The Global Environment Facility (GEF) 6 Project has an overall goal – to strengthen institutions and targeted communities to improve decision-making and reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade in South Africa. The third component of the project aims at strengthening community capacity to reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade. This goal is attainable by supporting a range of training initiatives.  

The SAWC has, over the course of 2022, been working within the implementation partner network, and with key project stakeholders in the three respective clusters to effectively respond to the capacity building and training needs of the identified stakeholders. A series of programmes have been developed by the SAWC in support of leadership and governance capacity development within community structures and conservation organisations and they began roll out in the third quarter of 2022 but has since continued into the fourth quarter of the year.  

The four-day immersive and participatory Leading Heart training, was presented to 16 frontline staff in August, which comprised of the GEF 6 teams, WWF-Khetha, Makuleke Contractual Park, Community Liaison Officers and Kruger to Canyon Staff.  In the months that followed this training was cascaded to a further 76 participants from the 3 clusters including; Environmental Monitors, Community leaders and Livelihoods Project Representatives of diverse ages ranging from 20 to 58. The training was purposefully linked to strengthening the participant’s capacity for leadership of self, and towards making informed decisions in their community engagement process. The general feedback noted from the participants was that the training was valuable, particularly to their personal and professional lives, and that their views on leadership and its complexities were enhanced.   

The SAWC team further engaged the 34 new Environmental Monitor (EM) recruits of 2022 and presented a four-day training course comprising modules in Potentially Dangerous Game Awareness towards safety in the workplace, and Man and Animal tracking in a Natural environment.  The purpose of this training was to gauge the level of experience that the EM’s have regarding their encounters with potentially dangerous animals (PDA), as well as better understanding their workflow and reporting structures when a fence has been broken, an infiltration has occurred, or PDA has been encountered outside the protected area.  

Their fieldwork session provided an opportunity to demonstrate, discuss and reinforce the theory learnt in class. A particular focus was placed on signs of PDA in the field such as; the presence oxpeckers and their alarm calls, wet mud on bushes and trees from wallowing buffalo’s, rhinos and elephants, and the difference in feeding behaviour and digestive systems of various PDA. The teams also learnt what to look out for in dung/droppings on the roads or game path.  

The most interesting aspect for the teams was the feeding signs of elephants as well as track identification and interpretation. Discussions about hippo and crocodile around a water point, and the all-important orientation on venomous snakes and what to do if one is encountered, were further highlighted by their engagement with a real-life example namely a puff adder. General ecology and animal behaviour placed all their learning in context as they learned about home ranges of wildlife, territories, and social structures of various plains game as well as PDAs.  

The SAWC wishes to congratulate the 126 participants, and we look forward to welcoming them back for further targeted training in response to their ever-changing needs in the workplace.