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AfriCat Foundation Environmental Education Programme 2014

We have discovered that for many Namibian children and adults, the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme is their first camping and outdoor educational experience. Few have had the opportunity to visit wildlife reserves, observe antelope and wild large carnivores, and to experience the natural wonder of their own country.

ee wkend group smilesEnvironmental Education Weekend - Group Smiles ee wkend teachers breakfastEE Weekend - Teachers Breakfast ee wkend setting camera
EE Weekend - Francois, Previous and teacher Kaunotje setting trail cam.

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Neither have they been introduced to the vocational opportunities which tourism visitation, hand-in-glove with conservation, offers. AfriCat has advocated environmental education since 1998 and acutely recognises the urgent need to offer as many learners, of all ages, exposure to the enormous challenges facing Namibia’s increasingly fragile natural heritage, and offering constructive solutions and an alternative path to the present one taken.

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AfriCat provides Environmental Education programmes for the youth of Namibia so as to hopefully guide them towards a greater understanding of the crucial importance of the natural world and of wildlife conservation. Our main objective is to promote holistic environmental awareness among Namibian youth with emphasis on the role of Namibia’s large carnivores. The programme has already reached over 25, 000 children and young adults at AfriCat’s two Education Centres and through its Outreach Programmes. After many years of working with the farming community it became clear that youth education was vital to the long-term conservation of large carnivores.
 The AfriCat Environmental Education Programme aims to inform and empower Namibia's youth and young adults about large carnivores, conservation and the Namibian environment.

 

Objectives:

The objectives of the Environmental Education Programme, based on the 1997 UNESCO-UNEP Environmental Education objectives, are as follows:

  • To develop holistic, environmental awareness, sensitivity, knowledge, attitudes and values among our Namibian youth.
  • To promote all aspects of sustainable living.
  • To emphasize the importance and responsibility of each individual to contribute to the conservation of our environment.
  • To increase knowledge and understanding of Namibia’s large carnivores showing that they are an integral, essential and magnificent part of the Namibian ecosystem.

AfriCat’s Environmental Education Programme aims to achieve these objectives by:

By providing fun and interesting environmental education camps ranging from 2 – 5 days, based at the AfriCat HQ Environmental Education Centre or The AfriCat North Wilderness Camp.

Utilising the AfriCat HQ Information Centre and the non-releasable cats as carnivore 'ambassadors'.

Utilising the Okonjima Nature Reserve and/or Northwestern Namibia to enjoy and experience Nature; to see and learn about the fauna and flora of Namibia.

Our AfriCat North programme: Youth of all ages are encouraged to become involved in this programme, where active participation enables them to learn more about lions in general, their role within the natural ecosystem and the problems facing lions due to loss of ideal habitat, disease and drought. Issues such as Human-Wildlife Conflict and improved livestock protection methods are encountered and the students are then actively involved in trying to solve these crucial problems.

 

Main Activities:

The choice of activities employed by each environmental education camp varies considerably depending on the age, size of the group, ability, whether a school class or a club, specific requirements of the group and the chosen location. Possible activities include:

Nature walks and mountain hikes: Seeing, feeling, basic survival skills in nature e.g. learning to dig for water in the 'dry' river beds; learning to appreciate Namibia’s beauty. Topics discussed while on trail: tracks and tracking, animal behaviour, cultural appreciation, bush encroachment, useful trees and shrubs, insect colonies (e.g. termites), birds, common bush-sounds, river systems, erosion, and general topics of ecological concern.

Sunrise walks and incorporation life skills: Experience the dawn and understand the importance of exercise and balance i.e. all things in moderation (mind, body and soul development). Throughout the course we try to incorporate life skills that can be learned from Nature eg. The large spider on the "Education Wall"  at the AfriCat Information Centre symbolises how much a small individual can accomplish and that we must never give up. If disaster strikes (web breaking) we must pick ourselves up, re-use our skills or talents and start again (spider re-using web and rebuilding, time and time again if necessary.)

Game drives in the 20,000ha Okonjima Nature Reserve: On these drives students can experience for themselves one of Namibia’s main tourist attractions i.e. game viewing. The experience is in itself a novelty, let alone being able to actually see the animals close up and for the first time in many cases. The topics discussed are similar to those on our nature walks as stated above. Depending on the length of the course, which determines the time we have, we get the students to observe the behaviour and particular habitat of each animal so that they can then make their own deductions regarding its particular niche in the ecosystem. Some of the activities on the game drives are as follows:

  • Game counts on the first cleared area in the Nature Reserve known as our "Serenjima Plains".
  • Breakfast in the bush, usually at a dam where we find many smaller creatures to study in a different mini-ecosystem.
  • Using radio telemetry equipment to track the carnivores in rehabilitation. Fortunate students are lucky enough to observe some carnivores hunting their natural prey.
  • Bush Clearing. The younger children usually work on the re-growth, while the more senior students can tackle the bigger invaders.
  • Clearing of old fence lines, especially any stakes or tangled wire which might not have been noticed.

Sessions at the AfriCat Carnivore Information Centre: The AfriCat Information Centre has huge visual displays that cover a large number of topics e.g. skulls, skins, bone, full animal mounts. These topics are discussed, including the research done by visiting veterinarians at the AfriCat Foundation. Explanations are given of our "EE Wall" which is the side wall of the new clinic. The art on this wall acts as a summary, a teaching tool, or a reminder of the essence of our programme.

'Under Canvas' or "Under the Trees" class sessions at Base Camp: The main discussion focuses on the 6 large Namibian carnivores still found on farmland. We look at the carnivores that have already been eradicated on commercial farmland, as well as those that are still surviving and ways to maintain this. In particular we discuss differences between leopards and cheetahs, both physical and behavioural. We also discuss carnivores as indicators of ecological stability; "Where do we humans fit in? What must/can we do?" Other discussions/presentations, with as much student involvement as possible include: over-population, global warming, urbanization, consumerism, energy inefficiency, pollution, loss of biodiversity.

Time spent studying carnivores up close at the Care Centre: Learners have the opportunity to see leopard, lion and cheetahs in large, natural enclosures. This gives the students time to really notice their amazing adaptations and magnificence (absolutely no physical contact permitted between students and animals).

Night walks: Experiencing the wonder of the night sky; identification of nocturnal animals and insects; identification of nocturnal sounds; walking and experiencing using our other senses; experiencing real darkness (which is now so rare for most of our youth) and , for many, overcoming fear of the dark by being encouraged to push themselves out of their comfort zone; basic planet constellations and stargazing information provided.

Sustainable living activities: solar cooking, recycling, compost making, tree planting, utilising natural wild vegetables etc.

Educational games: 'Run like a Cheetah' and 'Stalk like a Leopard'. This involves wearing the radio collars, then hiding from fellow students who then have to find 'collared' colleague by using the telemetry equipment provided.

Hands on activities: e.g. kraal building, bush clearing, erosion control, fence clearing.

After class activities: Swimming, reading, relaxing in the wild with no modern technology – only Nature to entertain you.

AfriCat North: certain programmes with higher or adult education also include a 3-7 day trek on communal farmland, meeting farmers and traditional leaders as well as physical work assisting the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) and farmers repair sections of the Etosha fence. This experience gives the students detailed insight into the complexities of Human-Wildlife Conflict and AfriCat North’s mitigation programmes. Students may also camp in the 'wild' and gain first-hand experience of lion immobilisation and FIV-testing (Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus). Since 2010, youth groups from Namibia as well as overseas have participated in the on-going HWC Mitigation & Community Support programmes by repairing fences, building nocturnal kraals to improve livestock protection, uplifting community schools by erecting water tanks, laying pipelines and developing playgrounds and sports fields.

Rare Endangered Species Trust: Education camps at AfriCat HQ may also visit the neighbouring foundation, Rare Endangered Species Trust (REST) to see the amazing work they are doing for the conservation of vultures, other birds, and animals.

 

Achievements:

In the latter part of 2012 we received the wonderful news of funding from TUSK Trust for a full time Environmental Educator. At the end of 2012 Mr. AJ Rousseau was appointed to the position, but was only able to start in March 2013. (Schools in Namibia start the school year in mid January.) TUSK has generously continued to support the funding of this position for the second year running, i.e. into 2014. In addition we have benefited from a GIZ supported volunteer. Lara Kiesau of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) started in 15 August 2012 and remained with us until 15 July 2013. On 13 August 2013 our new volunteer, Annika John arrived from Deutsch-Sudafrikanisches Jugendwerk (DSJW) and will remain with us until August 2014.

Our main aim for 2013 was to get the news "out there" that the programme was available and active in a full-time capacity as well as to update and lengthen it. This we feel we managed to achieve, but it is an ongoing exercise.

We started 2013 off by attending two environmental education courses being held at the two other main active Environmental Education Centres; Gobabeb, which is the Namib Desert base of the Desert Research and Training Foundation of Namibia and Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) based in the Namib Rand Private Reserve. We did this so that we could see how these courses were run and what their emphasis was. AfriCat feels that to improve environmental education in Namibia, centres across Namibia need to work together, without too much repetition.

In 2013 the AfriCat Environmental Education Centre on Okonjima HQ was moved to a more rustic, larger and better-equipped location below the valley now called the PAWS Centre. (People And Wildlife Solutions), which will accommodate school children and adult education. 2013 also saw the development of the new AfriCat North base with the opening of the Environmental Education Wilderness Camp scheduled towards the end of 2014.

All school groups are encouraged to come for at least a 4 day programme as we feel anything shorter is insufficient (although many groups did still come for shorter periods, usually school clubs or after-hours assistance groups). Our students have come from all over the central, western, and northern parts of Namibia as well as from overseas. We have just hosted "The Traveling School" from the USA. We have had scholars as young as Grade 1 (though this is not the norm!) up to Teacher’s Workshops (these so that we can indirectly reach more scholars.) The programme has been frequently adjusted to cater for the different requirements of each group.

Mr. Rousseau (AJ) and Mrs. Newmarch (Helen) attended the Namibia Environmental Education Network (NEEN) Conference held at the Waterberg Plateau Park in May 2013, which proved to be very effective advertising. Visits were made to a number of schools in Otjiwarongo, Omaruru and Windhoek to inform them about the programme. A great deal of interest was expressed.

We ended our year off with two special camps: our "Return Camp" where chosen students were invited back for the next step, followed by our AfriCat Christmas Camp for Mammadu Children’s Home from Windhoek.

During 2013, twenty different schools/school clubs visited the Centre, (a total number of 692 students), some of which brought 3 different student groups. During 2012, whilst we had no Environmental Educator, only 220 students visited; this number includes the groups that went to AfriCat North to build kraals.

 

Constraints and Challenges:

In 2012, the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme was constrained by staff shortages, limited transport, and the relocation of the AfriCat North base. Despite these challenges, 4 groups participated at the AfriCat Headquarters (75 children) and 145 students at the AfriCat North Base.

Our main constraint has been a shortage of transport for the staff to use on a daily basis, as well as for the implementation of our Outreach Programme to distant rural schools. As our AfriCat Environmental Education Centre is now 6kms away from the main AfriCat office and staff accommodation area, we also require a quad bike for the junior staff to use for their daily work.

Another new challenge is the requests for larger groups. AfriCat will have to find sponsorship for a bigger Centre to cater for the much bigger (40 pax plus) classes that are the result of the 'free education initiative'.

 

Future Plans:

In 2014 we are aiming to try to get a good balance between all the age groups as well as between rural and urban Namibian schools. We would also like to host a larger number of foreign schools (overseas and regional) as they bring much needed funding. This will allow us to host schools and organizations that cannot fund their own participation. Once we have secured the necessary transport, we will accelerate implementation of our Outreach Programme.

We have also applied for a Peace Corp Volunteer teacher in place of the German volunteer students. This is a 2 year programme, instead of 1 year and the person is then a qualified teacher and so more mature and capable.

The new AfriCat North Environmental Education camp is still under construction and development, but it will hopefully be operational by April 2014.

We are hoping to extend the Adult Education Programme to include Environmental and Nature Conservation students from the Polytechnic of Namibia and Education students from the University of Namibia, community farmers, and community game guards.

We also plan to try to maintain the interest and support of participants in AfriCat’s Environmental Education camps once they return back at school by encouraging them to continue to support AfriCat’s activities through one or more of the following:

  • They can support AfriCat by either 'Adopting-a-Carnivore' as a class or an individual.
  • Engage their colleagues and friends to conduct a joint fund-raiser to raise donations and awareness for AfriCat’s Environmental Education Programme
  • Hold competitions, run a marathon in AfriCat’s name, swim for AfriCat, play football for AfriCat, arrange a jumble sale, an auction, and other fun events to motivate their fellow students and friends to raise a donation for AfriCat.

"In the end, we conserve only what we love.
We love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught"
Baba Dioum (Senegalese environmentalist)

 

africat environmental education

 

AfriCat Environmental Education Programme

February March 2014 Update

Second biannual report for our first year with TUSK support: March 2013 to February 2014.

This report: August 2013 to February 2014.

Please refer to our first report: March 2013 to July 2013.

 

Introduction
How time flies when one is busy! Fortunately we had a very busy second half of our year even though it flew past at an alarming rate!

All the schools &/ groups as per Table 1 below attended a camp (of varying duration) at our AfriCat Environmental Education Centre (AEEC). It appears to have been very well received, judging by the response to our camps from both the children and the staff. I think the comment from Mrs Hanlie Cronje, the teacher who accompanied the Grade 5 pupils from MYO (Mondesa Youth Opportunities) in Swakopmund sums it up for us:

"I do feel that the work you do is so important that I would like everyone to have the opportunity to experience it"

Wouldn’t that be wonderful!?
Thank you Hanlie

DATE SCHOOL NAME REGION GRADE NUMBER OF STUDENTS
08-10 March 2013 Karibib Primary School Erongo Grades 6 and 7 18
15-17 March 2013 Karibib Primary School Erongo Grades 6 and 7 18
05-07 April 2013 MYOpportunities Erongo Grade 5 20
24-27 May 2013 Karundu Primary School Otjozondjupa Grades 5 and 6 20
31 May - 2 June 2013 Nature Haven Club Otjozondjupa Grades 5 to 7 20
07-09 June 2013 Namib High School Erongo Grades 11 and 12 16
14-16 June 2013 Rugata Primary School Otjozondjupa   20
11-14 July 2013 Ubasen Primary School Erongo Grades 1 to 4 20
26-28 July 2013 Your Safari UK Adult 6
1-4 August 2013 Oshikoto Schools Oshikoto Teachers 20
16-18 August 2013 Swakop Primary School Erongo Grade 7 25
18-21 August 2013 Donkerbros Primary School Omaheke Grades 4 to 7 20
22-25 August 2013 Etakaya Primary School Omusati Grades 4 to 7  35
25-27 August 2013 !Nara Pri Enviro Club Erongo Grades 6 and 7 20
28-30 August 2013 Etambo Combi School Omusati  Grades 8 to 10 40
5-8 September 2013 Namib High School Erongo Grades 10 to 12 20
12-15 September 2013 Namib High School  SS Germany Grades 10 to 12  20
19-22 September 2013 Ubasen Primary School Erongo Grade 7 20
26-29th September 2013 Karibib Primary School Erongo Grade 6 20
1-4 October 2013 Swakopmund Pvt. School Erongo  Grades 5 and 6 18
10-13 October 2013 Ubasen Primary School Erongo Grade 7 22
17-20 October 2013 Karibib Primary School Erongo Grades 6 and 7 21
25-27 October 2013 Otji Multi Purpose Centre Otjozondjupa Grades 5 to 9 22
31 October - 2 Nov 2013 Welwitchia Private Omaheke Grade 7 20
7-11 November 2013 The Traveling School USA Grade 12 22
15-18 November 2013 Educate Academy Otjozondjupa Grade 7  21
2-6 December 2013 AfriCat Return Camp Otjozondjupa Grades 5 to 7 24
8-12 December 2013 Mamadu Trust Khomas Grades 1 to 7 21
7-8 February 2014 POCS Children Otjozondjupa  Grades 3 to 5 26
13-16 February 2014 MYOpportunities Erongo Grade 5 18
27 Feb - 02 March 2014 Namib High Conser Club Erongo Grades 8 to 11 24
        Total 657

Our last camp of 2013 was our "AfriCat Christmas Camp" which was, this year, for the children from Mammadu Trust from Windhoek. All the children made us "Thank You" drawings. Here is our favourite one! which we feel shows that the message did get across!

thankyou note

The balance of 35 children, to make up the 2013 total of 692 , were a class that Mr Rousseau addressed on his trip to Omaruru, Outjo and Kalkfeld to promote our camps.
It must be noted that we feel that the actual experience of a few days at the AfriCat Environmental Education Centre is far more beneficial than a short presentation. Basically quality versus quantity!
However, once our transport shortages have been resolved, we will be doing more presentations and this will of course greatly increase our numbers, though we feel it is significant to keep the 2 totals separate as explained above.

We took the children chosen to attend our "Return Camp" to the Waterberg Plateau Park for a day excursion. We felt that this was important for them as it broadened their horizons and was something new, exciting and fun. "Enjoyment" is one of our basic methods to get the children interested in preserving our awesome Namibia and beyond!

We closed for our much needed Christmas break on Dec 15th until January 15th 2014. During this period the children want to be with their families, many of whom travel long distances to their rural homes.

We started 2014 with a camp for our children from the Perivoli Okonjima Country School (POCS). This was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone with a promise of a longer camp at the end of the year! The pupils at POCS have 2 afternoon sessions per week of EE (Environmental Education) as well as cross curricular EE during normal classes.

 

Plans for 2014

We have lots of ideas and plans for this year but they are all dependent on having enough time, staff, transport and funds to implement them.
Consequently we have applied to Peace Core for a teaching couple to assist us as well as accepting our replacement volunteer from DSJW. Our Centre Supervisor will also be replaced with a couple so that the wife can assist us with all the domestic chores of the camps.

 

Our main goals for 2014 are as follows:

  • To increase the number of children coming to the Centre for camps.
  • To implement our 4-day programme and get it known in the schools.
  • To increase the number of children we make presentations to through our "Outreach Programme" (This is dependent on a suitable vehicle).
  • To produce more teaching aids eg. small, interesting work books; games etc.
  • To get more equipment for various activities for example biodiversity sampling.
  • To build a more permanent, waterproof but "open air" classroom.
  • To build a small, rustic, comfortable cottage for a volunteer teaching couple down at our Centre so that they are living on site.
  • To find sponsorship for our second bigger Centre to cater for the much bigger classes that are the result of the free education initiative.
  • To do more fundraising to assist with all of the above!


All, or even only some, of these goals, if achieved, will assist us in getting closer to our VISION which is:
"To Teach
To REACH
To Convince” all of our Namibian Youth that Conservation and Sustainable Living is absolutely ESSENTIAL!

 

Finally, I wish to thank all those groups, companies and individuals who continue to assist us in a myriad of ways, especially our major sponsors, OKONJIMA LODGE and TUSK, for their continued support, without which we would not be able to function.

Thank you for having faith in us and believing in our cause: Conservation Through Education

Mrs Helen Newmarch (Head of Education)
The AfriCat Foundation

 

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EE weekend - AfriCat introduction.

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EE weekend - AfriCat presentation.

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EE weekend - breakfast.

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EE weekend - entrance to Hobatere with MET escorts.

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EE weekend - thorn bush for trail cam protection.

ee wkend thornbush

EE weekend - thorn bush for trail cam protection.

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