Unfortunately, areas set aside for conservation purposes are invariably remnants of fragmented ecosystems and the processes important to ecosystem function invariably operate at spatial scales that do not match the size of most conservation areas. Hence, the influence on ecosystem behaviour of many ecological processes has been disrupted by the transformation of landscapes through human activity and development. Clearly, conservation areas cannot exist in isolation as islands within a sea of conflicting land use practices, and strategies to conserve biodiversity have to stretch beyond the boundaries of protected areas.
Fortunately, the Waterberg remains a relatively unspoiled region and as such, Welgevonden is not so much an island itself but is rather part of a bigger island comprising the adjoining Marakele National Park and the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. However, socio-economic pressures are ever increasing and rather than wait until these pressures erode the landscape until only fragmented islands remain, the management of Welgevonden opted to look for a way to extend its conservation reach beyond the boundaries of the reserve.
Socio-economic development is obviously important for rural communities such as those living in the Waterberg region and rather than resist that which is both inevitable and necessary, the management of Welgevonden felt that the most meaningful benefits for long-term conservation would be achieved by engaging with the local communities to promote an appreciation of conservation as an opportunity to improve one’s own personal environment and thus circumstances. Recognizing its limitations with respect to the resources and skills required to effectively achieve this, the Welgevonden management investigated options with regards to partnering with specialists in this field. The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Rural EcoWarrior (REW) Programme was identified as the most exciting and appropriate choice.
At the first meeting with the EWT, it quickly emerged that there was a strong meeting of minds on the possibility of establishing a REW Programme in the Waterberg, and with funding from Welgevonden, the EWT has very rapidly set about making this a reality. The first challenge was to identify a suitable individual to be appointed in the position of the Rural EcoWarrior. The EWT’s REW Programme Coordinator, Sam Phakathi, and the Conservation Leadership Group’s Sinegugu Zukulu conducted an intensive selection process towards the end of 2007, and after a rigorous process, Theko Tlailana emerged as the preferred candidate. Theko has subsequently been appointed by the EWT and has undergone intensive training, including a trip with Sam to experience first hand some other established REW programmes. Theko returned to the Waterberg at the end of December 2007 trained and equipped to breath life into the Waterberg REW programme in the new year.
Welgevonden is proud to be associated with this programme and with the EWT and is extremely excited about the prospects this programme holds for the future as a mechanism to engage with the surrounding communities on conservation and environmental issues. Welgevonden’s Conservation Manager, André Burger, will be working closely with Theko to provide support and assistance where required and to make Welgevonden available as an outdoor classroom to promote awareness of hands-on conservation issues.
Update December 2009:
by Sibusiso Vilane
The Rural Eco warrior officer Theko Thlailana has been looking forward to the finishing of the Library at Mokolo Primary school as this will afford him a small office to operate from. This last month positive developments were noticed and the roofing has been done, only a few touch ups and finish up then the library will be finished.
Since August 2009 I have been more involved with Theko to try and help him with projects. He has been running the rural programs well and with a lot of energy. During Arbor week he initiated the planting of trees at various schools in Vaalwater and that was received well by all the schools. Theko got the department of agriculture to sponsor some of the trees which were used to demonstrate and teach the learners how to plant and nurture trees. The rest of the trees to the schools were sponsored by Welgevonden Game reserve and will be planted this week.
Theko has formed an environmental club which is made up of young matriculants to try and help raise environmental awareness at the schools and community. Projects that they have undertaken and facilitated since, has been the establishment of Eco-gardens at two schools which Theko has been using to give lectures at these schools. One of these projects has won the school a bronze certificate in recognition of their excellent work.
Other community projects that Theko and the environmental club have been working on are:
Cleaning campaign in Vaalwater
The removal of illegal dumping sites around Vaalwater, the cleaning will be done this week Tuesday 8 December. This is aimed at teaching the community to be even more responsible for their surrounding.
The environmental club has been allocated a piece of land at Massetsetla secondary school to use for expanding their garden and vegetable growing projects, Welgevonden management helped by introducing Theko to tower gardens and linked him up with a couple Harry and Peggy who helps with demonstrations and putting up these impressive gardens. Theko and the club became interested which lead to Harry and Peggy spending valuable time with Theko and the club where they taught and explained in detail about the gardens. We have since put up a couple at Massetsetla and the environmental club is fully involved and will be building more of these in the future to benefit the club and the community with fresh vegetables. These gardens are ideal for dry places like Vaalwater since you can also use dirt water from your dish washing.
Update September 2009:
Arbour Day in Leseding
This will be an ongoing project whereby trees will be planted in all the schools to “green” their grounds. Sibusiso Vilane was on hand to take some photos and reported that the children who were in attendance enjoyed the day thoroughly and received a lot of useful and good information on environmental issues. Well done Theko!
In addition, are extremely proud that Theko was the feature attraction on the EWT’s latest advert. And a good job he is doing too!
Welgevonden recently hosted Samson Phakathi from the EWT and their most recent recruit, Amos, during their visit to the Waterberg to assist and support Theko’s efforts in the local community. Theko is currently establishing an environmental club in the community and we look forward to reporting back on his progress in this regard. .
Update August 2009:
Welgevonden is delighted to have as a member of its staff, albeit on a temporary basis, the intrepid mountaineer, explorer, motivational speaker and patron of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Leadership Group, Sibusiso Vilane.
Sibusiso’s list of achievements, from summiting Mount Everest (twice) to trekking unaided to the South Pole, is truly remarkable and is testimony to the potential of the human spirit. Sibusiso also boasts 11 years experience working in the conservation sector and he is assisting Welgevonden with furthering the local Waterberg Rural EcoWarrior Programme, and the implementation of the WEI programme.
In addition, Theko Tlailana, our local Rural EcoWarrior, recently returned brimming with confidence and energy from a 3-week environmental education training programme run by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) in KwaZulu–Natal. The training programme focused on identifying environmental problems and how to address these involving the correct engagement with community stakeholders. Theko is keen to apply his new found knowledge, and under the astute guidance and mentorship of Sibusiso Vilane, we anticipate exciting developments with the Waterberg REW programme.
Update August 2008:
Endangered Wildlife Trust Media Release - Conservation Leadership Group scoops 2 Kudu Awards
The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Leadership Group (CLG) was recognised for its outstanding work in capacity building, environmental education, and its contribution to conservation in rural communities, at the prestigious Kudu Awards ceremony on 26 June 2008.
The CLG received this award for its four educational programmes: the Rural Eco-Warriors, the Tracker Training Programme, the Leadership Training Programme and the Conservation Training Programme.
In addition, on 5 June this year, the CLG Rural Eco-Warriors also won the Mail & Guardian’s Greening the Future Awards, in the category of ‘Water Care’.
Click here to download full media release.