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Meet Peace Parks

How the HlawulaVutomi program is giving Southern African communities a voice, reducing conflict and encouraging people to protect wildlife and 'choose life'

November 6, 2020

From October 26 to November 6, we are highlighting the stories and work of our 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlisters who are using sport to promote peaceful and inclusive societies. This collaborative project is one of them. Learn more about their unique approach to supporting communities, and addressing a wide set of issues at the intersection of health, peace-building and conservation.

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In the last decade, rhino poaching and wildlife crime have caused ongoing violent clashes between communities and conservation authorities across Southern Africa. It’s a deeply complicated issue, with root causes in employability and access to education, and effects that spill out to community safety and environmental protection.

In areas such as Limpopo National Park and its neighboring communities, crime groups have undermined local governance, promoting corruption to control a thriving illegal trade in wildlife.

In attempts to address this layered problem, the HlawulaVutomi programme works to change perceptions of communities about wildlife, its value to improving lives, helping mitigate the negative impacts of wildlife crime in the region and reduce associated conflicts.

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With sport at its core, the programme which was developed by the Peace Parks Foundation in collaboration with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, reconnects people with each other and nature and gives communities a voice, reducing conflict and laying foundations for development projects that provide incentives for communities to protect wildlife and 'choose life.'

Using sport as a shared and inclusive 'common language', Peace Parks contributes to building and maintaining peaceful relationships within and between the communities of the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, a country still recovering from the civil war which ended in 1992 leaving it with eroded relationships and almost devoid of wildlife.

“This all started in a bilateral meeting between Mozambique and South Africa,” Piet Theron, International Coordinator, Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area said. “it was decided that we should invest in working with youth, helping them to have life skills and promoting conservation across boundaries."

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Promoting SDG 16, the programme aims to provide opportunities through sport and pursue the rights of exploited communities by addressing wildlife crime.

Displaying wealth acquired through wildlife crime, poachers are often seen as role models. Through sport, the programme provides legitimate role models inspiring perceptions and ultimately, behaviour change. While encouraging pathways away from poaching, the programme continuously reinforces the importance of the rule of law in protecting wildlife for the benefit of communities. 

For this coalition of partners, sport seemed like the perfect tool to address these issues and create alternative role models.

“Sport creates a platform where it is peaceful and they don’t see each other as enemies,” Doc Mabila,Programme Manager and Facilitator for the implementing partner, Youth Zones said. “Sport is used to bring that peace.“

“The hope is to equip youth with opportunities so that they are aware of other pathways outside of wildlife crime,” Doc said.

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Through sport, community activities and an annual exchange between the two countries benefitting approximately 1,500 people, these conflicts, barriers and issues are addressed. Through these activities and community engagement, participants receive healthy exposure to new opportunities and their own potential to make a difference.

Beneficiaries are also appropriately introduced to the negative impacts that poaching and illegal trade have on the sustainable development of the conservation areas that they live in or adjacent to. Girls are specifically encouraged to participate in football, an opportunity not previously available to them due to the prevailing gender roles stigma in these communities.

The participants, mostly Shangaan- and Portuguese-speaking Mozambicans, selected for the exchange have been identified as leaders within the programme and their communities and existing community leaders are included as mentors.

“When you build possibilities for these kids, then we can take them away from crime,” Doc said. “But by doing so we're also promoting conservation and indirectly saving the planet."

Peace  Parks is a 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlister in the Sport for Peace and Social Justice category. Learn more about the rest of this year’s Shortlist and follow their journeys at


“I was once locked up in a room and my legs chained… Look at me now, I'm at the World Games."