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* Communities and Conservation in South Africa
Acornhoek, South Africa; Hamakuya, South Africa; Kruger National Park, South Africa; Makalali, South Africa (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Summer
Budget Sheets Summer
CSU Deadlines / Program Dates:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2018 12/01/2017 12/15/2017 06/10/2018 07/01/2018
Priority Deadline: December 1 - Final Deadline: February 15 (pending spots available)
Participants will depart the U.S. on a group flight June 8 to arrive on June 10.
Fact Sheet:
Recommended Programs: Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Watershed Science
Grade Point Average:
Language(s) of Instruction:
Program Coordinator:
Aimee Jones
Program Type: CSU Short Term Program
Program Description:

Communities and Conservation

South Africa

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This summer CSU faculty-led program takes you into the wildest areas of savannah South Africa to work with and learn from rural community members. The course will offer insights into the innovative forms of community-based natural resource management emerging in South Africa.
Check out the Imagine Blog to see past projects and pictures!

Program At-a-Glance

WHEN: June 10-July 1, 2018 (Depart the U.S. on June 9)

CREDITS: All committed students will be registered for ANTH/*ESS 482A: Communities and Conservation I: Collaborative research for resilient social-ecological systems (4 credits) and ANTH/ESS 482B Communities and Conservation II (2 credits) through CSU's Division of Continuing Education. All tuition and program charges will be billed at the start of the summer term.  *For ESS Majors only, fulfills NR 220. For students enrolled in the GES minor (SOGES) this class could substitute for a class in Group A or D, as well as in the Sustainability and its role in Peace and Reconciliation minor. Please talk with your Academic Advisor about this. 

COST: See Budget Sheet for details. The program fee includes tuition and fees for six credit hours through the Colorado State University Division of Continuing Education, round-trip international group flight (Denver to S. Africa), shared accommodation, all in-country meals, all required excursions, international medical and evacuation insurance, on-site transportation, and faculty support. Program fees do not include passport and fees, books and supplies, and personal spending money.

SCHOLARSHIPS: Applicants for this program are eligible for scholarships through the Office of International Programs. Pell grant recipients may also apply for the Benjamin A Gilman Scholarship.

PROGRAM LEADERS: Dr. Melissa McHale, Associate Professor, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, and Dr. David Bunn, Senior Scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Lab at Colorado State University.
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS: Minimum 2.5 GPA. Instructor approval. Good disciplinary standing.

Academic Overview

This summer CSU faculty-led program takes students into the wildest areas of savannah South Africa to work with and learn from rural community members. The course will offer insights into the innovative forms of community-based natural resource management emerging in South Africa. The goal will be to understand the new landscapes of conservation associated with post-apartheid South Africa, and in the process, to explore the wicked problems faced by the millions of people living in poverty on the edge of protected areas. The program combines some very adventurous travel with detailed field experience, data gathering, and meaningful, long-term partnerships with rural South African communities.

The main focus is on social-ecological issues facing the 2 million or so people living on the edge of one of the world’s great game reserves: the Kruger National Park. Flying in to a research base on the boundary of the Park, participants will spend time interacting with community leaders in Kruger’s southern border villages, studying water security, resource harvesting, and human-wildlife conflict.  Moving into Kruger itself, and travelling in open safari vehicles, we’ll experience the reserve’s remarkable savanna species diversity. Working with South African National Parks scientists, we’ll examine current issues around elephant and lion management, and the complexity surrounding rhino poaching. 

A highlight of the course will be a week of field work in the villages of Hamakuya, on Kruger’s northern border and close to Zimbabwe.  Staying in platform tents and rural huts, participants will be privileged to work with an energetic young team of African environmentalists associated with the Tshulu Trust, helping to support their resource management and ecotourism program.

Course Objectives ESS 482A

  • Identify travel requirements and protocols for traveling to South Africa on this program (knowledge)
  • Describe the differences between non-profit and for-profit organizations (comprehension)
  • Compare and Contrast a variety of examples of non-profits and evaluate the factors that contribute to a “successful” 501c3 organization (comprehension)
  • Describe the social, political, and cultural history of South Africa in the pre- and post-apartheid years, and the impact of this history on present-day environmental management, policy, and justice (knowledge)
  • Evaluate community-based natural resource programs in Africa considering a range of success stories, failures, and lessons learned (evaluation)
  • Interact with a variety of interdisciplinary scientists, managers, non-profits, and communities while researching complex natural resource challenges in the Greater Kruger National Park Social-Ecological System (application)
  • Analyze the specific challenges faced by the people of HaMakuya, Limpopo Province, and work with the Tshulu Trust to contemplate integrative long-term sustainable solutions in the region (analysis)
  • Students will be graded on quality of assignment and project work along with classroom participation.
Course Objectives: ESS 482B:
  • Reflect on the overall learning experience in South Africa and evaluate lessons learned in context of American policies and cultural norms (analysis)
  • Communicate complex social-ecological challenges and insights to a broader audience (application)
  • Envision how a non-profit could inspire positive change for underprivileged communities in South Africa (synthesis)
  • Formulate interdisciplinary projects with peers that will contribute to the initiation of a US based non-profit that supports the Tshulu Trust and the HaMakuya community (synthesis and application)


Located in northern South Africa, the program will take place in relatively remote rural areas in and bordering Kruger National Park.  Districts and villages to be visited include the Wits Rural Facility in Acornhoek, Shingwedzi Research Camp in Krugar National Park, HaMakuya, and Makalali.  HaMakuya ("the place of Makuya") is notable both because of the strength of its community organisation, and for the substantial contradictions it experiences relating to poverty, refugees from neighboring Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and the proximity of the vast Kruger National Park, South Africa's largest wilderness area.


Housing and Meals 

Students will be housed in shared residence halls with clean communal bathrooms facilities at the Wits Research Facility.  Wits Rural Facility is a rural research base, and a local game reserve, that provides opportunities for on-site hiking and safe encounters with wildlife. 
In Shingwedzi, Kruger National Park, students will have the privilege of staying at a research site, rather than in tourist accommodation.  The Shingwedzi research base is surrounded by wildlife, protected by a perimeter fence, and students stay in a combination of small platform tents (2 beds in each tent) and enclosed cottages.  There are both shared and private bathroom facilities on site.  With an outdoor classroom and private catering services, students will enjoy a private and unique experience in this national park. 
There are two types of accommodation in HaMakuya.  Students will stay in large platform tents, with beds, looking over the Mutale river, at the Tshulu Trust Camp.  The tents include private bathrooms with hot water on demand.  Our area for eating and working is an open area boma, that extends out over the canyon, displaying picturesque views of baobabs (large African trees) on a mountain side.  Mornings and nights are punctuated with baboon calls, while days are musically enhanced by ringing of cow bells.  We will also stay with residents in HaMakuya for a few nights.  While living in homestays in the villages, students will stay in a private traditional rondaval (circular hut) designated for students (3-4 students and a local translator), and sleep on floor mats with sleeping bags provided by the Tshulu Trust. 
We will also stay in self catering chalets/cabins at the Lekgalameetse community run nature reserve.  Each Chalet sleeps 3-4 people and has a private bathroom facility.  This mountainous landscape will provide an opportunity for students to explore a multitude of ecosystems that are in canyons just outside of the savannah. 

Finally, included as part of this experience, is a two-day, high-end tourist facility.  We are still working out which facility we will stay at on this particular trip, but the region is dominated by these interactive luxury tourist accommodations promising close-up views of the “big-five” (Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhino, Buffalo).  Students will experience what it is like to live the typical international tourist experience in the savannah.  Raised platform luxury tents, private bathrooms, open living experiences, water holes surrounded by wildlife, game drives and walks, and extravagant dining are to be expected in these facilities. 
For most of our trip (excluding the luxury tourist lodge) we will have a local, expeditionary traveling catering company with us to provide all of our meals (including tea time with rusks, which are part of the culture in South Africa).  This extraordinary group, called AggieShadow, has been catering for student groups for over 20 years.  They can provide extensive meals that take into account almost all dietary restrictions, while cooking in the most limiting environments.  The catering group ends up feeling like part of our traveling family, as they support us in many ways on our three-week expedition.  
All of the costs associated with accommodation, meals, and activities are included in the program budget.  You may want to purchase other snacks/drinks that are not provided, gifts for friends, or personal items while in South Africa.