The Madikwe Game Reserve is managed by the North West Parks and Tourism Board (NWPTB - formerly Bophuthatswana Parks Board), a conservation organisation that is world-renowned for its pioneering approach to people-based wildlife conservation, which it has practised since the late 1970s.
Unlike almost all state-owned game reserves in Africa, the approach towards conservation adopted at Madikwe puts the needs of people before that of wildlife and conservation. NWPTB believes that if conservation is to succeed in developing countries such as South Africa, then local communities and individuals must benefit significantly from wildlife conservation and related activities.
If local communities and the region as a whole can benefit through jobs and business opportunities that are generated, then firm support for protected areas will be achieved and important conservation objectives will be met almost as a secondary, or spin-off, benefit.
Madikwe is run as a three-way partnership between the State (represented by the NWPTB), local communities and the private sector. Without doubt, it is the private sector on which the entire project ultimately depends. The private sector develops and manages a variety of tourism developments and activities in the reserve, like setting up and running the lodges. A portion of the revenue generated is paid to NWPTB in concession fees.
These concession fees are used partly to maintain the conservation infrastructure and game stocks in the reserve, on which the private sector has based its own investment and operations. A portion of the concession fees is also paid to local communities to help finance a variety of community-based development projects.
In addition to community projects, communities also benefit from jobs and business opportunities that are created both within and outside the reserve. This, in turn, further stimulates the local and regional economies.
Therefore, this partnership benefits all parties involved if conservation objectives are met – the private sector generates profits, jobs and businesses are created, communities are developed and valuable foreign exchange is brought into the country.
Madikwe should not be seen as solely a protected area or tourism destination – in truth, the reserve acts as a major social and economic core, and an engine around which the development of the entire region can be based.
It is strongly believed that the approach being practised in Madikwe will have significant beneficial impacts on local and regional economies, as well as greatly contribute towards the overall improvement in the quality of life of largely disadvantaged rural communities and individuals.
People-based wildlife conservation should therefore be considered as a viable development option elsewhere in South Africa, and in developing countries in general, especially in rural areas where development options are very limited. In this respect, it is believed that people-based conservation offers the only long-term successful approach to wildlife conservation in South and Southern Africa, and the continent of Africa as a whole.