We need the rural children of Africa to understand the importance of conservation and its relevance in their lives

A charity in Africa is ready to inspire the next generation of green thinkers

“If we are to ensure that Africa’s pristine wilderness areas continue to exist, we need the rural children of Africa to understand the importance of conservation and its relevance in their lives,” says Dr Sue Snyman, Regional Programme Director for Children in the Wilderness.

And that is just what Snyman and her team have been doing for the past 16 years. But what started out as an annual camp for children at Wilderness Safari Lodges has now expanded to provide 20 students with scholarships to the Southern African Wildlife College that lies at the gates of the Kruger National Park.

However, while the programme has developed dramatically, Snyman says that it philosophy remains the same: “Children in the Wilderness exposes children to their natural heritage and inspires them to care for the environment so that they can become the custodians of these areas in the future.”

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When they first launched the scheme in 2001 in Botswana, the villagers were not aware of what environmental education entailed or what tourism was about. But they met the team’s plans with enthusiasm and were excited to learn more about how they could showcase their country to visitors.

Funding, like with any programme, was the first hurdle that the team had to get over, but with donors and government support they were soon able to get the scheme off the ground. It went from hosting annual eco camps just once a year for underprivileged children, to holding weekly Eco Clubs, a Youth Environmental Stewardship programme and even an Adult Eco-Club programme, where they learn about diversification projects and business skills.

At the eco camps and clubs the children learn about endangered species, learn about the eco-system, record the animals and insects that they spy on the walks through the bush and they learn how to live a little greener.

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The response to the scheme has been great, but little did they know how much the scheme would affect the lives of its students. One such student was Franco Morao who was able to take part in one of the camps when they joined with the orphanage when he was living in Windhoek. The experience made such an impression on Morao that he continued to work as volunteer at the camps over the next few years before he eventually got a job as a trainee guide at Wilderness Safaris Namibia and now helps coordinate the camps for other children. He knows how important a scheme like this can be to children. “I was brought up in a very enclosed environment, so that the only life I knew was that within the orphanage. When I saw the open spaces I realised that this was where I wanted to be,” says Morao.

Now the scheme celebrates the fact that a further 20 students will be start their bridging programme at the Southern African Wildlife College in July. “We have many exciting plans in place for 2017, with the goal of making a sustainable and positive difference in the lives of rural African schoolchildren and their families through environmental and life skills education,” says Snyman.

The Eco Scheme That’s Changing Lives

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