Growing up in the lush river bound landscape of the Caprivi region it is inevitable that many young Caprivians dream of making a life based on their natural surroundings. And, with the help of the Namibian government and international partners, that dream can turn into a reality.
Kennedy Nzaki, who grew up in the Sikunga conservancy on the Namibian border with Zambia, says that as a youngster he loved nature, and in particular, “I was a guy who liked fishing”.
After he completed school, he had no second thoughts about what he wanted to do with his life – to join the tourism industry in Namibia. For him, showing off the natural wonders of his home to visitors was an important goal.
Nzaki approached a lodge situated in the Sikunga conservancy where he landed a job as a general employee. After gaining lodge experience, he was offered a job as a fishing guide, tapping into his naturally acquired skills he learnt when growing up.
Recently, Nzaki heard that a group of conservancies were offering conservancy members a chance to take part in a specialized tourist-guide training course, to be held at the IRDNC managed Sijwa environmental center. “I was very excited”, he says. He was selected as one of 17 participants – all participants had to be from a local conservancy – to take part in the course. The NATH (Namibia Academy for Tourism and Hospitality) course is recognized locally and internationally as a guide qualification, and so by completing it, Nzaki will have acquired another feather in his cap.
Opportunities to turn the passion for his home into a profitable career have been made possible in no small part by the successful implementation of the conservancy programme in Namibia. For the past two decades, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Namibia Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO), together with partners such as WWF Namibia and the IRDNC, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, have been working together closely with local communities to implement the programme. The goal is to empower communities with knowledge of how to exercise their rights over the natural resources in their surroundings in a sustainable manner.
Tourism plays a major role, as the exquisite landscape and wildlife act as a potent drawing card for tourists. Money generated from tourism is directly ploughed back into the communities.
Pivotal to the vision is extensive input such as training, education, management and implementation.
Guide-training is one of the ways in which communities gain knowledge of their natural surroundings and at the same time, acquire bankable skills.
Delicious Limbo recently applied for a guide job at Lianshulu Lodge in the Caprivi. His chances of landing the job have been given a boost by the conservancies’ decision to let him join the training at Sijwa environmental centre this month.
According to Nadja le Roux, IRDNC’s manager at the centre, the course was a wonderful example of collaboration between various partners. Eight conservancies will benefit from the Millenium Challenge Account funds allocated for training.
For Limbo, this is the first chance to take part in the training and he says the training will “improve my living standard”. The training is also a chance for him to “invest the knowledge I learn here” into the Balyerwa conservancy. Limbo said that he plans to share the training outcomes with community rangers employed in his conservancy.
For Given Kakambi, this is his second NATH training course. He is employed as a conservancy guide at the Impalila conservancy – a conservancy he says that has built up a “vibrant” tourism brand.
Shortly after completing school, his dream to “work in the tourism industry” took a step in the right direction when he applied for a position as a conservancy guide. With a bright and proud smile he says he “was lucky enough” to get the job. Since then Kakambi has specialized in sport fishing, boat cruises and wildlife tourism activities. Kakambi explains that the conservancy situated on the border with Botswana has an agreement with Botswana-based lodges to market the Impalila area activities.
An important aspect of the guide training, is that the training should not benefit “me alone”, Kakambi says.
His conservancy has to reap the benefits too. “So when I finish my course here, I will share the ideas and knowledge with the other employees at the conservancy”. He said that while this training is opening up doors in the tourism sector outside of the conservancy, it is important that if he ever resigns and moves on, “I leave my knowledge in the conservancy”.
Overall, the 17 trainees, some new to the field, others old hands refreshing and updating their knowledge-base, agree that working under the grass thatched roof at the Sijwa environmental centre, is an ideal opportunity to learn not only from the teacher, but from each other.
Their responsibility is towards realizing that they have a collective stake in the wildlife and natural surroundings and this information has to be shared across the board.