Written by Joseph Kioko and Catherine Clulow
The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) signed a memorandum of agreement in 2014. Headed into the third year of this three year contract, the success stories are encouraging and the partnership will be continued for another three year period. The purpose of this partnership was a pilot study for the BotSoc to support a tertiary educational institution and particularly nature conservation students, the ‘greenies’ of the future.
Students taking the National Diploma in Nature Conservation at CPUT undergo highly valuable hands-on training, thanks to funding from BotSoc. The training was facilitated by a highly knowledgeable team led by the City of Cape Town and held at the Zeekoevlei camp of Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET).
The one-week training camp is part of the curriculum of CPUT’s Nature Conservation Diploma, and is designed to integrate what the students have learnt in lectures and practicals with applied skills needed for work. By their nature, these skills can best be taught in situ, in a conservation setting and by professionals working in the conservation sector. Skills taught are many and varied, including: setting up and manning night observation points in a Nature Reserve, using dart guns for baboon management, operation of chain-saws and bush-cutters, the use of Sherman traps for small animal surveys, fixed-point photography for vegetation surveys, the use of field guides for the identification of flora and fauna, park maintenance, park management, alien clearing, GPS mapping, and the use of biodiversity databases, among other technical skills.
Students also learnt and practiced ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork, leadership and communication, by taking turns to act as supervisors or team members in specific tasks. This was combined with workshops on time management and reserve management, also given by expert practicing conservationists from the City of Cape Town.
Although this camp has been run by CPUT for a number of years, the camp in 2015 represented a new beginning and was different from all previous camps. For the first time, the students did not have to pay for the camp from their own pockets, the 2015 and 2016 camps were fully funded by BotSoc, including transport, food and training expenses. Therefore for the first time students who did not have the means could fully participate. Previously, those students who could not afford the camp were disadvantaged even further by missing the training. Some students could afford only the transport costs but had no funds for sufficient nourishment and water during the training camp. The feedback from students highlighted that the provision of food saved time that would have been lost when all students had to prepare their own meals, and so there was more time for conservation activities. The provision of meals also provided a good opportunity for students from all backgrounds to socialise, learn from each other, and sow the seeds for fruitful collaboration as professionals. Therefore the full sponsorship of the camp by BotSoc represents a key aspect of enabling the success of students who would otherwise have been marginalised, and is a tangible contribution towards the inclusion of young people from diverse backgrounds into the conservation profession.
Students have expressed their extreme appreciation of the training received, they were full of praise for the facilitators, and singled out experts and field rangers from the City of Cape Town as well as the CTEET staff and the quality of nourishment provided.
According to Prof. Kioko, the success of the field training camp is the result of a well-functioning collaboration with organisations such as the City of Cape Town, CTEET, and BotSoc, and he is very grateful to those organisations. He added that it is BotSoc that provided the ‘glue’ for the collaboration that delivered the successful 2015 and 2016 camps by providing the funding. The collaboration between BotSoc and CPUT is making a real difference for conservation.
Another activity supported through collaborations is that the first and second year students visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens annually. BotSoc facilitates entry and information guides to assist learning through another great partnership with SANBI. You can read more about the BotSoc- SANBI partnership here. This year, the students attended an outing to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the Compton Herbarium, where they were shown and taught about specimen preservation and research with Christopher Cupido at the Compton Herbarium. Following this they enjoyed using the gardens as their outdoor classroom for the day. Welcomed by BotSoc Executive Assistant, Catherine Clulow and told about the BotSoc/ SANBI partnership, students were then led by SANBI’s Julia September on an in depth tour of the gardens to highlight conservation in situ and ex situ. The group were treated to behind the scenes visits to areas of conservation management and research within the gardens and thoroughly enjoyed the day.
BotSoc provides CPUT with resources used in broadening student’s knowledge and interest in biodiversity, and Veld & Flora magazines are used for discussion topics and passion sharing.
Students return the ‘favour’ so to speak, in promoting the Society during their WIL internships, when they give presentations about BotSoc to their host institutions, thereby spreading the word about the Society.
It is inspiring to see the determination and spirit of the next generation and we wish all who are influenced by this partnership, to be inspired and develop ever- growing passion to remain interested and working in the environmental sector, greening the future.
We thank the BotSoc members who so generously donate funds for this project, as you read, this is money well spent! What a great story to share, please do.
Until next time…