Creating Young Conservation Ambassadors

10 October 2016

Limpopo National Park youth empowered through pioneering conservation awareness programme

Young learners from various communities living in and adjacent to Limpopo National Park, the Mozambican component of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, recently participated in a pioneering and innovative conservation awareness programme that aims to empower local communities, create awareness and promote sustainability of key natural resources.
A total of 20 learners participated in the programme developed under the guidance of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park Joint Management Board and its implementing agencies in Mozambique (ANAC) and South Africa (SANParks). This seven-day pilot programme was implemented in collaboration with Peace Parks Foundation and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and was hosted at the Skukuza Science Leadership Initiative from 22 to 27 August 2016. The pilot programme was further supported by innovative local brand Mobicell and their technology partner MediaTek Inc. that kindly donated 23 tablets to the various schools involved in this exciting initiative.
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The curriculum for the programme focused on sport-based and hands-on learning activities to help empower youngsters by using sport as a tool to educate and inspire positive change. Although the youngsters ranged from 11 to 20 years of age and hailed from the four remote villages of Mavodze, Chibotane, Macavene and Mahlaule, they soon found common ground and formed strong bonds through the shared enjoyment of soccer and other games such as frisbee and chess.

They also participated in a number science experiments. These included vital role-model engagements with field rangers, researchers, teachers and their peers, which provided invaluable insights on career opportunities in conservation and natural sciences. As part of their life skills development, they were equipped with cameras and cell phones and taught how to capture their experiences on film and share these via social media.
A core focus of the pilot programme was to instil a steadfast philosophy of Hlawula Vutomi, meaning to Choose Life for themselves, their communities and nature’s plants and animals. They were taken on game drives and guided walks in the Kruger National Park bushveld and educated on the interconnectedness of humans and nature. Another key message, reinforced throughout the week, was to help them understand that their actions have direct consequences, not only on the environment, but on themselves and their communities. The message was brought home that rhino are not the only victims of wildlife crime, as many of the youth themselves are often exploited as victims of organised wildlife crime.

The overarching goal of the programme was to bring these young participants one step closer to understanding these challenges, while empowering them to choose life and enabling them to become ambassadors for conservation back in their own communities. The hope is that these young leaders will return to their communities, armed with skills and tools that enable them to share their newly found knowledge and insights with their family and peers to inspire a shift in their mindset.
This pilot programme is the first step in the development of a long-term vision for youth interaction and education between the partner countries of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and the larger, surrounding transfrontier conservation area (TFCA). It furthermore complements plans for cultural exchanges and more formal training opportunities as proposed in the broader GLTFCA Integrated Livelihoods Diversification Strategy for 2016 – 2030.

Issued by Great Limpopo TFCA

This youth programme and partnership between Peace Parks Foundation and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation are part of the Rhino Protection Programme.

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