Gender inclusivity celebrated at wildlife scouts graduation
Harare (New Ziana) -Twenty-eight community wildlife scouts from Mbire and Muzarabani districts in Mashonaland Central province, most of them women, recently completed a two-month basic game ranger training course at the Zimbabwe Institute of Wildlife Conservation in Masvingo.
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), a global conservation organization focusing on protecting wildlife and their habitats in Africa, facilitated the training course.
In a historic achievement, the female trainees were breaking into the male-dominated field, signifying the importance of gender inclusion in development, especially in the conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage in the country.
Funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) under the ‘UTARIRI – Integrated and Adaptive Biodiversity, Climate and Livelihoods Project in the Zambezi Valley, the course included both theory and practical training modules.
The training also equipped the community scouts with skills in ecological monitoring, ranger-based data collection, conducting problem animal management, communicating with stakeholders in wildlife-rich areas, as well as engaging the local community on conservation issues using human rights-based approaches.
AWF also provided the scouts with uniforms, including patrol boots. which are critical for their work during anti-poaching patrols.
“Witnessing such a great number of women graduating today shows gender balance in upskilling and training. I continue to advocate for the improvement of the girl child in wildlife conservation and I am happy today with the ratio that we have,” said Professor Never Muboko, principal, Zimbabwe Institute of Wildlife Conservation at the graduation ceremony.
“You covered quite a lot of topics during your month-long training—among them, human-wildlife conflict, because I know from the areas that you come from, you face this on a daily basis. You also learnt human rights issues in law enforcement. I liked this topic because long ago, we did not learn much about human rights in law enforcement,” Professor Muboko, said.
“This historic development has come as part of efforts to support community-level human-wildlife conflict management structures under the Utariri Project; this is in harmony with the AWF’s 10-year conservation strategy,” said Olivia Mufute, AWF Zimbabwe Country Director, at the event.
Mbire and Muzarabani districts endure some of the harshest climatic and agricultural conditions in Zimbabwe, yet they still have excellent wildlife populations, including the big five – Lion, Buffalo, Rhinoceros, Leopard and the Elephant.
Wildlife populations have been declining in Zimbabwe during the last 30 years as a result of consecutive droughts, habitat loss and poaching for meat, and sale of wildlife products.