In August 2020, the Southern African Wildlife College entered into an agreement with Peace Parks Foundation to partner in implementing the Global Environment Facility 6th Replenishment (GEF6) called ‘’Strengthening Institutions, Information Management and Monitoring to Reduce the Rate of Illegal Wildlife Trade in South Africa’’. The project focal areas include the broader Makuya area, Sabie River / Sabi Sands Wildtuin area and broader Matsulu area, which are located along the western boundary of the Kruger National Park (KNP), on the South African component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA).
This programme will contribute to the broader national, multi-partner GEF6 – Strengthening Institutions Programme (SIP). The programme aims to achieve long-term community beneficiation and livelihood diversification strategies including the development of Governance Guidelines with and for the relevant community representatives, government agencies and strategic partners in the landscape. This programme is incremental to the existing South African National Parks (SANParks), PPF, Department of Environment Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DEFF) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) partner programmes. It will align with existing programmes being implemented in the target areas, and contribute towards strengthening the enabling institutional environment through improved governance and capacitation by means of relevant and associated training deemed critical to ensuring long-term sustainability of this and other projects.
In November 2020, the SAWC and partners started developing a three-year training programme towards identifying and supporting Youth Champions. Figure 1 portrays a schematic diagram of the preliminary Youth Champion Learning Growth Path, which is to be further developed and adapted throughout the life of the project.
In February 2021 the programme hosted two, COVID-19-compliant introductory training sessions in Kruger National Park at the Skukuza Science Leadership Initiative (SSLI) and Mopani Rest Camp respectively, to a total of 80 participants comprising of KNP Environmental Monitors, WWF Khetha Community Liaison Officers, Tourism Liaison Officers, and Tourism Fence Monitors. The objectives of the three-day training sessions were to:
- Provide an orientation of the Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger landscape including its history, features, functions (eg. environmental, scientific and socio-economic), important role-players, stakeholders and partner network;
- Create awareness focusing on tourism, waste management and environmental challenges including poisoning;
- Develop skills including leadership, communication, workplace and community roles & responsibilities, conflict management (human-wildlife conflict incidents) reporting and monitoring;
- The development of a long-term training growth path and skills needs analysis.
The induction programme was delivered through activities and presentations from various KNP divisions including, Scientific Services, Ranger Services Environmental Education and Communications with further presentations from State Veterinary Services, SAWC, the Kruger to Canyon’s Biosphere Region, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, and WWF Khetha. The programme went beyond broadening the participants’ understanding of the environment they work in, to highlighting the important role they play in achieving a collective vision in the Greater Kruger landscape.
The project looks to further build on this element of the programme so as to continue supporting the personal and professional development of the Youth Champions in the GEF6 landscape, who, through feedback and evaluation indicated that the training was successful, valuable and impactful. Comments from participants captured include:
‘’Learnt a lot about the Park’’;
‘’On point, learnt so much’’;
‘’Learnt a lot about the community involvement and KNP and its communities’’;
‘’Through the Eyes of a Ranger was one of the best sessions, closer look and feeling of being a ranger’’;
‘’looking forward to learning more after this’’;
‘’Understanding structures is where we must focus most’’.