Update from the SDC Department – June ’24

From Classroom to the Field: Celebrating First Semester Success and Launching Work-Integrated Learning for Future TFCA Managers

By Fanuel Nleya 

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region hosts some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, many of which span national borders. These transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) are vital for biodiversity conservation, regional cooperation, and sustainable development. The Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) Advanced Certificate in Nature Conservation: Transfrontier Conservation Management National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 6 equips future TFCA managers with essential skills and knowledge.  

Students who began their NQF 6 studies this year under the Skills Development for Conservation (SDC) Department completed their first semester in May. They have now returned to their workplaces across the SADC region for Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) under experienced mentors. This practical component bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application, enhancing their problem-solving skills and capacity to lead in the conservation field. 

WIL is crucial for developing competent TFCA managers. By applying principles and techniques learned during the first semester, students gain hands-on experience managing the unique challenges and opportunities in transfrontier conservation. Seasoned professionals provide guidance, support, and feedback, exposing students to the complexities of cross-border wildlife management, community engagement, and sustainable resource utilisation. 

Here is what they said before they left:
"The Advanced Certificate programme has exceeded my expectations. The integrated approach, especially in modules like Transfrontier Conservation Management, Land Use Planning, Catchment Management and GIS, has provided me with a holistic view of conservation. As I transition to the Work-Integrated Learning phase, I am excited to tackle real-world conservation challenges with the robust toolkit I've gained so far”.
Twambi Chimimba
Malawi Parks and Wildlife
"This first semester has been intense but incredibly rewarding and character-changing. The in-depth study of Land Use Planning and Trans-Frontier Conservation Management has given me a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of managing these areas. I am looking forward to applying these insights during my Work-Integrated Learning, knowing that the experience will further solidify my skills and knowledge”.
Norbet Kandunda
Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism
"What stands out to me about the first semester is the strong focus on collaboration and networking. Modules like Stakeholder Engagement and Conservation Research have not only taught me about the importance of these aspects but also allowed me to build connections with like-minded individuals. I am enthusiastic about continuing this journey in the WIL phase, where I can put these connections and skills to the test in real-world settings”.
Muzi Machabe
Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency, South Africa

To ensure students are fully supported during work-integrated learning, the SAWC team will visit their workplaces across the region in July and August. These visits will monitor progress, provide support, and facilitate feedback from mentors. 

The NQF 6 programme fosters regional cooperation, addressing challenges like poaching, habitat fragmentation, and human-wildlife conflict. First-semester modules covered essential conservation topics. The second semester will focus on advanced coursework, further equipping students to navigate conservation’s diverse dimensions. Graduates are prepared to lead and make tangible conservation impacts, evidenced by decreased poaching and increased community engagement. 

Returning with Purpose: National Certificate Students Embark on Their Second Semester in Natural Resource Management

As the academic year progresses, students of the National Certificate in Natural Resource Management: Terrestrial (NQF 5) have returned from their first-semester break and Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Phase 1, ready to embark on the next chapter of their educational journey. On 6 May 2024, the second-semester classes commenced, beginning an exciting and challenging period for these aspiring conservationists. 

In April, the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) phase gave students a unique opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge covered during the first semester in real-world settings, gaining invaluable hands-on experience. This practical exposure is crucial in bridging the gap between classroom learning and the dynamic realities of natural resource management. The break allowed the facilitator to reflect on the first semester’s accomplishments and recharge, ensuring renewed energy and focus for the upcoming modules. 

The first semester taught students foundational knowledge through Communication Skills and Analysis of Workplace Data, Philosophy and Conservation ethics, Personnel Management, Introduction to Research, and Vegetation Management modules. These modules provided a solid theoretical grounding that students returned to their workplaces, applying their learning in real-world contexts. 

The second semester is designed to build on the foundation of the first semester, offering a comprehensive curriculum that prepares junior managers and senior field rangers to contribute to conservation efforts in their protected areas effectively. The modules covered are critical to developing a holistic understanding of natural resource management, equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed to address various challenges in their professional roles. 

Key modules for this semester include: 

  • Animal Management: This module focuses on the principles and practices of managing wildlife populations and addresses the ecological, ethical, and practical aspects of animal management within protected areas. 
  • Integrated Catchment Management: This module emphasises the importance of sustaining water resources, understanding the interconnections between land use and water quality, and implementing strategies to protect and enhance catchment areas. 
  • Manage Area Integrity: Students learn how to maintain and enhance the ecological integrity of protected areas, ensuring that these landscapes continue to support biodiversity and ecosystem services. 
  • Cultural Sites and World Heritage Sites: This module highlights the significance of cultural heritage in conservation, teaching students how to manage and protect sites of cultural and historical importance within their conservation areas. 
  • Ensure Conservation Compliance: Students are trained in the legal and regulatory frameworks governing conservation, learning to ensure compliance with laws and regulations to protect natural resources effectively. 
  • Infrastructure Management: This practical module covers the management and maintenance of infrastructure within protected areas, ensuring that facilities support conservation efforts without compromising environmental integrity. 
  • Protected Area Management Planning: Students are equipped with the skills to develop and implement comprehensive management plans for protected areas, balancing conservation goals with sustainable use and community involvement. 

The second semester’s curriculum is designed to be as intensive and engaging as the first, with a balance of theoretical and practical components. This approach ensures that students are well-versed in conservation theory and adept at applying their knowledge in practical scenarios. The facilitator’s enthusiasm and commitment to maintaining momentum are crucial in navigating the demanding coursework and fostering a productive learning environment. 

Students will return to their workplaces for Work Integrated Learning Phase 2 after completing the second-semester modules. This final phase of WIL allows them to consolidate their learning, apply advanced concepts, and gain further practical experience. The combination of rigorous academic training and extensive practical exposure ensures that graduates of the National Certificate in Natural Resource Management: Terrestrial (NQF 5) are well-prepared to take on leadership roles in conservation. 

During this semester, we are looking forward to the success of the National Certificate in Natural Resource Management: Terrestrial (NQF 5) programme, which is a vital stepping stone for developing skilled conservationists ready to tackle the complex challenges facing our natural resources. The second semester builds on the first, offering a robust and comprehensive education that blends theory with practice. As these students progress through their studies, they enhance their capabilities and contribute to the future of conservation in the SADC region and beyond. 

A Profound Thank You to Our Generous Donors and Conservation Partners 

We extend our thank you messages to our generous donors and the esteemed conservation organisations that have been instrumental in the success of our programmes. The unwavering support from Peace Parks Foundation, African Parks, South African National Parks (SANParks), Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) Zambia, Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), the National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC)and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment Forestry and Tourism have been pivotal in advancing our mission. Our donors, the Chamberlain Family Foundation, Ball Family Foundation, Friends of African Wildlife, KfW Stiftung, Investec Bank Limited, Southern African Wildlife College Trust (SAWCT) and  Fondation Segre, your contributions have enabled us to provide top-tier education and practical training for future conservation leaders, fostering the development of protected area managers, conservation practitioners and Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) managers who are well-equipped to address the region’s pressing environmental challenges. We also recognise the dedication and hard work of our staff members, who have been the backbone of our programmes; their commitment and expertise have been crucial in achieving the remarkable progress seen in both the Advanced Certificate in Nature Conservation: Transfrontier Conservation Management (NQF Level 6) and the National Certificate in Natural Resource Management: Terrestrial (NQF 5) programmes. Together, we are making significant strides towards a sustainable future for the SADC region’s invaluable natural heritage. 

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