From a greenhouse to managing, 11 women each year into community ecotourism
What is Grootbos, in short, for the travelers? We do not only offer stunning Lodges and eco-friendly tourist experiences but Grootbos and Green Futures also contribute a very important component in sustaining the beauty of South Africa and creating a healthy environment, where local communities benefit through education and thereafter developing business opportunities for themselves.. Grootbos in 14 years changed from B&B to a fully catered Lodge and offer a wide variety of activities, e.g. 4x4 jeep safaris, walks through the ancient Milkwood Forest and through the reserve, horse riding, land and boat-based whale watching. The latest activities are scenic flights that depart from our own landing strip to marvel at the giants of the ocean (Southern Right whales) from a different perspective as well as beach horse riding.
Can Grootbos be an example of community tourism? Grootbos’s guides do a social responsibility tour which takes the guests to the Green Futures and Growing the Future projects. If a guest wishes to see a township, Grootbos does arrange for a guide to show them around Masakhane. Grootbos employs approximately 100 employees, which includes reception, guides, housekeeping, waitrons, chefs, porters, gardeners etc, 80% of whom come from the local communities.
How are women involved? We’re running the Green Futures and Growing the Future projects on Grootbos. Growing the Future is aimed specifically at teaching women sustainable agricultural techniques and is in its second year of operation. We’ve produced 8 graduates from the projects and hope that all 8 of our ladies will graduate at the end of the year. Green Futures is more focused on horticulture, and includes landscaping. The work, therefore, is physically much harder. On average, we have three ladies who do the course annually. Our Green Futures and Growing the Future projects therefore train approximately 11 women annually, which means that over half of our direct beneficiaries are women. Green Futures is in its 8th year of operation and has produced approximately 80 graduates this far.
How is the Gender Project organised? Following the success of the Green Futures model, the Grootbos Foundation launched the Growing the Future Food Production and Life Skills College on Women’s Day in 2009. This training programme aims to uplift women from the Stanford community, training eight woman each year in vegetable growing, fruit, beekeeping and the principles of successful animal husbandry. Subsistence farming has always been integral to many South African cultures, but in recent years, as people have moved from rural areas to the cities in search of work, many of these skills have been lost. The training programme is 30% theoretical and 70% practical. The vegetable growing training focuses on organic farming techniques and the women are trained in basic soil science, soil improvement and preparation, propagation techniques, planting and care of vegetables, seasonal planting, inter-planting, basic permaculture concepts, organic feeding and pest control regimes. The women also receive practical training in the farming of free-range eggs, free-range pig farming, beekeeping as well as in jam and preserve making. About half of the course content focuses on life skills including literacy and numeracy, health and safety issues, an HIV/AIDS awareness programme, basic computer skills, book keeping, money management and business planning. The students are fully equipped, have access to transport and receive a weekly stipend for living expenses from the foundation. The produce from the project is sold by the foundation to the Grootbos lodge kitchens, surrounding restaurants and at a local organic market. In this way the women’s labour pays towards their tuition, Grootbos knows where and how its fresh produce has been grown and Grootbos guests can see how their food is being locally and organically produced.