Women in the Okavango’s eastern panhandle villages recently benefitted from the Female Ranger Program, which seeks to empower them through the conservation of wildlife.
The program covers villages comprises of Seronga, Gunotsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa which all forms Okavango Community Trust. The initiative was conducted by Great Plains Foundation.
The women living in the rural communities surrounding the protected areas often face limited schooling opportunities and narrower career prospects hence the foundation conducted the program to empower them.
The programs manager, Robyn Flemix said through the program they will bridge the gap between illegal activities and law enforcement by collecting essential information for preserving wild species and habitats as they are crucial for conservation in Southern Africa.
She explained that conservation areas needs the rangers on the ground because without them poachers have it their way.
“We need teams that will show up and patrol, understand tracks, routes, know the landscape surrounding communities intimately and then call in the armed teams that government provides because there is no reason at all that women should not be given equal opportunities to protect wildlife,” Flemix stressed.
The foundation aims to provide female rangers with a platform to share unique stories and educate others working in conservation. The female rangers are educating the younger generations in their communities about the importance of conservation for their future.
Flemix stressed that when provided with the education, resources and skill-building opportunities women living in these communities can be employed in conservation to protect their natural resources, endangered wildlife as well as become ambassadors for conservation in their local communities.
According to her, the 6 months period projects commenced in March 2022 and 12 women were enrolled at the cost of $12,500 to cover for Female Ranger’s hiring, training and equipment.
She explained that the diverse program focuses on computer literacy, bush-craft, vehicle maintenance, scientific-based monitoring field skills and more. The program is being conducted in different locations from the Great Plains Academy in Seronga to the Great Plains office in Maun to the training camp of African Guide Academy.
Flemix added that for women living in communities that border protected areas becoming a wildlife monitor is a unique opportunity to develop a specialised skillset. She stated that the program will create some economic autonomy and contribute significantly to gender equity.
“Eventually, Great Plains envision this project growing into a Wildlife and Environmental Field Skills based certificate from a training institute in Botswana for women who otherwise may never have had a chance at further education,” she said.