In October 2020, the first Phinda Community Conservation and Research Skills Development Course was launched.
The course is a collaboration between &Beyond Phinda and our community development partner, Africa Foundation. In essence, it’s a six-month, mentored journey of skill building, practical experience and learnings for five young conservationists from neighbouring communities.
The aim is to empower these young people with the hard skills and hands-on experience required to pursue a career in wildlife, conservation management, or in the tourism field as trackers or rangers.
Over the six months, students will cover four modules, namely:
• Research and monitoring
• Land management
• Wildlife management
• Field guiding & tourism
In addition to the certification they will receive on completion of the course, they will also have the opportunity to achieve a formal FGASA (Field Guides Association of South Africa) Level 1 qualification.
The criteria for these students is very specific: they need to be unemployed, between 20–30 years old, come from the surrounding Mduku, Mnqobokazi, Nibela, KwaJobe or KwaNgwenya rural communities, with a clear interest in the areas of wildlife, environment or conservation.
Following a lengthy process of fundraising, online advertising, selection and interviews, five students were selected for the first course:
Aleka’s impressive work history includes previous conservation work experience together with a National Diploma in Nature Conservation from South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology.
A member of her local environment club, Ncamisile has a good understanding of issues like alien plant control and deforestation, and is committed to sharing her learnings with her community.
Sibongiseni’s clear understanding of the close connection between conservation, tourism and his own community, is complemented by a number of technical skills and high competency with computers.
Sihle’s strong community involvement, including the environmental awareness he has generated through a local environmental club, are perfect platforms for the sharing of his new learnings.
An active member and ambassador for a local wildlife group, Siphamandla has good knowledge of the work being done by Phinda and Africa Foundation, and intends to be a community role model.
When asked about the course training, Sibongiseni had this to say: “We’re doing a lot. It covers everything…I used to be scared [of wildlife], but now I’m no longer scared, I’m gaining experience.” Here is his story, interwoven with the many hands-on course activities.
Conservation in action: here the team can be seen assisting with a range of conservation activities – the tracking of wildlife using telemetry equipment, conducting vegetation surveys, and assisting with a rhino notching and dehorning.
However, as Simon Naylor, Phinda Reserve Manager and coordinator of the wildlife management course module explains, this practical element is not just about the doing, but about the reason and purpose for these conservation actions.
News hot off the press is that four of our first group of aspiring conservationists have not only completed the course and passed their FGASA theory exams, they are also now gainfully employed in the conservation field.
Fundraising is well underway for the next group. Share in their journey and be part of this powerful interplay between conservation and community.