Ten people have been drawn from lodges in Botswana for a fully sponsored programme in field guiding by the award winning premium liqueur, Amarula.
The scholarship is said to have been awarded to individuals who have demonstrated not only a desire to improve themselves through education but who also show a passion and empathy for tourism and nature conservation.
According to Elizabeth Gray, of Total Media South Africa, “The criterion for the delegates was simple – they needed to be currently employed, demonstrate a passion for wildlife and a willingness to improve their own education and their ability to give back to their own communities. Local lodges in Botswana were selected through the existing relationship Amarula has with them and through these lodges, people were identified.”
Gray further revealed to the Sunday Standard that the idea was first generated towards the end of 2008, adding that Amarula identified the need to invest in education and training to further build tourism initiatives.
“It is the company’s vision to give back and create sustainable enterprises,” she said, adding that the idea was the first within Amarula and the Holding Company, Distell.
The initiative by Amarula is aimed at developing Botswana tourism. Amarula is also currently working with Botswana authorities to support the sustainable development of local communities in the country, through the inception of delineated skills up-liftment programmes. Amarula also hopes to create sustainable income for the delegates and further promote tourism to Africa.
“Knowledgeable guides play an important role in the foreign tourist experience – we simply wish to up-skill and give back and create excellent memorable experiences,” Gray said
The ten delegates started their four week course on March 9 at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC), located in Hoedspruit, South Africa, under the auspices of the Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGASA). The college is said to have been chosen because of its proven track record and because it is a recognized body.
The Southern African Wildlife College is one of the FGASA Nature Guiding Course accredited providers.
Gray further said that Amarula chose to partner with the College due to the existing support that Distell and Amarula gives to Peace Parks as the Wildlife College is closely aligned with this organization.
The specially-designed programme will last over four weeks with the delegates completing 17 modules over the period, including 1 module dedicated to the Morula tree, studying its cultural beliefs and the economic impacts of the tree.
The Coordinator for the scholarship programme at the Wildlife College, Christopher Kafoteka, revealed to the Sunday Standard that the enrolled trainees were already undergoing intensive field training in the fields and also said that their schedule is heavy even theoretically.
“The students will sit for a theory examination of FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) Level 1 Nature Guiding course on 27th March 2009. When they pass the exam they will then be practically assessed for competence by 3rd April 2009.” He said.
“Despite the current economic climate, Africa continues to attract a high level of discerning tourists and this trend is set to grow,” Lorien Kee of Amarula said, “Growth drives a need for further qualified people to showcase the continent at its best. This opportunity for sustainable development has been identified by Amarula who look forward to significantly contributing to the expansion of this sector in Botswana.”