“ One of the highlights was visiting the Kawaza Village, the school, clinic and community. We have already sent some clothes and hope to get involved further with this very worthwhile project. ”
Operating lodges and camps in protected ecosystems in Africa alongside local indigenous communities and wildlife comes with a great deal of responsibility.
Robin Pope Safaris is committed to responsible tourism. We conduct our business in a manner that benefits the environment and wildlife conservation, the people who work for us, and our neighboring communities. In this way our tourism operations, and the presence of our guests, has the capacity to protect natural wildlife areas, alleviate poverty through good employment practices and contribute positively to the local community.
We work together with community development, wildlife conservation and responsible tourism specialists to ensure that we operate in accordance with these principles. We are guided by our Responsible Tourism Policy along with annually prepared responsible tourism plans that detail all of our activities.
In recognition of our commitment to responsible tourism, Robin Pope Safaris has won prestigious international awards including the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards Joint Overall Winner in 2011, making us the ultimate winner across all 13 award categories.
Robin Pope Safaris takes pro-active steps to ensure our properties and tourism activities are run in an environmentally responsible manner. This is important in protecting the fragile ecosystems in which we operate and that wildlife and local people rely upon for their survival.
Robin Pope Safaris is over time introducing the latest green technologies into all of our properties. This includes solar energy systems for providing power, solar water heaters for guest showers and the use of green design construction principles including living grass roofs, natural air cooling and the use of non-fired bricks.
The benefits are clear - our outlet of CO2 to the ozone layer is significantly reduced, along with our use of firewood and the resulting contribution to deforestation.
The conservation of water is of critical importance in the environments we operate, where many local people do not have ready access to safe, clean drinking water and droughts are commonplace. We conserve water through regular maintenance to reduce leakages, fitting flow restrictors on showerheads and taps where possible, watering our gardens and grass roofs at cooler times of the day, planting only drought resistant native plants where landscaping is necessary, and implementing a guest towel re-use and water conservation programme.
All wastewater from our kitchens, guest bedrooms and staff houses is run into our sewage systems and biologically treated as it runs through natural sand filters. The water outlets are tested regularly. In this way we can be sure that we are not introducing harmful toxins into the protected environments in which we operate.
All of the waste we produce is recycled, re-used or disposed of responsibly. In order to reduce waste, we avoid the purchase of glass bottled and tin canned goods where possible and we offer our guests refillable steel water bottles in place of plastic water bottles.
We use recycled paper in our offices and in brochure production, and recycle our waste paper and cardboard through local community paper-making. This has the added benefit of providing livelihood streams for our neighbouring communities.
Any non-degradable waste is separated and burnt or transported to Lusaka and Lilongwe for responsible disposal. All of our rubbish pits are covered to prevent littering of the environment and to protect wildlife.
Robin Pope Safaris undertakes many activities, and supports a diversity of projects, that contribute to the conservation and protection of wildlife. We also ensure that wildlife and their habitats are not disturbed by our operations. This includes not building camps on wildlife migratory routes or in habitats that would impair the survival of wildlife. We have also set aside land for wildlife and our staff, several of whom are Honorary Wildlife Rangers, conduct de-snaring and anti-poaching patrols to protect these areas for wildlife.
Our safari guides are trained to the highest possible standards and all have professional safari guiding qualifications. This means that not only are they extremely knowledgeable and bring the interpretation of the natural world to life for our guests, but they operate game viewing activities in a responsible manner so that the wildlife being viewed is not disturbed. We conduct Responsible Guiding training sessions with all new guides.
We also raise awareness with our guests on how to view wildlife responsibly and protect the natural environment through our Insider’s Guide to Responsible Safaris which is available in all guest bedrooms.
In Zambia we financially support the vital anti-poaching activities of South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) in order to keep South Luangwa's wildlife safe from poachers. SLCS is the only body in South Luangwa equipped and skilled to immobilize, treat and rehabilitate snared and other wounded animals. SLCS has darted and treated elephants, lion, hyena, giraffe, wild dog, leopard and many other species, and is able to respond to all cases of injured wildlife in South Luangwa. Through SLCS we also strive to reduce human/elephant conflict in our neighbouring communities through the construction of elephant proof granaries and the erection of chilli fences to protect villagers' crops.
We also support both financially and practically our local Kakumbi Community Resource Board. To date we have purchased bicycles for their village scouts to conduct anti-poaching patrols and building materials for their operations office.
There are indications that Eastern Zambia may have one of the more significant remaining wild dog populations in Africa. Critically, the Luangwa Valley is home to Zambia’s second largest wild dog population, its largest lion population and one of its largest leopard populations. To ensure these carnivores are conserved Robin Pope Safaris contributes financially and materially to the important work of Zambian Carnivore Programme. ZCP’s research camp is housed on Robin Pope Safari land next to our Nkwali Camp.
Majete Wildlife Reserve is one of the outstanding success stories of African conservation. Granted protected status in 1955, it became the subject of extensive poaching in the 1980s and 1990s. But a concerted joint effort since 2003 by the African Parks Network and the Malawi government - including the reintroduction of endangered species - has turned it into a model of sustainable development and biodiversity.
Robin Pope Safaris supports the work of African Parks Network in Majete through sponsorship of the costs of re-stocking this reserve including lion, leopard and black rhino. In 2012 we funded the relocation of 4 lions from South Africa into Majete, making Majete the first 'Big 5' reserve in Malawi.
Changing ‘hearts and minds’ of community members living alongside wildlife to understand the importance and value of wildlife are crucial in its conservation. Out of high season we regularly deploy our safari guides and vehicles to escort local school children and local staff's families on game drives in South Luangwa National Park so as to educate them about conservation and stimulate in them a passion for wildlife. For many this is their first time to venture into the National Park despite living on its boundary.
Robin Pope Safaris supports the conservation efforts of the Zambian and Malawian governments through the payment of tourism levies and fees, by reporting snared animals to the wildlife authorities, promoting the protection of fish species along Lake Malawi National Park and by assisting their operations with vehicles and resources when needed.
Robin Pope Safaris has, for over 20 years, been committed to ensuring that our neighbouring local communities benefit from our presence through grass roots sustainable community development initiatives. We understand the interdependence between local communities and the wildlife and natural resources that tourism depends upon. As we operate in rural areas that lack other development opportunities, we are in a great position to impact positively on local people's lives. Our commitment to poverty reduction interventions has been recognised through the winning of international responsible tourism awards.
Robin Pope Safaris founded the Luangwa Safari Association Medical Fund, which contributes to the upkeep of the government’s rural Kakumbi Health Centre; which borders the South Luangwa National Park and provides healthcare for more than 20 000 residents. Through the medical fund we also provide a volunteer international doctor at the clinic, along with medical supplies and medicines through client donations. We also support Chikowa home-based HIV project, an outreach project run by the community to support and help people living with HIV.
Robin Pope Safaris believes that investing in education provision in the local community is one of the best contributions we can make to our neighbours. Education is key to ending the cycle of poverty in rural African communities. Our Kawaza School Fund has become one of the biggest success stories in the Luangwa Valley, and has inspired both guests and other safari operators in the area to work together to change lives through improved education provision. It has not only improved the standards of school buildings in the area, but also access to educational materials. This fund, amongst other things, has enabled children to benefit from smaller class sizes and more classroom time with qualified teachers.
Towards the end of 2009 former RPS Director Jo Pope set up a pioneering local charity in the Luangwa Valley called Project Luangwa, which brought together safari operators in the area to ensure that tourism benefits neighbouring communities fully through the delivery of education and business development programmes financed by the lodges and their guests. Our Kawaza School Fund is now administered through Project Luangwa and today creates an innovative, effective and coordinated approach to community benefit from tourism.
We purchase as many locally available supplies as possible to stimulate local trade. In Malawi the majority of our rice and fish is purchased from neighbouring communities and in Zambia 80% of our vegetables from local farmers. In this way we secure the freshest ingredients for our guests and at the same time support local enterprises and producers. We also contract local craftsmen for new buildings and in the refurbishment of our existing properties and support local artisans by selling their wares in our gift shops and for furnishing our properties. We take our safari guests in Zambia for a behind-the-scenes visit to the largest employer in the area, Tribal Textiles, where they are able to purchase a variety of hand-made textile products.
With our active support community members from Kawaza Village set up and manage the first authentic cultural village tourism enterprise in Zambia. We encourage trade with Kawaza Village and are their main supplier of guests, marketing them internationally through our website and our tour operator partners and acting as their Booking Agent.This community enterprise now provides employment for 10 village members, financially supports orphans and elderly people in the community and provides their local primary school with textbooks and learning aids. Kawaza Village Tourism Project was the winner of the prestigious Silver Otter Award, given for the Best Overseas Tourism Project by the British Guild of Travel Writers, and is a role model for other community-owned and managed cultural tourism enterprises in Africa.
We have in partnership with the local community developed a Responsible Code of Visitor Behaviour that we share with guests before they go into the community for village visits so as to protect traditional cultures and minimize the impacts of tourism on living culture. We also provide our guests with an Insider's Guide to Responsible Safaris which includes important cultural aspects.
Robin Pope Safaris has partnered with Pack for a Purpose to enable our guests to help make a difference to the lives of children living in Zambia and Malawi. By using spare space in their luggage they are able to pack school, medical and sports supplies from home for use in our neighbouring communities.
To care for our staff, we ensure high standard treatment, fair wages, and good working conditions as well as access to education and training. We employ solely on the basis of merit and employ local staff in all areas of our operations.
Over the last twenty years the process of ‘Africanizing’ jobs in the safari industry has been impressive at Robin Pope Safaris and in the Luangwa Valley as a whole. The majority of our guides are now African which is a complete turnaround from just two decades ago.
At Robin Pope Safaris we are strong advocates of self-sufficiency. We therefore offer all staff a fair and competitive wage and assist employees in opening bank accounts to set aside part of their salary as savings and to take out health insurance. People with bank accounts get paid a little earlier to provide a soft incentive to encourage this.
All of our staff receive either a housing allowance in addition to their salary or are offered housing, are provided with meals, and receive a funeral allowance when there is a death in their family.
We have a number of training mechanisms in place for our staff and have a policy of in-house development and promotion from bottom to top.
We always reward good work and encourage our staff to further their education – both through our in-house training courses and externally. We sponsor those local employees that show high commitment and potential to develop themselves to senior management level through University and College courses. Our Operations Manager (Keyala Phiri) in Zambia has been sponsored to undertake an International MBA at the University of Kent in the UK.
Since HIV/AIDS is a serious healthcare issue in both Zambia and Malawi, Robin Pope Safaris is committed to educating staff members on the prevention of HIV, encouraging voluntary counseling and testing, assisting with access to Anti-Retroviral Drugs and on-going healthcare. We do not discriminate against HIV positive people in communities or via our employment practices. We provide transport to the district hospital, which is over an hour’s drive away. When requested, we assist staff members and their spouses if they have any extra costs related to living with this condition. To prevent the spread of HIV we make condoms freely available to all of our staff.
For more information about the responsible tourism efforts we partner with, please visit these other websites.