The Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela’s homeland, is one of South Africa’s poorest provinces. With unemployment officially at 41% – though non-governmental studies put it closer to 70% – a full 88% of the province’s inhabitants live below the poverty line. Rural 20 communities are particularly badly affected, given the lack of infrastructure and government services.
Ecotourism has been recognized as a land use which can deliver higher employment opportunities than agriculture, currently the most widespread land use in the province. Studies have shown that the number of employed workers increased by a factor of 4.5 when Eastern Cape stock farms were converted to game reserves. In addition, these new jobs pay three times the average farm laborer wage. Samara currently employs 65 people, with an average of 4 dependants each, leading to a direct impact on the lives of 260 people.
The vast majority of Samara staff are local, living in Graaff-Reinet, which at 53km distance is our nearest town. This gives them convenient access to their family homes, schools, hospitals and other facilities on a regular basis. We run Samara as a large extended family, often with multiple generations of the same family working for us. We organize for health clinics to educate our staff on health issues once per month, and offer specialized training in hospitality management in collaboration with the SA College for Tourism in Graaff- Reinet. Many of our staff has been with us since Samara first opened to the public – a testament to their loyalty, ongoing dedication and personal hard work to improve their skills. Veronica & Annely are examples of this: starting their Samara careers as housekeeper & waitress, three years ago, working their way up to junior managers. This up scaling and up skilling of community members is one of our proudest achievements. Samara could not operate without its phenomenal staff. Their warm, friendly demeanor, passion for their work and attention to detail is always remarked upon by guests – and reflected in the high rate of return visitors. Samara’s aspirations and objectives in promoting the local area are supported by our community leaders.
In launching a commercial enterprise in this beautiful part of the Karoo, we have endeavored to use only local builders and artisans, and to encourage further investment in our local communities through tourism. When we organize press trips or tours for visitors, we not only bring people to Samara, but also promote our local town, its inhabitants, and its history. It is our hope that the creation of the mega-park between the Camdeboo and Mountain Zebra National Parks will extend our community base to the
towns of Pearston and Cradock as well as Graaff-Reinet.