Our nation’s future relies on a well-educated public to be wise stewards of the very environment that sustains us, our families and communities, and future generations. It is environmental education that can best help us as individuals make the complex, conceptual connections between economic prosperity, benefits to society, environmental health and our own wellbeing.
There is a generation of people in South Africa that is unfortunately not in touch with the importance of protecting and enjoying our natural heritage. They don’t have the privilege of experiencing the physical, sensory, psychological, health and long-term commercial merits of being in harmony and connected to nature. They also don’t have the privilege to cherish our natural heritage because of social, economic and historic factors. This generation of young South Africans will heavily influence the government, commercial and business environments in the years to come.
This will have a direct influence on all functions of society, not limited to conservation. We need to share the realisation that everything from food security to national job creation and health is directly influenced by our protection of, and connection to, the natural environment.
History of community training
We have worked with many communities bordering the greater Kruger National Park by training guides and trackers into the industry. One of these young men, Raymond Khoza, was employed by SANParks in the Kruger National Park and rose through the ranks to become a camp manager there. He was recently named Nature Guide of the Year for Mpumalanga.
EcoTraining operates a guide training camp in the Makuleke/Pafuri region in the northern Kruger National Park. A number of graduates from these training courses have gone on to be employed as safari guides.
In 2008, EcoTraining was contracted by the Zoological Society of London to provide training for eco-guides in the Lope National Park in Gabon.
EcoTraining was the consultant to the Koiyaki Guiding School (a UN project), based in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. KGS plays an important role in providing training for people from the Maasai community, and EcoTraining played a major role here in raising the standard of instructing and also contributing to some direct training of future guides.
Other EcoTraining programmes in Kenya include:
- EcoTraining selected and trained guides for Wilderness Safaris in Kenya and their first project was the setting up of a new safari camp, called Segera, in the Laikipia Plateau of northern Kenya
- The Mara Plains and Mara Toto camps in the Masai Mara National Reserve and Ol Donyo Lodge in the Chyulu Hills in southern Kenya, all operated by Great Plains Conservation
- Kicheche Camps in the Masai Mara National Reserve
- Borana Lodge in the Borana Conservancy, on the Laikipia Plateau in central Kenya
- Sirikoi Lodge in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in central Kenya. Lewa house
- Karen Blixen Camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve
- Kipalo Camp in the Mbulia Conservancy in southern Kenya, close to Tsavo National Park
- Loisaba Lodge and Wilderness in northern Laikipia, in central Kenya
- Well-known safari company Cheli and Peacock. A two-month training programme was conducted at Joy’s Camp in the Shaba Game Reserve in northern Kenya with guides from Joy’s and other C&P camps
- Solio Lodge in Laikipia, operated by The Safari Collection
- Alex Walker Serian camps in the Masai Mara National Reserve
EcoTraining conducted a training programme to upskill guides, originally from the surrounding Chiawa area and now working in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
EcoTraining, through corporate funding, provides training for people from local communities in Botswana and Namibia. Each year a group of candidates are chosen through a thorough selection process to attend EcoTraining programmes, run at our Mashatu Camp in Botswana and camps in Namibia.
EcoTraining has also conducted many on-site training programmes for local guides working at various tourism operations throughout Botswana, including:
Trained Orient Express guides for Level 2 BQA and Level 3 Walking and Weapons at Khwai River Lodge
As part of a social responsibility programme, Gem Diamonds contracted EcoTraining to train members of the Gope Community in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in nature guiding. An intensive selection process culminated in members of the community successfully completing their Field Guide Level 1 training at our Mashatu Camp
Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris sponsored guides on short courses with EcoTraining at Mashatu = Level 2 and weapons
Further training of Orient Express guides at Khwai River Lodge and Eagle Island Lodge
Guides and trackers working at Mashatu Game Reserve were sent to our Mashatu Camp for rifle handling training
Guides from Nxamaseri Lodge on the Okavango River were trained in Level 2 Aquatic Guiding
An unemployed volunteer from the Maun area was offered free coaching in guiding for a period of two months at our Mashatu Camp
EcoTraining conducted a needs analysis for Chobe Game Lodge for the training of female vehicle-based guides. Guides were registered for the Level 2 Vehicle Guide Self-study programme
Conducted a needs analysis for Muchenje Safari Lodge in the Chobe area, with guides registering for the Level 2 Self-study Programme. A 22-day Level 3 Walking and Weapons course was conducted at Muchenje for their guides
Conducted training at Chitabe Camp (Wilderness) for guides on photography, astronomy and compiling and offering presentations. Guides registered for self-study programme for Level 2 Vehicle Nature Guide and Level 3 Walking and Weapons
Conducted training for Kwando Safaris at Kwara camp for guides in Level 3 Weapons and did a needs analysis for walking guiding
Limpopo Horse Valley Safaris sponsored a guide for a 28-day Level 2 Vehicle Guide programme at Mashatu and guides for Level 3 Weapons training
Mashatu sponsored guides for Level 2 Vehicle Guide and Level 3 Weapons training
We took on a volunteer from the Pan Handle area of Okavango for three months at Mashatu. He covered Level 2 Vehicle Nature Guide and Level 3 Weapons. He was employed by Cycle Mashatu
EcoTraining sponsored 40 shirts and pens to the Mothlabaneng Junior School class at the village
We employed and mentored Okwa Sarefo up to a Trainer and Assessor and Camp Manager at Mashatu
We trained guides from Chitabe in Level 3 Weapons
We trained guides from Motswiri Camp in guiding principles, Level 3 Weapons and Walking and Level 2 Back-up Walking and Horse Guiding. We also trained four of their front-of-house staff in basic principles of guest relations, service and etiquette
We trained lady guides from Chobe Game Lodge in Level 2 Vehicle Nature Guide
We trained &Beyond guides for Level 3 Weapons
We trained Muchenje guides for Level 3 Weapons and conducted a lead walking guide needs analysis
We trained Kwando Guides = Phase 2 from 2013 on weapons refresher and full Level 3 Lead Walking Guide
EcoTraining was approached by an international business consulting company to assist in the development of nature guiding in Jordan. Four young trainees were chosen through a rigorous selection process and then sent out to attend an intensive one-year training course at EcoTraining’s camps in Botswana and South Africa.
From 2008 EcoTraining trained over 300 local Aboriginal rangers on a number of four-week programs where their natural skills were “converted” into guiding skills. Compared to previous programs of a similar nature, this program was a huge success.
The program was highly commended by the Northern Territory government, and actually mentioned in Federal Parliament in 2010 as a successful model for further indigenous education initiatives.
EcoTraining realises that the key to the success of this project is to transfer acquired knowledge and responsibility for environmental conservation to all those who live in close proximity to wildlife areas.