Conservancy Rangers Review KWS LEA Paramilitary Training Curriculum
Posted: 8th Sep 2017 11:16:00 AM
On 30th August, 35 conservancy managers and head rangers drawn from Mara, South Rift, Taita, Amboseli, Rift-lakes, Laikipia and Northern regions came together to review Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) paramilitary training Curriculum for conservancy rangers.
The academy located in Manyani, Taita Taveta County has received accolades in setting high standards of performance in the wildlife sector by promoting paramilitary training including wildlife conservation concepts. The academy curriculum has expanded over the years to embrace new subjects and has targeted sessions in conservancy management. So far 1,500 conservancy rangers have been trained but the number in active service is not determined.
The Academy has received accolades from conservancies who've reported improved efficiency, discipline and commitment for rangers trained. However, conservancy stakeholders have often reported that the training is costly and emphasizes too much on paramilitary drill at the expense of other skills community rangers require.
A tailor-made curriculum
KWS and KWCA partnered to solicit feedback from the conservancy rangers and managers to improve the quality of training by identifying their training needs. It was noted the training given to KWS rangers was the same for conservancy rangers but they have different mandates. For example, KWS Rangers operate in state protected areas where livestock grazing is prohibited while conservancy rangers operate in communally or private owned lands who allow communities to graze. Given their different mandate, the training should not be of the same standard.
The acting Director General, Julius Kimani in his opening remarks, acknowledged the role of conservancies community involvement in wildlife conservation. "The biggest threat in wildlife conservation is habitat loss. We may not have control over human population and human settlements but the initiative of setting up conservancies for wildlife conservation is commendable". He said. He noted the combined efforts between KWS and conservancies "by securing wildlife corridors and developing anti-poaching strategies we've now have an increase in elephant and rhino populations in the country." However, he urged the conservancy rangers to be vigilant in protecting other species like giraffes and antelopes which were on the decline because of increased demand in bush meat. Mr. Kimani advised the conservancy rangers to maintain discipline in the curriculum as it was an important component.
Rangers Perception Survey Report
To start off the discussions, Drew Mc Avery from WWF- Kenya presented the findings of a Ranger's perception Africa survey that was conducted in 65 sites in 12 African countries to collect rangers personal views of their working conditions, their concerns, challenges and rewards. The countries included Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. The purpose for the survey was to gain a deeper insight into the factors that affect their motivation to influence and improve government policy on wildlife security.
The Ranger's perception Africa survey report indicated nearly half of the African rangers did not feel adequately trained for their job and nearly two thirds believed they did not have the proper training material to stay safe in the field. The report revealed that while ranger's motivation for their job was the closeness to nature, the worst aspect of the job was low or irregular salary. Interestingly, the low salary was the reason they'd not recommend their children for the job. The report also revealed that most the rangers faced life threatening situations by community members and other people while on duty. Most of the rangers spent 5-10 days with their family in a month and which was linked to their morale for the job.
Role of Conservancy rangers
The role of a conservancy ranger in the protection and preservation of wildlife in the country cannot be underrated. They operate in the conservancies under harsh physical conditions patrolling to prevent livestock theft, and poaching often with inadequate equipment, pay and support. They are at the frontline of conservation because their work entails patrolling, problem animal control, tour guiding, community liaison, and monitoring wildlife species.
Conservancy rangers are recognized in the Wildlife Act 2013 as wildlife security officers upon undergoing training at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy. The newly launched national wildlife conservation and management strategy recognizes them as an important resource in minimizing wildlife threats in the country.
The participants noted the curriculum had a lot of sections on wildlife management and less on community engagement. "Conservancy rangers engage more with community members hence the need to include soft skills such as negotiation, communication, and mobilization for them to be effective." Said Dickson Kaelo of Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA).
James Kupere from Amboseli Game Ranchers Association noted there was need for a separate training program targeted for conservancy managers for the benefit of conservancies "most managers are from different professional backgrounds and rarely understand wildlife management issues hence give rangers low priority over other conservancy programs." He Said.
The participants noted the high training costs would not be sustainable since most of them were donor dependent. The participants discussed possibilities of KWCA and KWS partnering to raise resources from donors to support more conservancy rangers and to also advocate for more resources from the national and county government to increase allocation for conservancy rangers training. There is need for KWS to fundraise from conservation NGOs.
An enriching experience
The review of the curriculum showed the workshop was very important in consolidating the views from the communities "this process was about ownership and we talk about wildlife conservation without consulting the communities." Peter Muigai, programme coordinator WWF-Kenya.
Lydia Kisoyan Assistant Director Community Enterprise KWS, said the workshop offered a space for sharing and discussion on real life experiences "the ranger's perception survey was insightful in that it gave us a baseline to from in addressing rangerís issues."
The comments made suggested that the emphasis on reviewing the curriculum were appreciated. Dickson Lesirmirdana the KWS Commandant LEA remarked, "this has been a fruitful exercise and a landmark for KWS calendar, we shall ensure what has been discussed is incorporated in the curriculum. Where external expertise is required we will outsource so that we create an environment that meets the needs of the community rangers." He said.