20 Years LEC: our calendar 2020

Twenty years ago, Monika Schiess-Meier started her life-time adventure… today, we are looking back to amazing achievements and we are celebrating these in our calendar 2020 with stories from people working for LEC supported by fantastic pictures.

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Herders Training Course

The Herders Training Course (HTC) is a training programme initiative by Leopard Ecology & Conservation (LEC) in collaboration with the Botswana University of Agriculture & Natural Resources (BUAN). The HTC’s long-term goal is to develop the capacity of local herders and resident farmers to manage livestock and surrounding natural resources sustainably, with the view of minimizing human-wildlife conflict around the Khutse area.

We hosted the last of three trial courses, as required by Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) to have the course accredited and certified. We are looking forward to have the course registered and ready for our local farmers!

The course was a three-day training session from the 27th to the 29th of June 2019. We targeted at least three farmers from each of the seven cattle posts in LEC study area. For all  three days we exceeded our attendance target! It was an impressive turnout. The discussions were interesting. Herders and farmers were actively participating in topics of discussions. Logistics and equipment were all good! We had a lot of support from the community of Kaudwane with the new Community Conservation Club volunteering to help prepare the course.

LEC sees the completion of the HTC trial as an important milestone to reducing human-wildlife conflict in Khutse and the surrounding areas. Once the course is registered and fully certified, farmers will have an opportunity to increase their capacity in co-existing with free ranging predators such as lion and leopard.

Children traveling to the capital

A journey to an unfamiliar environment is always an exciting adventure. LEC through the assistance of Soroptimist organization from Rapperswil, Switzerland organized the annual city tour for rural kids who improved the most in their studies. The objective of the trip was to encourage, motivate and reward the Kaudwane Primary School kids for their notable improvement in their studies.

It was a beautiful sunny morning of April 8th2019 when the selected kids, teachers and their parents assembled at the school grounds to be picked up by a minibus to start the 240 kilometres journey to the city of Gaborone. The parents had come to bid farewell to their kids. Before the journey could begin, the kids were interviewed about their expectations from the city tour. Each one gave their own exciting expectation! It was all about having a glimpse of the city life for a week. The journey proceeded smoothly to the city.

In the city, the kids went quiet for a while. Seeing all sorts of things, they had not seen before. They had many questions to ask. The kids looked amazed, excited and even shocked by the things they saw for the first time. High-rise buildings, hundreds of cars and people, airplanes at the airport and the sophisticated machinery at Bokomo milling industries. The impact of the trip on the kids was beginning to show on the second day. They started talking about changing their career dreams to being pilots, managers and university professors. The teachers were all smiles!

On the fourth day the kids were told it was time to go back home to re-unite with families. It was clear that they still had the hunger to explore even more. We safely drove back to Kaudwane in the afternoon of the fourth day, with stopover lunch in Molepolole. The journey ended smoothly and safely with good memories and a renewed vigour to achieve more

As their tour leader, I learnt one thing; things that do not matter to us may mean everything to someone else. Let’s continue to change lives for the better. We thank LEC management and the Soroptimist organization for making this trip a possibility for these kids. Keep it up.

Text: Tshepho Tsito

Job offer – Field Research Coordinator

We are looking for a competent, experienced project coordinator to undertake a variety of administrative and project management tasks onsite in our field camp in Botswana. You will help in planning and organising projects and research activities as well as carry out important operational duties.

To be a project coordinator of our choice, you must be organised and detail-oriented and be comfortable working with culturally diverse teams. If you have experience in project management, perhaps even in an African environment, and skills in field research methods and human resource support, this would be appreciated.

This is a full-time job and we expect the successful applicant to begin his or her work during the second quarter of 2019.

More info about this opportunity here.

Horse Race 2018

Leopard Ecology & Conservation (LEC) Kaudwane horse race is a conservation themed horse race project, which aims at improving the health and welfare of local horses also as a strategy to minimize predation by wild carnivores. All registered horses in LEC study area go through 4 months animal husbandry care training supervised by a qualified farrier. The selected horses then compete in a horse race event that takes the whole day.

During the day of the horse race I got the opportunity to go and see the horses that were participating in the horse race. I saw beautifully groomed horses with shiny coats. Some riders went the extra mile to shape their horse’s tails and manes in different shapes and sizes. It showed me a creative and passionate side that the riders had towards their horses. The horses looked so beautiful that I even wished I had one of my own.

All in all there were three horse races. Two races being the 1000m and 1500m which were qualifying races to participate in the final race of 1500m that had 9 finalists. During the awards ceremony, no body left empty handed in order to appreciate everyone’s effort.

Just before the races began the crowd would swarm close to the starting lines to see the horse’s race. As the horses would go around the race pitch so would the crowd, running to where the horses were to see all the action. It was an eventful hot day!

Cheetah Conservation Botswana, an organization that aims to preserve Botswana’s cheetah population partnered with us during the horse race and together we taught conservation issues to the crowds that had gathered at the horse race.

The community of Kaudwane was a huge part in the preparation of the horse race event and worked hand in hand with Leopard Ecology & Conservation. A farmer from Mangadiele gifted us with a sheep that was used as food for helpers during the horse race. In addition, we LEC was in partnership with the Letlhakeng Sub District Council that assisted with resources to make the horse race event as successful as it was. Elicar Wagner of the Getika Foundation financially contributed to the horse race event and assisted for the horse to be held.

We are very grateful to all the stakeholders that partnered and supported us, thank you! We look forward to an even better next horse race.

Text: Kefilwe Mokgwathi

World Nature Conservation Day

World Nature Conservation Day is celebrated all over the world on the 28 July every year. Leopard Ecology & Conservation joined the rest of the world by commemorating it on the 27thof July at the Kaudwane Kgotla (traditional Setswana meeting place). The day’s theme was centered on increasing awareness about the protection of natural resources that the earth has bestowed upon us at community level.

Kaudwane, a village located approximately 5 kilometers from the Khutse Game Reserve is located in the Kweneng District of Botswana. As a conservation organization we saw it fit to bring different stakeholders and the community to commemorate such an important day.

One striking but yet sobering statement stated by Mr. Lebotse of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks was that, if we do not take care of the environment, it will reject us! Whatever we do comes back to us. Many examples were given that resonated the same message. If you poison an animal to kill predators, in turn what will actually eat the animal might be your dog which then regurgitates that food that then gets picked up by chickens that a farmer will actually end up eating. It was quite a scary picture that rattled the audience, but indeed it was necessary. Mr. Lebotse pleaded with the community to hand in banned poisons in order to lead to a reduction in the negative impacts of poison, being the contamination of the environment and its inhabitants.

Mr. Neo-Mahupeleng of Botswana University of Agriculture and National Resources delivered a presentation on how the community can co-exist with free ranging carnivores with less conflict. Upon his observation he noted that on his drive to Kaudwane there was a lot of livestock along the road which highlighted one of the things that the community could do better. Livestock that is herded reduces the chance of predation. He noted that in his village herding was held in very high regard and that predation on livestock was very low.

Miss. Matlhogela from the DWNP Parks division spoke about reporting procedures, how to preserve exhibitions when an animal has been killed by a predator. She highlighted that within 7 days of an animal being killed, it should be reported to them.

A solar cooking demonstration was presented to the community to showcase its use and positive impact to the environment. The community was quite intrigued by the solar cooker. They were given the opportunity to taste the cakes that were cooked with the solar cooker and they were quite excited to taste it but also astonished that the solar cooker could cook with the sun.

Towards the end of the event we held a conservation raffle for the adults and a conservation treasure hunt for the children. The conservation raffle afforded the adults the opportunity to win solar lanterns, two lanterns were up for grabs. In the beginning the tickets that were picked did not yield any winners, but eventually after much anticipation, one winner emerged after another.

For conservation to be truly effective, it is to be started at grass root levels. Eight cardboard items were hidden around the vicinity for the children to find and whoever got it, won two lolly pops. Each cardboard item had a word that reflected what nature gives us. Each child was asked to say something about the word that was on their cardboard item. This activity was fun, but also educational in the sense that they got to get an appreciation of what the environment does for them.

World Nature Conservation Day was quite an eventful day. It is always good to celebrate and recognize the critical part that nature does to sustain us. If we do not take care of our environment it will surely reject us! It is our hope that all participants learnt valuable lessons that they will in turn carry out in their daily lives.

Text: Kefilwe

LEC Annual Kaudwane Primary School Trip, 16th-19th April 2018

This year, the LEC annual school trip for the academically most improved students at Kaudwane Primary School featured seven students and two teachers. The trip was organised by LEC and jointly supported by Soroptimist Rapperswil and LEC with funds. The goal of the trip was twofold.

1) Reward academic excellence among local Kaudwane dwellers with the view of encouraging and supporting them to become educated future adults,

2) help to broaden student’s exposure to different issues outside their immediate learning environment with the expectation that the exposure will broaden their understanding of issues.

Before departure, the students were quite reserved, but eventually broke out of their shells of quietness, due to their environmental shock. From a small village with no electricity and tarred road we believe it was quite a drastic change in environment. There were many interesting responses, but they were all be wrapped up in one sentence; amazing learning opportunity!Students had fun all the way to Gaborone. There were a couple of things they saw for the first time such as massive movement of vehicles in Molepolole. Some couldn’t contain their excitement and started talking about it.

In Gaborone, they experienced and interacted with more unfamiliar things. It was indeed a learning adventure. The National Parliament, National Archives and Records Centre and the Three Chief’s monument seemed more exciting to the kids. The trips highlight appeared to be exposure to the national milling factory, Bokomo. Big noisy machines, a big factory and long haul trucks were totally new to them. The tour around the factory was even more exciting.

The last destination during the tour was the airport, where the kids had an opportunity to see aircrafts for the first time. It was amazing. They also had an opportunity to interact with air traffic controllers at the airport control tower. Although the short lecture was a bit too technical for them, it was evident that they were puzzled by the experience.

On the way back to Kaudwane, the kids were talking about what they saw all the way. They invented new names for some of the things they saw for the first time, such as a helicopter which they called, “Ralekopa”. Upon being interviewed again, they indicated that they had never seen such an environment. They finally saw some of the things they only knew in pictures. Monika Schiess, LEC’s managing director gave them presents to even motivate them further. The trip was an exciting learning opportunity for the kids and we look forward to organising the next trip.

 

Herders Training Course first trial, 2018

The herders training course first trial was the first phase of LEC and Botswana University of Agriculture & Natural Resources (BUAN)’s long term pastoral farmers empowerment programme. The programme aims to build capacity and empower local farmers and herders with relevant skills to manage natural resources at community level. The resources include livestock, range resources, wildlife (including wild carnivores) and water.

The herders training course is divided into three categories.
1) The introductory course,
2) intermediate course and
3) advanced level course.
The first trial course LEC and BUAN hosted on from the 31st of January to the 2nd of February was the introductory course and it aimed at testing teaching methods, assessing the relevance of the content and gauging the receptivity of content by the participating famers and herders. There were 25 herders who participated in the trial. LEC and BUAN also brought local graphics artists to the trial so that they could benchmark for a future possibility of teaching the content through simplified graphics.

Venue: Kungwane cattle post, Kweneng, Botswana
The first day of the trial was more of an exploratory phase, where facilitators and herders talked about their expectations from the course and how they think it must be taught. The module for the day was ecology & conservation. Farmers and herders had the opportunity to learn about food chain, nutrient cycle, pasture management, and general relationships between living things. The module was interactive, with farmers and herders asking questions and participating actively.

The second day was about non-lethal control and management of carnivores in communal lands. The module started with spoor identification of problem carnivores in LEC study area. Surprisingly most of the herders could not differentiate between different carnivores. Farmers expressed mixed reactions to some of the suggested control measures such as translocation and use of deterrents but generally they agreed that there is need to protect available populations.

The last module was about livestock management and cattle post development. This module emphasised the need to have measures in place for livestock protection to reduce predation opportunities. This included predator proof kraals, herding and kraaling.

A review of the trial is currently underway. This is important In informing the second trial. The second trial will be hosted in the same cattle post in June 2018