A total of 39 trainees who recently completed their studies at Career Dreams Centre, a tourism and hospitality school in Maun, were recently awarded certificates at the third and last graduation ceremony under the Northern Botswana Human Wildlife Co-existence Project.
The project, which is on its sixth year running and will come to an end on 31 March, was sponsored by the government of Botswana and the World Bank to the tune of $5.5 million; and implemented by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP).
However all the training was facilitated by Career Dreams Centre, with 203 students having graduated so far. The students were trained in the fields of Lodge Management, Professional Safari Guides, and Junior Hospitality. The scope of this project was focused on thirteen selected areas in Northern Botswana which continue to experience high levels of human wildlife conflicts caused by elephants and lions particularly. These areas include among others, Seronga, Gunitsoga, Eretsha, Kavimba and Kachikau among others.
The event’s guest speaker, Maun East Member of Parliament Kostantinos Markus noted that human wildlife co-existence is a shared responsibility that requires the involvement and noticeable input by stakeholders, government, non-government sectors and conservationists.
“All these sectors should play a role in ensuring co-existence. Government policy recognizes the need to give a helping hand to people in rural areas as a way of improving their livelihoods through improved natural resource management practices at community level,” said Markus.
He also highlighted that the putting into place of the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Policy in 2007 was another milestone that continues to benefit communities through wildlife as well as tourism through the formation and running of community trusts. Speaking on behalf of the Director of DWNP, Ngamiland District Wildlife Coordinator Tim Blackbeard said activities which have been implemented under the project include the training of local communities in undertaking proactive mitigation measures such as the use of chili pepper, the construction of beehive fences, predator proof kraals and many others which are meant to lessen the ongoing conflict. He also commended local companies which have shown support by way of employing graduates in local-nature based tourism organizations, saying this alone is the most important output of the project.
For her part, Career Dreams Director Lesedi Karanja said the tourism industry has always been the largest and most dynamic sector of the modern economy as it provides employment and a variety of other opportunities. She also advised graduates that for them to thrive in the fast growing job market; they need show more creativity and be practically grounded so that they may be able to work efficiently.
“Our graduates are well equipped with suitable practical lessons that will enhance their learning through experiential learning. It might be only 203 people that have graduated and benefited from this project so far, but the impact is far reaching as it will also contribute to their mindset change that will value their relationship with wildlife and the areas where they exist”, she said.