From the 28th to the 30th of November, a learning exchange that focused on the varying operations undertaken by field rangers from different conservation organisations and their SKEP partners was facilitated. The participants embarked on a one and a half day exchange which was hosted by CapeNature and the South African National Parks (SANParks).
The exchange took place at the Namaqua National Park, Coastal Camp Site, which is located within the Central Namaqualand Coast, a SKEP geographic priority area. Although diamond mining and tourism development have transformed much of the Namaqualand coastline, the Central Namaqualand coast incorporates a crucial 30 kilometre wide tract of relatively pristine coastline. Flagship species include locally dominant succulent endemics such as Wooleya farinosa, Grant's Golden Mole (Eremitalpa granti) and Gronovi's Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes gronovii).
Participants consisted of reserve managers and field rangers from various CapeNature reserves, such as the Knersvlakte, Cederberg Wilderness Area, Matjies Rivier and Bird Island. Two of Conservation South Africa’s (CSA’s) eco-rangers; SANParks’ Section Ranger Piet Schreuder and one of his field rangers; a biodiversity facilitator from Indigo Development and Change as well as a representative from the SKEP Coordination Unit were also in attendance.
The itinerary consisted of introductory presentations from the field rangers and the SKEP partners which was then followed by an orientation to the Namaqua National Park. Field trips were conducted along the Namaqualand Coast to expose participants to the various law enforcement, tourism and problem animal activities. Participants were also given insight into the various Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) projects which are being implemented by SANParks.
Field rangers who seldom get a chance to interact with one another were thus offered this chance during the learning exchange, as they derived tremendous value from being able to share knowledge, ideas, successes and challenges about their various work areas. “It was interesting to see the differences in the areas, as some of us are field rangers in the mountains and others along the coast” said Piet Schreuder.
Throughout the visit inputs and ideas about field ranger activities in a coastal and terrestrial environment were shared. The benefits of having EPWP projects were also highlighted by all parties and indicated the importance of implementing these poverty alleviation initiatives within the conservation sector.
“This exchange was a living example of concrete steps towards embedding a learning network in the SKEP” said Shahieda Davids, learning network and communications officer at the SKEP coordination unit. “You are a partner and you are important. From now and into the future we want to see the partnership hosting successful learning exchanges as this one.”