a local, explains the close connections between the lodge and the Shengeza community:
We chose the name uMvubu for our community project because as a community we felt that this name represents the gems of our area – the hippopotamus and the Palm Nut Vulture. The word “uMvubu” is a play on this concept. The lodge supports the uMvubu community initiative and we govern it together with representatives from the community. With the money we raised we built 2 clinics where mothers may bring their children for their innoculations, and doctors and nurses come once a week to offer health care to the community. And if someone is sick and needs a lift, we are there for them, as the lodge is in a remote area with limited public transport. People from the same communities of Mnyayisa and Nkumende also use the hall for community meetings and weddings.
Kosi Forest Lodge supports the community in many different ways. We employ 100% local staff. Community members also make special requests to the lodge which we are able to support. We buy fruit and vegetables from the community gardens, which means our produce is fresh and seasonal.
We also have donated the old sheets and linen to our local orphanage in Manguzi called Tholulwazi Orphanage Center. We support the local football teams with money so that the kids have something to keep themselves away from crime or drinking and smoking.
Zack, a guide at Kosi Forest Lodge, has been helping young people at Shengeza High School with tourism and nature subjects. School kids from Mashalaza High School and Shengeza High School have been coming to the lodge for information, taking old magazines and some information booklets for their projects. We also take school kids ones a year to do a beach clean-up together with Ezemvelo, the KwaZulu-Natal Parks Board. We donate the lunch for the children and it is a day of healthy fun for all of us.