Reflections on Community Guardian Training

Upon our return to Botswana, we requested each participant to complete evaluation forms about their training experience. Comments from individual members of our team can be found below. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with the most enjoyable aspects being the use of new technology (GPS units, and satellite and VHF tracking of lions) and the opportunity to learn from the experienced and professional Zimbabwean team. Our new recruits were eager to see lions and to participate in real lion ‘chase’ events. The focus on safety, professionalism and patience when conducting these activities was well understood by the trainees, and further training on understanding lion behaviour will be conducted to emphasise these aspects.

The importance of engaging with community members, particularly livestock owners, was a reoccurring theme which our trainees found helpful. Employing local community members is essential in ensuring locally relevant information is integrated into the project objectives, however, it can also put them into direct contradiction with their family and friends. The Zimbabwean Guardians discussed how challenging this can be, describing aggressive encounters with farmers who have lost livestock and the difficulty in dealing with community elders when trying to convey a different viewpoint. Valuable advice was shared; the importance of remaining calm in all situations, of listening and understanding alternative viewpoints, and of showing empathy for the conflict situation many farmers find themselves in. Imparting honest information can allow community members to make their own decisions. The importance of being professional was also emphasised; when conducting duties as a Guardian, they should separate themselves from their personal connections and act on behalf of their role.

Mubuso Kakambi – Community Officer – Chobe Enclave
“Thanks so much for organising everything for us to go to Zimbabwe, we have been to places I never thought I would visit in my life. I was most scared of lions and other wild animals but now I am learning to understand their behaviour I do not feel so scared.”

Charlton Kefenyang – Community Officer – Khumaga
“The training was relevant to our project objectives and the skills I acquired are what I enjoyed most about the training. I am excited to share the proactive herding and kraaling practices done by the Zimbabweans to protect their livestock from being predated. I would like more training in office procedures as my role as Community Officer will be to collate Guardian datasheets. As a person living with disability I am not capable of standing for long periods of time, but during the training I developed that endurance and perseverance. The visit to the communal mobile kraal and the dancing of the Mabale community was my most memorable moment.”

Us Ditshenyegelo – Community Guardian – Khumaga
“I have learned a lot from this training. All the activities were well planned and the Zimbabwean team were really good, exemplary people to have learned from. i am most excited about developing a good relationship with my community at home and working to meet set goals and targets for coexistence. It can be difficult to talk to my family and friends about these conflict issues, often they do not believe what we have learned about lions to be true, but when I am wearing my uniform I must act professionally and teach them what I have learned. Every moment in Zimbabwe was a moment to remember.”

Unoziba Molosiwa – Communtiy Guardian – Khumaga
“In Zimbabwe, the aspect of training I enjoyed most was learning how many different organisations are involved in protecting wildlife. I also enjoyed learning the skills used when tracking lions, and I look forward to taking part in a real lion tracking event which helps deter the lions from entering the communal grazing areas. When the GPS technology was introduced to us I was a bit nervous, but now I can hold my nerve and I’ve gained a lot of confidence in using these technologies. I would like more training on lion behaviour and how to deter them from community areas. I’d like to thank the Zimbabwean team for offering us such a great opportunity to learn from them.”

Botsanang Gaborone – Community Guardian – Khumaga
“The Zimbabwean team are well mannered and great people to work with, and Liomba had good communication skills and shows great responsibility in his duties. Dealing with conflict incidences is the least enjoyable part of being a Community Guardian, but I am excited about teaching farmers how Guardians can play a role in their community. This was my first time to travel outside of Botswana, and I found travelling long distances and meeting different people the most challenging part of training, but I learned so much from this experience. I would like to take part in further training on spoor tracking and am looking forward to learning about the lions that live in my area.”

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