Women in tourism, conservation and farming were treated to a lunch by SANParks at its Bontebok National Park in Swellendam yesterday. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – Nestled between the Langeberg Mountain range and the Breede River, the Bontebok National Park in Swellendam yesterday hosted the SA National Parks’ (SANParks) first long-table lunch for women in tourism, conservation and farming.

As the country observed Women’s Month, SANParks presented different opportunities to the participants, and discussions were held on research that impacted them and their businesses.

The event also officially started the countdown to the national Parks Week, between September 8 to 15.

Park manager Koketso Kotsoe said: “There are many opportunities for women in the conversation industry, and this event provided us with a platform to showcase these opportunities, and network.”

Juliana de Wee, 46, runs her own business Julana’s General Services, which includes alien vegetation clearing services.

De Wee said she started the business as she was unemployed, and had identified the need for this work in the area. She currently employs about 30 people.

“Today’s event was insightful, and has inspired me to do more.”

Emenique Pick, 20, is unemployed, and said: “I came here to find out more about opportunities available to young women. I have learnt a lot, and am planning to stay in touch with the people I met today.”

West Coast National Park manager Patricia Bopape is the only female national park manager in the province.

Bopape said a significant element of SANParks’ responsible tourism approach was reflected in its strategic plan for commercialisation, which was implemented through public-private partnerships.

Bopape said the strategy has yielded more than 40 contractual agreements, and provided around 2 000 sustainable jobs.

SANParks spokesperson Gabrielle Venter said the Bontebok National Park, a mere two and a half hours drive from Cape Town, was the perfect stop for families. The park was originally established to conserve a species - its namesake, the Bontebok.

When the species was approaching extinction in the early 1800s, some landowners had set aside portions of their properties to form temporary reserves for the Bontebok.

Today the park is the smallest national park in the SANParks stable.

Venter said SANParks has three core pillars on which its business operations are founded: conversation, responsible tourism and socio-economic development. 

“We are opening a science lab next month, which we are very excited about,” Venter said.

Total SA has been a partner of SANParks for 60 years, and the company’s corporate social investment manager, Nyameka Makonya, said Total SA was serious about engaging communities, and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed.

To find out more about the park visit www.sanparks.org