With Women's Month in full swing, we'd like to take this opportunity to celebrate the amazing women of Babanango Game Reserve, African Habitat Conservancy and the African Habitat Conservancy Foundation and the valuable contribution they are making to what we are doing here in our beautiful corner of the KwaZulu-Natal heartland.
From the staff of Babanango Valley Lodge to the conservation team out in the field and from the frontline of our community and outreach programmes to the marketing, sales and reservations, our ladies are making a difference each and every day. Thank you. Ngiyabonga kakhulu... Inkosi ikubusise!
BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS FOR A BETTER FUTURE
For Kudzai Mqingwana, her role as head of the African Habitat Conservancy Foundation (AHCF) is the realisation of a career spent helping to develop opportunities for uplifting communities in and around South Africa.
In 2002 as a young graduate trainee Kudzai joined Unilever SA, spending her time in operational human resources and marketing. After six years with Unilever she joined rural development NGO Africa!Ignite, working as the fundraising and communications manager before becoming the manager of a grant fund at Sibaya Community Trust in 2011, disbursing funds to projects throughout eThekwini and Ilembe.
"I joined the AHCF in March 2020 and am thoroughly enjoying immersing myself in the communities we work with," says Kudzai. "I am responsible for driving Babanango Game Reserve's objectives in terms of our local communities, partnering with them by developing conservation objectives," she adds.
The COVID-19 crisis has added further challenge to the AHCF role, explains Kudzai: "We have been working with partners to bring relief to families who are yet to access government support," she says. "We've brought supplementary meals for 300 households, 200 digital food vouchers and school shoes for more than 600 students in school," she adds.
They are also supporting communities by creating access to water for homesteads and livestock, including the building of two boreholes in the village of Ngwebini while looking for other borehole sites.
Kudzai describes herself as an avid reader and would love to travel to every African country to enjoy the people and cultures, the best of local food and the beautiful landscapes. A closet foodie, she's also the mother of three boys. "I am fortunate to be living and working my passion," she says. "It doesn't get much better than that."
MEET MRS M AND HER MYRIAD MASKS!
Making 1000 masks for teachers at the schools around Babanango Game Reserve is no small achievement, but for Gugu Mbatha it was the chance to use her skill to contribute to a growing pandemic
This entrepreneurial 56-year-old grandmother was born and raised in Vryheid and married into the Mbatha family in the nearby village of Nhlazatshe.
She began sewing in 1991 as a way to earn an income and discovered a natural talent for it, becoming an accomplished seamstress in the process. Quiet and gracious and a valued member of her local church, Gugu is the mother of seven children and grandma to three wonderful grandchildren. "My home is filled with family," she says.
She makes everything from traditional outfits and celebratory attire to pinafores and now, masks, which she also sells to the local communities. Her sons help out by googling patterns and designs for her and she's become quite the designer, putting together the pattern for the masks she has just produced for the teachers, for which Babanango Game Reserve and the African Habitat Conservancy Foundation provided material.
She has taught her sons to support her while she sews. "It's good for them to learn and understand what I do," says Gugu, who is a supporter of women's rights and of women being given more opportunities to empower and uplift themselves.
DID YOU KNOW?
A look at some of the fascinating facts and unusual things discovered on Babanango Game Reserve. This month we find out about an unexpected amphibian with an altogether "riveting" name...
During the recent BioBlitz conducted by the University of KwaZulu Natal, an unusual frog was discovered on Babanango Game Reserve - while the reserve is awaiting final confirmation of the discovery, Cormac Price, a herpetologist who found the frog on Babanango is almost certain it is a Bilbo’s rain frog (Breviceps bagginsi).
This is a species of frog which is only found in South Africa and was only discovered in 2003 and was given its name by the discovering scientist who enjoyed reading Tolkien’s classic book - The Hobbit - to his children. It will be the first recording of it on Babanango Game Reserve once confirmed.
The frogs are small and adults measure just short of 3cm in length. The females are larger than the males. These are burrowing frogs and are well-adapted with a short blunt snout and stout body. They are currently listed as Near Threatened in terms of the IUCN Redlist due to increasing loss of habitat.
We are continuing to learn more about the frogs of Babanango Game Reserve and our list of species is far from being complete, so we look forward to discovering more interesting and unique species!
Join the legendary Kingsley Holgate around Babanango Game Reserve's campfire to find out how he feels about what we are doing here on our game reserve in the making...