Biodiversity: Key to environmental initiatives at Ubombo

Nature Reserve forms greater part of 15 000 ha Mhlosinga Conservancy

4 June 2021: Ubombo Sugar Limited, our Eswatini subsidiary at Big Bend, has a number of leading long-standing environmental initiatives to mitigate the climate change impacts of its operations, including the 9 000 hectare Mhlosinga Nature Reserve, which is also registered on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance (Site Number 2122).

In 1986, a portion of 300 hectares adjoining the Van Eck Dam (pictured) was set aside to be a wildlife sanctuary and named the Mhlosinga Nature Reserve. The aim of the reserve remains to preserve a piece of the magnificent Eswatini bushveld and restore it, so far as possible, to its unspoilt state. The portion was game fenced and patrolled and various species on non-dangerous game were re-introduced into Mhlosinga.

The concept behind Mhlosinga was so successful and popular that over the years additional areas were added to the reserve. Today the reserve stands 1 850 hectares in extent and now completely surrounds the strategically important dam. The environment has stabilised with a healthy and diverse population of wild animals - producing annual surplus. To the visitor Mhlosinga offers self-guided game viewing, birding, hiking, mountain biking and photographic opportunities. Van Eck Dam is a popular spot for camping, picnicking, fishing and boating. The three Ubombo supported schools make regular use of the area for environmental, education and sporting events. Over the past few years, subject to the availability of suitable aircraft, a number of counts have been carried out. The chart below shows how net numbers (after births, deaths, poaching activities and controlled harvesting) increased over the recent years.

"We are extremely proud of what we are doing at the Mhlosinga Nature Reserve which, incorporated into the broader Mhlosinga Conservancy, comprises an area of more 15 000 hectares of land dedicated to the preservation and care of our natural biodiversity within the Big Bend area. This initiative, including the cogeneration of electricity from renewable resources to feed both our own operations and the wider Eswatini power grid, water-use efficiency investments, and many other environmental and social impact activities undertaken by the company, is a vital part of Ubombo's ESG commitments to mitigate the impacts of our operations on climate change," says Managing Director Oswald Magwenzi.

The conservancy bird count stands at 331 species and includes numerous ‘Near Threatened’, ‘Vulnerable’ and ‘Critically Endangered’ species. It has a very healthy population of White-backed Vultures which nest annually in the riverine forests of the Mtindzekwa River on Bar R Ranch. A small selection of other birds of interest include Tawny Eagle, Martial Eagle, Bateleur, Lappet and Cape Vulture, Secretary Bird, Black Bellied Bustard, Lanner and Peregrine Falcons, Yellow-billed stork, Marabou and Wooley-necked Storks, African Openbill, Pink Twinspot, African Finfoot; and there are many others. The tree species list stands at 87.

Ubombo Primary Enviro Club

A Waterbuck bull

A White-backed vulture feed

Newly constructed ‘Secret Dam’ in the portion of land soon to be incorporated into Mhlosinga Nature Reserve


Ubombo’s total ranch area, together with Mhlosinga Nature Reserve, form part of the larger Big Bend – Mhlosinga Conservancy. The conservancy comprises four adjoining companies each of which own dedicated wildlife- or cattle-grazing areas. The aim of the conservancy is “to foster cooperation and collaboration between adjoining landowners with the purpose of optimising wildlife development and economic utilisation.” An important premise is that the greater the area under protection and the greater the freedom of movement between farms the healthier, more diverse and sustainable will be the wildlife population.

The members of the conservancy are:

Ubombo Sugar

9 361 hectares

United Plantations

2 600 hectares

Crookes Brothers

2 500 hectares

Machitema Farm

950 hectares

15 411 hectares

Ubombo plays a leading role in the affairs of the conservancy.

A current initiative of the conservancy is to encourage members to game fence those of their farm boundaries that form the external boundary of the conservancy. This is considered a vital component in the effort to protect against illegal occupation, poaching of game, illegal cattle grazing, woodcutting and burning.

Ubombo is the custodian of 9 361 hectares of prime bushveld. At a very rough estimate there will be anywhere between 5 million and 15 million mature trees on that land. Each of those trees recycles nutrients, helps prevent soil erosion, provides nutrient and habitat to countless millions of creatures, faithfully absorbing and storing carbon whilst pumping out beautiful oxygen. A valuable resource indeed!