In late 2018, we had been operating in and around the Pretoria area, all of our endeavours being successful. And as mentioned in our previous blog; we were thinking about new provinces, bigger things, and even new countries!
So naturally, we thought why not start with a country within our very own – Swaziland, formally known as The Kingdom of eSwatini. Not only is eSwatini a biodiverse region, but we also had well-respected contacts in communities and reserves making it a fitting opportunity to begin our ‘international’ ventures there.
Nelson Mandela famously said,
“ULTIMATELY CONSERVATION IS ABOUT PEOPLE. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AROUND WILDLIFE PARKS THEN THE PEOPLE WILL HAVE NO INTEREST IN THEM, AND THE PARKS WILL NOT SURVIVE.”
This quote captures the essence of our project, as we aimed to create a platform for the continued education of children from communities that surround conservation areas, in eSwatini as well as across Southern Africa.
On this project, we worked with 21 children from 4 different schools with an age range of 8 to 23. The lessons were conducted in the Shewula community at the Shewula Mountain Camp conference centre in December 2018. Shewula Mountain Camp provided a stunning view of the Mbuluzi Game Reserve, allowing us to ensure the children became more aware of the natural beauty that is in their immediate surrounds.
The LiC team partnered up for this project with the RMI Group, a company that provides expertise and services in designing and implementing rural development projects in Swaziland, who were quite literally the perfect match. The partnership proved to be one of learning for us too and not just the youth of Swazi! RMI have an extremely interactive approach to their teaching, which reinforced the main points of each of the LiC lessons, something we will definitely carry into our future endeavours.
Following the lessons, we took the children into Mbuluzi Game Reserve to allow them to observe the principles we had taught on a first-hand and personal level. We were lucky enough to take them on game drives, bush walks and even exposed them to an active anti-poaching unit, the Savannah Research Centre as well as several commercial lodges; all of which demonstrated the possibility of future employment in conservation.
Prior to our eSwatini trip, we had also made leaps and bounds in figuring out “the feedback loop” of LiC. LiC and The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), who train guides to work in the industry, saw the opportunity to partner up. Our partnership resulted in LiC being able to expand our syllabus and get individuals that we recognise as passionate, willing and able the FGASA training needed in order to give back and to grow the industry.
We are also in the process of developing a comprehensive fill-in book to ensure our teachings are understood and for the children to take home as a referral once they are finished with the lessons. The book will also be used as a tool for us to identify stand-out individuals.
We believe we identified one remarkable individual from our eSwatini trip who has demonstrated many of the qualities we are looking for – Phiwo Masimula. We hope to get him on a 4-week FGASA training course in the next few months. This will enable him to become a qualified field guide/game ranger and find continuous employment in the industry. All LiC and FGASA require, in lieu of payment, is that the individuals who receive these bursaries return to LiC and teach the new generations in underprivileged areas, creating a sustainable and perpetual cycle of conservation between nature and people.
– Photography and writing by Robyn De Villiers