The doors of learning for youth wanting to pursue a career in nature conservation and those wanting to become partners in saving natural heritage were opened when MEC for Rural Environment and Agricultural Development (READ) in the North West Province, Manketsi Tlhape launched and officially opened the first of its kind-the Bokone Bophirima Wildlife Academy (BBWA) in Taung on 02 February 2018. The Wildlife Acadeny which is implemented in partnership with North West Parks Board and the South African Wildlife College will train youth in nature conservation, guardianship skills and expose them to the wildlife industry.

The 5th Administration of Bokone Bophirima (North West Province) is implementing the National Development Plan (NDP) through the Rebranding, Repositioning and Renewal (RRR) policy thrust of the province, which is anchored on the five developmental concretes, namely: ACT (Agriculture, Culture and Tourism); RHR (Reconciliation, Healing and Renewal); Setsokotsane (comprehensive and integrated service delivery campaign); Saamtrek –Saamwerk (call for unity of purpose above race divisions) and VTSD (Villages, townships and small dorpies).

In line with the above, the Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development (READ) has initiated the Mebala ya Rona Biodiversity Transformation Programme, of which the aim is to create opportunities and develop our black communities to grow in and benefit from the wildlife industry we have in the province, nationally and also internationally. Furthermore, it is intended to enhance the economic potential of protected areas to also benefit communities close to the protected areas, as well as in the VTSD areas of the province.

Apart from the need for socio-economic upliftment in the rural areas of the province, the role of environmental management and protection is also very critical. Sustainable development must be ensured to allow for future generations to also benefit from our valuable natural resources.

As such, I (the MEC) announced on 4 May 2017, as part of my Budget Vote Speech for 2017/18, that “we will recruit about 40 learners from VTSD areas across municipalities to enrolment as game ranchers with the Bokone Bophirima Wildlife Academy in Taung”.

The Bokone Bophirima Wildlife Academy will open its doors to the people of the North West Province to train and deliver qualified Nature Guides and Field Rangers, and placing them in internships and workplace experience during and after the programme to be absorbed by the Industry and secure full-time employment.

The approach of the Department is to start with accredited Field Ranger Training as Phase 1. This training will be done in partnership with the South African Wildlife College (SAWC), who is an accredited training institution. The SAWC will offer the Nature Conservation Resource Guardianship programme (NQF Level 2) to the 40 students seated here today. This is the first group to undergo the Field Ranger Training, starting Monday, 4 Feb 2018 and ending in December 2018.

Part of this training will also involve a “Train-the-Trainer” programme, where 8 officials from NWPB have been identified to undergo this training. This will ensure that internal capacity in the province is being increased to assist with training in the future programmes of the BBWA.

Phase 2 of establishing the BBWA, involves developing a Business Plan for the BBWA as a whole, wherein the future training courses will be identified and motivated to be further implemented in a manner that will be cost effective to the province. This Phase will run parallel to Phase 1, so that by December 2018, the full plan is on the table.

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