It’s a journey in itself to get to the Mfuwe Village, nestled in the Eastern Province of Zambia, whether you take a car, bus, or plane. Nearly 10 hours by road from Lusaka, or a one-hour flight, one gets the impression straight away that they are in the middle of nowhere. With Mfuwe’s proximity to South Luangwa National Park, famous for its herds of elephants, scores of lion and regular leopard sightings, it’s hard to find a place as beautiful as this.
The beauty, and wildlife, have all created a perfect arena for tourism in South Luangwa National Park, which boasts a plethora of lodges, and more than 45,000 annual visitors – the most of any national park in Zambia. Despite its remoteness, there is a vibrant tourism economy here, and the Mfuwe Airport is constantly receiving flights of travellers eager to take in the safari experience.
Nestled between this airport and the park’s gate is Tribal Textiles, a workshop and bustling business that employs more than 100 Mfuwe locals. With an impressive corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, countless staff benefits, and a social enterprise model, it’s hard to imagine a business as socially conscious.
“South Luangwa is really benefitting from tourism a lot,” says Nsabila Njobvu, Tribal Textile’s Retail Manager, who has been working at the social enterprise for more than seven years. “The higher the number of tourists that we are receiving, the more poverty is decreasing because people have jobs and they are able to take children to school, able to afford a basic meal every day.”
However, Tribal Textiles is constantly attempting to tear travellers off the road, or away from the lodges nestled far within the national park. As a result, they are regularly finding new ways of marketing their products, and last year they launched a new restaurant in an attempt to acquire tourists on their way to and from the airport. The restaurant, named the Courtyard Café, is run by local entrepreneur and chef, Dorica, who also runs a restaurant in the village.
“Before the restaurant, I had to go do farming in a nearby village to get money,” explains Dorica, who balances her new café at Tribal Textiles, and a restaurant run at her home in the village. “I am happy, very happy, because sometimes that side when there’s no business, at least here [at Tribal Textiles] you’ll find I have customers so I am able to take care of my family and to keep my business going,” Dorica explains. Not only is her restaurant and the Courtyard Café bringing income to her family, she has also been able to onboard staff as a result of the café’s success.
In fact, Tribal Textiles is employing many women – so much so, that Dorica and Nsabila both mention how empowered they feel by the opportunities given to them by Tribal Textiles. As they grow, the business expands their social enterprise model. Many proceeds from the products sold at the showroom go to initiatives such as Conservation South Luangwa (CSL), the Malimba School, and the Hanada Orphanage. The business has also opened a Community Artisans’ Market, to provide local artists with a space to sell their handicrafts.
Tribal Textiles is the perfect example of a business expanding as tourism increases, and with their social enterprise model and passion for giving back to the community of Mfuwe, they are set to remain an important part of the safari experience for travellers, all while empowering the local community to earn a sustainable living.