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  • Cultivating the Custodians of our Natural Heritage

    I often remember the words of my wonderful friend, companion and mentor, Magqubu Ntombela, as we toiled up the hills in the hot sun Mfolozi Game Reserve. "We are doing the work of God", he would say. "And our reward will come when people realise how important our national parks and game reserves really are....Dr Ian Player, Internationally renowned conservationist...Read more

  • Wildlife Guardian Programme

    In response to the current rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, a joint proposal between the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) and the Game Ranger’s Association of Breitling Replica Watches Africa (GRAA) gave  rise to the Wildlife Guardian Programme. This programme...Read more

  • Conservation and Environmental Bridging Programme

    It is essential for future leaders in conservation to be identified within the school system at an early stage and to be exposed to appropriate training opportunities. This programme is aimed at historically disadvantaged school leavers....Read more

  • Enterprise Development/New Venture Creation

    The future of South Africa's economy does not only lie in the formal sector, but also within the informal SMME sector. This is a growing part of South Africa's economy and requires substantial focus from a developmental perspective. It is essential that communities benefit ...Read more

  • Community Rangers Programme

    Many of our wilderness areas are under the growing threat of increasing population growth, sprawling urbanisation, deepening poverty, encroaching land use, poaching and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. It for this reason that...Read more

  • The Sustainable Utilisation Programme – PH Course

    The programme is designed to empower persons from historically disadvantage backgrounds to access an employment sector which, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs, is responsible for making an extremely valuable contribution to the economy...Read more

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  OUTREACH PROGRAMMES/WORKPLACE SITE VISITS

Outreach programmes and workplace site visits are conducted for a number of reasons; primarily to identify needs and other requirements of conservation organisations  in terms of the course offerings whilst at the same time allowing the College to determine how past students are performing in the workplace.  It also gives the College an insight into the  career advancement of past students and enables the SAWC to assist current students with their workplace assignments, intereact with their supervisors and identify any problems that may be experienced.

In 2013 the College conducted a workplace site visit to Zambia's Mosioa-Tunya National Park and Kafue National Park's Ngoma regional office and Chunga regional office.  They then  went on to visit students at  Nalosanga Gate as well as visiting  the western regional offices of ZAWA in Mumbwa before heading to Lusaka.

  

In 2009, Toyota sponsored the Toyota Conservation Outreach Programme, a 4WD journey through Africa with conservation and education as its focus. The convoy travelled through Malawi and Zimbabwe and had three main objectivess.   

 Firstly, to meet with past SAWC students and evaluate the impact the College training has made on their careers and how it is aiding them and their organisations. Secondly, to identify training needs on the ground, as well as ways in which the College can improve its offering to southern African wildlife organisations.  Thirdly, to conduct Environmental Education workshops with the local communities (through WESSA) to create awareness of everyday environmental issues surrounding protected areas. 

The team consisted of 21 members comprising a conservation team (SANParks, SAWC; University of Johannesburg; and WESSA representatives); a logistics and support team and a media and IT team.  Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday there were live radio broadcasts on RSG and SAFM.

SAWC's CEO Theresa Sowry, who was then the Executive Manager for Training, concluded that “After discussions with 35 past students located in Malawi and Zimbabwe, it is clear that the training received at the SAWC is helping to develop the students and their organisation at large. Thirty of these students have received promotions since returning to their workplaces.

The outreach was an overwhelming success with training needs having been identified not only for the past students, but also for the different reserves visited. What was promising though was that the outreach seemed to do more than just locate students and identify needs. The discussions and conversations that took place over the three weeks were constructive and inspiring.

In both Zimbabwe and Malawi, dedicated conservationists are working with very few resources, but they are showing that their determination to help conserve protected areas is out-weighing the lack of resources available to them. They showed the team that so much can be done with very little! It was a humbling and inspiring experience” 

Read Theresa’s journal from the trip:

The trip started on the 30th September at the Southern African Wildlife College where all team members congregated and an induction and welcome was given by Gerhard Groenewald (the organiser of the trip).  Ten Toyota 4X4s where handed over to the ten designated drivers.  Gerhard explained essential tips for driving the vehicles and radio procedures as all 10 vehicles in the Toyota fleet were fitted with short wave radios.

The road to Kasungu!
The 1st October saw the convoy leave the SAWC at 4am and start the trip we had all eagerly awaited.  The group crossed over into Mozambique at Pafuri Gate (KNP) and travel across the Limpopo River.  The group entered Zimbabwe via the Sango border post that borders Gonarezhou.  The Toyotas were put to the test as the roads in this area are extremely rough. The Convoy arrived at Mushandike Wildlife College (just outside Masvingo) at 19:30hrs that evening. Everyone was extremely tired as this first day had turned out to be longer than expected, however, once camp was set up the group relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful setting at the Mushandike Dam.  The next morning, after meeting the Principal, Ms Rachel Gwazani, very briefly (as the group was returning to Mushandike later in the trip) the group set off for what would be the most tiring day of the whole trip.  The convoy travelled via Harare to the Nyamapanda Border post.  After a 3-4 hour unnecessary delay at this border post, the group arrived at Tete in Mozambique close on 20:30hrs.  Once again the group was physically exhausted, and Gerhard assured us that the worst driving days had taken place, and tomorrow would be a relatively short drive to Lake Malawi.  The next day (as luck would have it) once again the team set up camp in the dark at Cape Maclear, Lake Malawi, but at least it was only 18:00hrs. Waking up on the 4th October with the beautiful lake in front of us it seemed as if we had reached paradise. However, this was once again just a night stop.  Gerhard assured us we would be back to explore the lake, but we had to pack up camp and leave for Kasungu National Park in Malawi.  This would be the start of our work as the Director General, Dr Sefu and a number of past students were set to meet us there.

The convoy arrived at a beautiful camp site in Kasungu National Park on the 4th October.  It had taken us 4 full days to get there, but it was worth it.  It was an absolute privilege to have the Director General – Dr Leonard Sefu join us. Mr Brighton Kumchedwa, the Deputy Director, was also in attendance, as were an astonishing twelve (12) past SAWC students (please refer to table 1 for a list of the students).  On the morning of the 5th October, the group, led by Dr Sefu, had a very open discussion regarding conservation challenges in Malawi. These challenges include over population, poverty and associated human encroachment into National Parks.  Past students gave presentations to the group on the Parks they are stationed, their responsibilities and how the training received at SAWC had helped them in their careers.  SANParks representatives entered into interesting discussions with the past students on the law enforcement issues.  It was interesting to note that similar challenges exist across Countries, and access to sufficient resources remains the biggest challenge in addressing the issue of ecosystem integrity. 


Dr Sefu being interviewed on radio


Discussions with past students

The past students met with Theresa Sowry after lunch and discussed if and how the training and skills obtained at the SAWC had an impact on their lives.  The past students were all asked to complete the form designed to identify additional training needs as well as to identify which modules trained at SAWC had the most relevance to their work situation.  Please also refer to table 2 for identified training needs.  The past students were also asked to write a brief story of their lives and what has happened to them since studying at SAWC (Appendix 1).

The late afternoon session was spent visiting a community outside the National Park.  The environmental education game – Parks and Neighbours was played with community members.  Prior to this game being played, Bryan Haveman (Director Conservation, WESSA) explained to the past students how they could use this game as a training tool.  Bryan then helped as the past students led the game with the community.  On completion of the environmental education workshop, WESSA training tools were handed over to the past students responsible for environmental education.


Past students and some of the team


Elephants at camp site

 
The group departed Kasungu National Park and headed for Cape Maclear (Lake Malawi) on the 6th October.  The group went via Lilongwe, where Theresa Sowry was asked by the Director General to attend a meeting with a representative of the World Bank to discuss a Tourism Development Plan and associated training needs for Nkhotakhota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi.  A proposal will be developed by the SAWC by the end of October 2009.

The 7th October was spent meeting an additional 6 past students and discussing conservation challenges as well as training needs (the Kasungu program was repeated at Cape Maclear).  The conservation challenges that Malawi are facing are all related to increased population size.  Deforestation is a nightmare in Malawi and charcoal can be bought on the side of any road close to community settlement (which is everywhere).  Our one ray of hope came from a past student – Doreen Kachingwe.  She showed the group a round brickett with a whole in the middle (measuring about 20 cm in diameter).  She explained that this is the alternative to burning charcoal.  It is made from grass and other fallen litter.  Once burning, it creates sufficient energy to cook a meal for her family.  The SAWC intends to find out more information and follow this alternative energy resource up with WESSA.  


Sunset at Lake Malawi


 

After the program was completed and the environmental education game played with the community, the group had just enough time to hire a boat and visit the islands of Cape Maclear. This was the perfect end to an informative and delightful visit to Malawi.  
 
Zimbabwe  - Mana Pools

The team was back on the road again and eager to start the Zimbabwe part of the trip.  Once again the route was via Mozambique and into Zimbabwe.  This time the border post went according to schedule and we were in Zimbabwe with no hassles and en-route for a night in Harare.  The group camped in a friend of Gerhard’s garden.  It was a comfortable night with grass under our tents!  On the morning of the 9th October we set off for Mana Pools.  The roads are treacherous (especially the pass down into the Zambezi valley past Marongora).  However, the Toyota fleet drove well, and we arrived at Mana Pools in the late afternoon.  What a beautiful park!  Dr Normal Monks (Area Manager) and Dube Naphatal (second in charge) welcomed us as we arrived at Mana Pools.  Dr Monks explained that 3 past students would be arriving later that afternoon, and all was set for the workshop the following day.
 
Night time at Mana Pools is something to experience. Lion, Leonard, Hippo, Buffalo and Hyena visited our camp.  Zimbabwe wildlife areas are truly something to experience.

The next morning three of our past students, namely, Edmore Ngosi, Beatrice Zvobara and Christopher Hungwe were waiting for us outside of Dr Monk’s office.  Frances Davies from Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) across the river in Zambia also came over to join in the discussions. Bryan Haveman from WESSA had brought CLZ a large amount of environmental education material, and this was formally handed over to Frances before she headed back to CLZ.

Dr Monks gave the group an extremely informative presentation on Mana Pools, from ecological issues to research.  Mr Naphatal discussed their law enforcement challenges and once again the discussion went around the issue of having very limited resources. Tourist facilities in Mana Pools are in a desperate state of repair but without resources staff on the ground are unable to do anything about it.  Discussions at Mana Pools really did seem to get into constructive ways forward, and one of the suggestions was that the SAWC train infrastructure maintenance on site at Mana Pools in 2010, and in doing so renovate the ablution blocks during the training intervention.  This will be discussed in more detail with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority.

Past student presentation were enlightening.  Edmore Ngosi has recently been promoted to Area Manager.  This is the highest level ever held by a SAWC graduate in Zimbabwe Parks.  The environmental education was carried on the families of staff members in Zimbabwe (as opposed to the community outside of the reserves in Malawi).  A number of family members met us in our camping site where Bryan explained the game to the past students.  It was fantastic to see the past students educating their family and friends!  Once again, resources were left at Mana Pools for the staff to continue environmental education training.


Bryan Haveman conducting Environmental


Education: Edmore playing the game


Beautiful scenic photos!


Beautiful scenic photos!

The 11th October was the first day of relaxation for the group, even though a number of student interviews were conducted – this only took a couple of hours.  The rest of the day was spent exploring this spectacular reserve – both on the river and inland on game drives!
 

Hwange National Park

Early on the 12th October the convoy set out for a two day trip to get to Hwange National Park.  The roads are really bad and the plan was to sleep over in Chizarira National Park.  Plans are meant to be broken, and at 18:00hrs, Gerhard decided to negotiate with the Chief of the area to sleep in his mielie lands.  The community was extremely welcoming and the ten Toyotas set up camp under the watchful eye of the Chief’s headman!

Hwange main camp reminded us all of a tourist camp in the Kruger National Park.  Rondavels ranging from basic to luxury have been built on a circular plan.  The camping site has very acceptable ablution facilities.  Clearly Hwange still receives income from the tourism industry, as the camp is well maintained and very clean.  It must also be mentioned that the staff of the Wildlife Authority – from the gate guard to camp attendants to the reception staff are all extremely well trained and treated us like royalty.  South African Tourism services could learn a great deal from Zimbabwe!  The students were only set to meet us in a couple of days, so as soon as camp was set up, all the vehicles went and explored as much of Hwange as you can in a couple of hours.  Once again, a beautiful reserve that I will be returning to.

African Centre for Holistic Management
The reason why the group was only meeting the past students on the 15th October was because the convoy headed towards Victoria Falls on the 14th October to visit the African Centre for Holistic Management, run by Allan Savory.  This was a fantastic field trip and the group were exposed to a dynamic way of managing land. This process of management is based on making all management decisions toward a new concept known as a holistic goal.    A holistic goal is something you work towards, but cannot really ever achieve.  It guides you and makes sure you ask questions and test every decision you make according to ecological, cultural, finance, and management objectives.  

Allan uses cattle as a substitute for buffalo (he has buffalo but not enough).  He started managing this farm over 35 years ago, but mainly as a base for his staff at the time. Then he donated it to the Africa Centre for Holistic Management for their College of Agriculture, Wildlife and Conservation Management.  He teaches communities (and land managers) to develop a grazing plan (for the cattle) and has divided his farm into virtual grazing units.  The idea is that the herders are with the cattle 100% of the time, and they continually move the 250 odd animals according to the grazing plan.  The cattle open up areas by grazing and trampling the grass, they scuff the soil with their hoof action, and add plenty of dung and urine to the system.  Areas are not over grazed (as overgrazing is determined by a plant being eaten numerous times and not allowing re-growth between recurrent grazing sessions).  Grazing in the correct fashion promotes grass growth and so you want grazing to occur – just not overgrazing.  They expect about 800 - 1000 mm rain but this last season had 500mm.  Because of the way the cattle (and goats) are used as a management herd or tool, they have grown more grass than they can handle. The stocking rate of livestock was increased 400% to achieve this level of land and habitat improvement and Allan is at the moment trying to raise funds to bring in many more cattle.  He is doing this because they are trying to keep improving the stability and permanent flow in their river system and as he points out, to do so they need to replace the former role of fire with animals.

It was interesting to actually see that the utilisation of the land in this manner promotes so much grass growth, nutrient cycling and allows water to penetrate the soil (less run off), as the trampled grass and increased basal cover essentially acts a sponge, allowing water to seep into the soil.  This increase in the level of the water table has enabled small rivers to flow for longer periods of the year.  There is one river that the ranch controls the catchment of, and this river now flows throughout most years and has pools even in dry years.  This river has open water, water lilies and small fish 1.5 km above where it has historically been known to have water.

In short his farm has a healthy system because of many animals (not few animals).  This concept would be discussed with the SAWC past students the following day.

Five past students met the group on the 15th October 2009. These students included Kwanele Kanegoni, Dzoro Kwashirai, Mellisa Ncube, John Sitole and Mondwetu Nyati.  It was exciting to hear that all these past students have been promoted since receiving their training at the Wildlife College. The group also met with the Ecologist who was able to guide the training needs from a reserve perspective.  It was very clear that Hwange has more resources available to staff than Mana Pools, and for this reason the training needs are relatively different.  Geographical Information Systems training is needed in Hwange as the rangers have access to GPS units and monitoring and mapping their patrols on a daily basis will help them improve their area coverage.  It is interesting to note that rangers in Zimbabwe are deployed on 7 day patrols.  During this time they have radio contact sessions with a base camp at predetermined times and operate as a self sufficient unit until back at base camp.  This systems allows for the most effective use of limited resources.

A large amount of research is being conducted in Hwange and this was actively noticed by the amount of activity surrounding main camp.  It was also heartening to notice that although not at capacity, a number of tourists and tourism operators were utilising the Camp.

Once the convoy left Hwange we started heading back to Mushandike.  This time we arrived during the day and were taken on a tour of the College by Rachel Gwazani – the Principal.  She is an extremely hard working and a proud woman who has single-handedly changed the College into something the Parks and Wildlife Authority can be proud of.    She has even started a vegetable garden which feeds her students!


Mushandike!

 

Trust Mushingaidze (Head of Human Resources) also joined the group at Mushandike.  Trust had been instrumental in organising all the permits and permission letters for this trip, and it was great for him to finally meet up with the team from South Africa.  Theresa Sowry gave Trust a briefing on the training needs identified up to this point of the trip.  Then it was time to meet the students.  Six past students were there to meet the group – many more than expected.  Due to the limited time available, the training needs analysis was completed in candle light in the library!

On the morning of the 17th October, the group awoke to find a Parks and Wildlife Authority landcruiser parked in our camping site.  A gentleman by the name of Chamunorwa Ramanapasi stepped out the vehicle and introduced himself to the group as a past SAWC student.  He told the group that he was supposed to meet them at Hwange but his supervisor had returned late from Harare and he had not been able to get away. He realised that the Toyota delegation was heading for Mushandike and so travelled through the night, arriving at 3 am to find the group and be part of the monitoring and evaluation exercise.  A member of the group went to find Theresa Sowry.  It was such a fantastic feeling to meet with Chamunorwa and add him to the list of past students we managed to find.  More good news was that he found out he had been chosen to come back to SAWC in 2010 for the advanced course.  He was so excited!

Chilojo Cliffs


 

The group then headed for our last stop - Gonarezhou National Park.  We arrived at the  beautiful campsite Chipinda Pools and made up our camp.  Once again we could see that very few tourists utilizer the facilities, and resources are desperately needed to get the ablutions back to an acceptable level.  Maybe infrastructure maintenance training would be a need for this reserve too?  A trip to the Chilojo cliffs took most of the 18th October, but what an amazing site!  This is something everyone should see!

The 19th October was our final working day, and the group was excited to find two past students, Elias Limbombo and Andrew Gondo working in this area.  The group also met with Mr Mpofu and Mr Gandiwa who gave very interesting presentations on the two halves of Gonarezhou (namely Chipinda Pools and Mabalauta).  Elias is now in the tourism side of conservation, so his training needs included a guiding qualification.

After discussions with the past students, I reflected on the needs and responsibilities of the 35 past students we were able to locate in Malawi and Zimbabwe.  Just as was the case in Zambia last year, it is evidently clear that SAWC graduates are essentially running the middle management domain of conservation in Zimbabwe and Malawi!  Refer to appendix 1 for stories that some of the past students wrote for Mvelaphanda.

Gonarezhou was the final part of our trip, and on the 20th October the convoy headed for the Chicualacuala border post into Mozambique, and 60km later we entered Pafuri border post and we were once again back in South Africa, and more importantly, back in the Kruger National Park.  Immediately we could see that South Africa has access to substantially more resources and we all thought back to the wildlife areas we had just visited.  The people in both Malawi and Zimbabwe have the drive and the determination and the commitment.  They need the resources to help them do the basic requirements of their jobs.

The Toyota convoy arrived at 18:00hrs at the Wildlife College and were met by a welcome committee headed by Francois Nel!  The thought of having a bed to sleep in and not put up camp and make food was a welcome thought by all members of the group. The trip was 7000km in length, 21 days in duration, and during this time 35 dreams came true.

A big thank you to Toyota for enabling the SAWC to reach out and meet our extended family members – our past students!

 

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