Community Development

Equipping champions – a custodianship approach to combat wildlife crime

In late 2019, the South African Government launched the Global Environment Facility (GEF) 6 Project that aims to strengthen institutions, information management and monitoring to reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade in South Africa. The project has three components which include strengthening institutional capacity and information systems for effective management of wildlife trade monitoring; developing a ready-to-use permitting system for CITES-listed species; and strengthening community capacity to reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade. Working toward this goal, the GEF 6 project is implemented by South African National Parks (SANParks), Peace Parks Foundation, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Conservation and Monitoring Centre as well as the Secretariat for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

SANParks and Peace Parks are leading Component 3 in the Greater Kruger, partnering with the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) and WWF Khetha. “GEF 6 partners will join hands to support community-level social development by providing novel community governance support, co-developed with community structures, specifically targeted for community-based natural resource management seeking to reduce wildlife crime and improving livelihoods,” says Dr Moscow Marumo, Peace Parks’ Community Development Programme Manager.

Youth in Action

SANParks designed and put into action a community-based Environmental Monitors Programme that promotes awareness within communities adjacent to the Kruger National Park. The programme also seeks to improve environmental integrity and reduce the rate and impact of wildlife crime. Incremental to existing initiatives of other partner organisations in the area, this programme will contribute towards strengthening the enabling institutional environment that will ensure long-term sustainability of this and other projects.

“To support the Environmental Monitors Programme, a four-year training initiative is also being developed that will identify and create a learning growth path for Youth Champions in communities and from partner institutions,” says Mr Sboniso Phakathi, Facilitator and Project Lead for the Southern African Wildlife College’s Rural Initiative for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) Unit.

In February this year, two COVID-19-compliant introductory Youth Champions training sessions were held in the Kruger National Park. A total of 79 participants attended the training aimed at creating awareness and deeper understanding of the significance of natural assets and their value within the Kruger National Park, and Greater Kruger landscape. “The training programme went beyond simply broadening the participants’ understanding of the environment they work in; it also highlighted the important role they play in achieving a collective vision for the Greater Kruger landscape,” says Dr Marisa Coetzee, General Manager of Regional Integration, Kruger National Park.

“The training programmes seeks to enable participants to act as conservation champions in their communities through developing leadership and communication skills, defining workplace and community roles and responsibilities, as well as demonstrating the use of reporting and monitoring to, for instance, reduce human-wildlife conflict”, says Lindiwe Chuma, a Community Stakeholder Facilitator from the SANParks-Kruger National Park Socio-economic Transformation Unit. Participants were further informed about the negative impacts of poor environmental practices, such as the lack of proper waste management, and how this could be improved in their communities.

One participant commented that after listening to a presentation by a Kruger National Park Ranger, they felt that they had a better understanding of what it really meant to be a ranger. This is so important in bridging the divide between communities and rangers and actually bringing them together in protecting the natural resources we all rely on for a balanced and healthy future.

Sustaining people and planet

This year, World Wildlife Day is celebrated in recognition of the central role local communities play in protecting the ecosystems that are sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally. This aligns with UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 12, 13 and 15, and their wide-ranging commitments to alleviating poverty, ensuring sustainable use of resources, mitigating the effects of climate change and conserving life on land.


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