All over Southern Africa, countries are turning to tourism as a way to generate sustainable, eco-friendly income, reduce unemployment and increase skills.

 Africa is blessed with unique wildlife, amazing landscapes and friendly hard-working people, and together these attributes combine to provide guests with mind-blowing and unforgettable experiences while on holiday here. What’s more, accommodation in Windhoek, Cape Town and other major cities is modern and upmarket, and five-star safari offerings are on a par with the best in the world.

In Namibia, tourism currently contributes only 14.9 % of GDP, an amount that is way below what can be expected from this incredibly diverse, peaceful and interesting country. However, the success of the Adventure Travel World Summit hosted in Namibia during 2013, has placed the country firmly on the radar of international tourists, leading to optimistic forecasts of this percentage increasing to at least 21.6 by 2025, which in turn will create job opportunities for Namibian people.

Scholarship programme for local students makes inroads

In order to tap into this potential, the non-profit Amarula Trust was set up in 2010 by the Distell Group, who owns the Amarula Cream Brand, with the aim of alleviating unemployment, promoting conservation, and sustaining communities in Southern Africa. Initially, the efforts of the Amarula Trust were focussed on Botswana, with South Africa incorporated in 2012, and Namibia joining the fray in 2014.

The latest project undertaken by this worthy organisation is the Amarula Trust’s Field Guide Scholarship programme, which has taken 116 students under its wing so far.  By means of this programme, 8 students selected on merit from local private safari operations, undertake a month-long training course provided by EcoTraining, in association with the Field Guide Association of South Africa.

Courses taking place at Namibia’s Erindi Private Game Reserve and Wilderness Safaris Damaraland Adventure Camp focus on the following aspects of field guiding:

  • Environment
  • Ecology
  • Climate
  • Biomes
  • Diversity
  • Arthropods, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals
  • Geology and soils
  • Astronomy
  • Tracking
  • 4×4 driving skills
  • Hosting guests

Most of the students were thrilled by the elephant tracking exercise, which left them exhilarated after the initial scare of coming face to face with these giants of the bush. According to Rector Tetuka, a student from the Gondwana Namushasha River Lodge in the north of Namibia, “Experiences like this teach us to truly respect animals in their natural environments. Here they set the rules, not the humans.”
 
While most of the students arrive with a general background knowledge of the natural world, these courses help to increase their learnings and skills with the aim of them eventually becoming fully-fledged field guides.
 
Creating opportunity

Eco Training Instructor Gerhard van Niekerk stresses the importance of the ongoing development of these learners due to the increasing demand for field guides in Namibia as tourism continues to thrive. He claims that many previous students have gone on to become sought-after guides, while others have followed careers in academic research.

In addition, the candidates, who are selected from junior positions at local private lodges, are usually promoted after completing their course, thereby creating opportunities for inexperienced workers to take their place.

“The Amarula Field Guide Scholarship programme is a very important part of the work of the trust that focuses on promoting social sustainability and conservation,” says Hardie Basson, Distell Marketing Manager in Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Book your trip to Windhoek today while you still have the place almost to yourself.