The King Nehale Conservancy office grounds were filled with campers which consisted of game guards from all the North Central conservancies, King Nehale, Iipumbu ya Tshilongo, Sheya Shuushona, Uukwaluudhi, Uukolonkadhi and Okongo. Camping with the game guards were staff from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Namibia Development Trust (NDT), NACSO and WWF in Namibia. These various stakeholders gathered together for the Game Guard skills enhancement and refresher training workshop that took place from 20-21 April 2018 at the Okashana Rural Development Centre. Close to the centre is a refreshing natural spring surrounded by green plains which was an ideal location to have the workshop.
The meeting was facilitated in the local Oshiwambo language, by Teo Ntinda, Programme Officer at NDT and Helena Naftali, MET CBNRM warden. The facilitators would constantly repeat the phrase “Otu uvite ko ngaa” meaning do you understand, to ensure that everyone was on the same page. About 50 participants were present and 21 were females. All participants were eager to learn and engaged with presenters throughout the two days.
The training started off with each conservancy identifying areas that they struggle with as game guards in order for the facilitators to address these issues during the presentations and discussions. The common issues that arose were: not understanding of the Event Book Monitoring system; filling out the Human-Wildlife Conflict claim form; lack of transport and challenges in conducting patrols; reading maps; and identifying predators. It was discovered that there is a great need for information awareness to community members on wildlife management and the need for Traditional Authorities to be included in the management of wildlife issues in order for game guards to get the support they require. Game guards were also asked to analyse key challenges they are faced with in their conservancies and the following was mentioned: lack of transport to conduct patrols due to vast areas, lack of Uniforms, they felt ignored by their employers and they felt demoralised because they do not have any power to carry out arrests.
The presentations were started off with an overview of the CBNRM programme by MET CBNRM warden Josephine Immanuel, to ensure that the new game guards understanding was elevated.
Raymond Peters from WWF in Namibia started his presentation on Monitoring with reference to cattle and how all farmers use monitoring by collecting data, analysing it, using it to reach objectives and to guide management decisions. This is the same concept used in conservancies. He stressed that monitoring is important for managing, adapting and complying to rules and regulations. Game guards are the key people with regards to monitoring and their role will determine how to modify the conservancy plans and objectives.
Peters conducted a practical session where each conservancy had to complete their Event Books and demonstrate to the whole group how this was done. This was an effective way to see which conservancies were fine with the system or were struggling. Like a teacher, as one game guard filled out the forms in front of the whole group, Peters marked the areas that were correct and those that were incorrect. From the exercise, it was clear that people had an idea of what needed to be done although there were a few errors. He then demonstrated how to correctly fill in the forms. There are two models in the Event Book System, Game count and Fixed route patrols. The importance of the fixed route patrols that game guards conduct was explained and how the information they collect provides trends which give management an idea on what is happening with wildlife populations.
Ismael Mwanyangapo, MET CBNRM warden, gave a presentation on the roles of game guards in ensuring compliance. He stated that in order for compliance to be met game guards need to: attend the annual general meetings and take part in activities such as community awareness meetings; assist with activities as stipulated in the benefit distribution plan such as meat distribution; prepare the natural resource management reports and present these at the AGM and; ensure the safe keeping of financial documents.
Rosalia Ileka, Wildlife Utilisation Officer at NACSO, discussed the rules, regulations & requirements for hunting in conservancies. She had a practical exercise where participants had to fill in the relevant monitoring systems according to the information provided to them. The challenges that were observed was that they were not filled in well, there was a poor understanding of hunting contracts, and poor record keeping by game guards which are issues that need to be addressed.
For wildlife crime investigation techniques in the field, Joseph Ndjmba and Michael Mumbalu from the MET prepared an outdoor crime scene depicting poaching of a small antelope. The game guards had to use the information that they learned during the presentations on what steps to take when they come across a crime scene and use their past experience to carry out the investigation correctly. The MET staff noted that it was crucial that the game guards always have the right materials and are prepared to carry out investigations without interfering with the scene. This session was rounded off by identifying predators responsible for livestock kills by their bite marks, the way in which the livestock was killed and identifying the spoor.
The conservancy representatives were happy with the training, presentations, new information that they acquired, and the practical examples prepared by the team. This was a useful exercise that they needed and suggested that it should be done at least once a year. The presence of the game guard coordinators from each conservancy during the training was vital and advantageous for better collaboration.