August saw the start of an exciting new course at the College, Basic Eco-Ranger training. The idea for the course came through Dr. Jacques van Rooyen and the Herding for Health (H4H) programme and is being developed and run as a joint project by the Applied Learning and the Responsible Resource Use departments.

“Herding for Health is a community development activity that promotes conservation outcomes while supporting people living in rural areas to find their way out of extreme poverty. It does this by teaching community members to make use of what they already have – cattle and other livestock.”

In many places across Africa herding has been left to the people who get left behind, those who didn’t or couldn’t go to school, and who couldn’t find other ways to make a living. We are looking to change that. Looking after the environment, and everything within it, is critical for survival – for all of us. Managing the landscape and livestock within it is a big responsibility. We therefore want to develop a career path for passionate and committed people who want to improve the health and productivity of the livestock, wildlife, people and landscapes around them. The course is a step on this career path.

For this pilot course we circulated a strict selection criterion to the herding for health implementation partners across SADC. The learners were selected by the partners as being respected members of their community, with the necessary passion and commitment.

On this pilot course we have 12 learners from Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa. Many of the learners already have many years’ experience working with livestock in challenging landscapes. This has allowed us to learn much from them in terms of course development, level and content.

The course comprises 11 modules, including; Holistic Rangeland Principles, Level Three First Aid, Stakeholder Engagement, Animal Health, and Wildlife Contact Management.  The intention is to give the learners a broad understanding and insight into the many important functions and skills of a professional herder; from being a community liaison officer to land manager to veterinarian assistant and much more.

The course is running for one month and is an intense experience. To keep fit and sharp, the learners are under the watchful eye of a drill sergeant who puts them through their paces each morning at 5am and again in the evening. We hope that after their experience, each and every one of our learners will be stronger, more confident, more knowledge and inspire more respect in their communities when they go home.

The funding for the development and running of this course was generously provided by the German Cooperation in the Southern Africa Development Community and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (Giz) Transboundary Use and Protection of Natural Resources Regional Programme.

The learners as they arrived, getting ready to begin.
The team was instantly transformed into the professionals they are!

“Help us look after our cattle and we’ll help you look after your rhino.“ – Utah Nduna

In the field learning to identify the tracks and signs of dangerous game.

“While many view livestock as a threat to conservation and especially rangeland health, it is in fact through the correct management of livestock and unlocking their value in underserved communities that significant benefits for sustainable land use and biodiversity conservation can be achieved.”

At the Kraal learning about animal health from Dr Ayanda Mphele of Afrivet.

H4H follows a holistic, community-driven approach to address challenges faced by farmers living in and adjacent to protected areas. The concept is based on the premise that with proper livestock management, land degradation can be reversed and the desired impacts, including the recharge of water resources and an increase in biodiversity resources, will be a reality.”