With the increasing recognition of the limitations of conventional development efforts, many development practitioners have shifted their view of development from a primarily economic and growth-centred approach to a more people-centred approach, where the emphasis is on people taking ownership of the developmental process. This shift has triggered the proliferation of development discourses that incorporate complex concepts such as empowerment, participation, capacity-building and self-reliance. This research deals with the concept of self-reliance, and how different stakeholders within the Sankuyo Tshwaragano Management Trust perceive the degree of self-reliance achieved by the Trust. The findings of this research draw attention to the importance of self-reliance to people-centred approaches to development. Development through dependence on outside agents is the predominant model for development through tourism in the Okavango Delta where the Trust operates. The value that increased self-reliance has for community-based eco-tourism initiatives such as the STMT is discussed.