Where it all began
The Sappi Trails Programme was initiated in 2011 to formalise the relationship between Sappi and stakeholders who were using Sappi land for mountain biking, walking and running. The overall aim was to minimise risk while maximising the benefits for both trail users and for Sappi. The programme has developed over four phases:
- Risk management
- Marketing and branding
- Sustainability and local economic development, and
- Creating shared value.
The Sappi Trail Programme has resulted in partnerships with trail custodians including the Karkloof Country Club, Nelson Mandela Capture Site Trails and Cathkin Trails Club in KwaZulu-Natal and Mankele Mountain Biking and Tranquilitas Adventure Farm in Mpumalanga. The programme aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) SDG25: Life on Land, which is one of Sappi’s priority SDGs. Through our commitment to this SDG, we aim to promote the sustainable use of our ecosystems. This complements our work to enhance biodiversity which we achieve by leaving 30% of our landholdings unplanted, managing seven nature reserves and 160 Important Conservation Areas on our land and implementing a biodiversity target. (Read more about these interventions at https://www.sappi.com/managing-for-biodiversity and https://www.sappi.com/new-sustainability-targets-for-a-thriving-world).
Working closely with key stakeholders and partners, Sappi has developed recreational and event trail use systems that are well respected by Trail Custodians (the clubs that build and maintain the trails on Sappi land).
Trail Custodians communicate with the general public who want to use the trails, which means that a safe and enjoyable trail experience has become a highly valuable feature in many areas. So much so that tourism businesses around the trails have benefitted, and in the Karkloof Valley it is estimated that trail activities have resulted in an annual overall economic impact of ZAR231 million. To watch a short video highlighting the Sappi Trails Programme, click here.
One of the most important impacts of the Sappi Trails Programme has been the stimulation of jobs related to trail building and maintenance.
Sappi is a proud partner of the Adventure Tourism Incubator (ATI), which is aimed at creating an effective model for skills and enterprise development while lifting the standards of the Karkloof and Howick trail networks. The core outcome of the ATI is Nguni Trails, a small black-owned business. Nguni Trails have been awarded a contract to perform full-time trail maintenance for the Karkloof Country Club, and are leveraging this experience to gain further contracts.
Increased support for Early Childhood Development (ECD)
Through the Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival, the Karkloof ECD centre has received increasing support since 2017.
Linked to Sappi’s awareness of the importance of ECD in the upliftment of local communities, various educational resources have been channelled to the ECD class, as well as sponsorship of accredited ECD training for local teacher Londiwe Dhadla.
Winning awards for communication
In January 2019, the Sappi Trails Programme earned an IABC Golden Quill Award of Excellence for Communication in Community Relations. This was based on communication strategies aimed at both internal and external stakeholders on multiple levels, that were judged as highly effective.
Now in phase four which prioritises Shared Value, the Sappi Trails Programme is taking trail access to a more inclusive and well-balanced level by growing trail running, as well as working with Trail Custodians to stimulate social responsibility initiatives linked to trail networks and trail-based events. In particular, emphasis has been placed on meaningful and realistic job stimulation, as well as a concerted effort to monitor and measure the impact of the Sappi Trails Programme. By working with our trail partners to ensure that the trail networks result in broad-based socio-economic growth in the communities surrounding our forests, the programme aligns with Sappi’s focus on social impact and on SDG8: Decent work and economic growth.