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Community partners in rhino conservation

Simbarashe Chiseva, Community Liaison Officer
24 February 2016

The Lowveld Rhino Trust recognizes that community support for rhino conservation depends upon local people being made more aware of the rhino conservation crisis, and getting tangible benefits from the rhino conservation efforts in the wildlife areas of the Southeast Lowveld. LRT works closely with Save Valley Conservancy (SVC) and Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) to undertake both rhino protection and monitoring, as well as education and outreach activities.

Since 2012, LRT has intensified its activities on engaging rural communities in the buffer zones of both SVC and BVC through its conservation incentive scheme. The programme is based on the principle that if more rhinos are being poached, a greater proportion of available funds is invested in rhino security, but if the poaching is minimized then more of the funds can be allocated to support for local schools in ways that help the communities with their education needs at the same time promoting rhino conservation awareness.

The entry points of the programme are primary schools in a 10km zone around the conservancies’ boundaries. 145 primary schools, organized into 25 clusters, neighbouring the two conservancies have been given rhino awareness materials called The Rhino Cards. These are colourful, laminated cards which contain information about rhino conservation and are consistent with the environmental studies syllabus, so that teachers can readily incorporate the material into their routine lessons. Teacher training sessions on rhino conservation are held at each participating school to enhance the ability of the teachers to deliver rhino education and awareness.

In the last term of the year, LRT supports a Rhino Quiz competition in the 25 cluster groups of the target schools. The purpose of this Rhino Quiz is to encourage awareness and support for rhino conservation. As a way of appreciating the target schools, every school that makes an effort to prepare for quiz competition and performs an awareness raising activity like a play or a poem receives an appreciation prize of exercise books. This aims to encourage all schools to make efforts of raising awareness at their schools through using the rhino cards. In addition to appreciation prizes, the top three performing schools in each cluster receive additional text books and individual prizes for their quiz teams.

rhino cards

An example from The Rhino Cards

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Manzvire Primary School Choir performing education and awareness songs during a quiz competition session in Chipinge

After officiating in the 2015 quiz edition for Cluster 1 in Mwenezi District, Mr Makaza of Marinda Primary School stated that the rhino conservation awareness program has accelerated the spread of information on the importance of rhinos in target communities around BVC. This was supported by Mr Mare of Cluster 14 in Mwenezi district who said information concerning the protection of rhinos has reached the wider society. The Cluster Head for Checheche in Chipinge appreciated LRT for supporting the rhino conservation and awareness program as it has benefited rural schools and the children with stationery materials.

In expanding rhino conservation awareness, LRT introduced film shows as a non-formal medium of sharing rhino conservation and protection information with the incentive programme’s target communities. This has made the community outreach program more visible. The film’s narration was customized in vernacular (Shona) language. LRT’s mobile film unit is composed of a pocket projector and a speaker which are both battery powered making them useful in rural communities, which seldom have an electricity supply.

In addition to quiz competitions and film shows, LRT conducts teachers’ workshops, community general meetings and meetings targeting different community stakeholder groups to discuss rhino conservation and protection.

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Chiseva Simbarashe handing-over rhino prizes to outstanding students after a quiz competition in Kondo cluster, Chipinge

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Pupils and education officials displaying the education inputs received from LRT in Maranda Cluster, Mwenezi

Picture 6

Former CESVI country Director handing over the winners prize to Manzvire school quiz team

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