WINDHOEK: Distell Namibia, through its Amarula liqueur brand, is currently sponsoring eight members of the community with bursaries to complete a Level 1 Field Guide training course aimed at creating jobs for local inhabitants.
The Amarula Field Guide Scholarship Programme is aimed at financially assisting people, already in the tourism industry, to progress at their respective places of employment.
The participants are mainly employed at lodges, game reserves and conservancies as cleaners, waiters, drivers and bartenders amongst others, as well as tour operators and individuals involved in tourism in Namibia.
The eight community members were selected, one each, from the Naankuse Lodge, Wilderness Safaris’ Torra Conservancy, Wilderness Safaris’ Torra Censervancy Damaraland Camp, Namushasha Lodge and two each from the Erindi Private Game Reserve and Grootberg Lodge.
They were selected by their employers.
The first-ever Level 1 Field Guide training course, which started on 21 July and ends on 17 August 2012 at the Erindi Private Game Reserve, is presented by Eco Training, a southern African training company.
Established in 1993, Eco Training raises the standard of guiding in Africa, and is said to be the leader in professional field guide and other nature training programmes.
Speaking at the Amarula Scholarship Media Day held at the Erindi Private Game Reserve on Wednesday, Brand Manager for Distell Southern Africa, Morne van Greunen said the programme aims to preserve nature and wildlife, while creating employment and symbiotic relationships between local inhabitants and the environment.
“This is the first time the scholarship is brought to Namibia, but it has been running in countries like Botswana and South Africa,” he said.
Van Greunen said the progress of the students will be monitored in the industry, and they will attend follow-up and more advanced courses.
He said upon successful completion of the course, students will be integrated back into their respective working environments with a view to operate as qualified field guides.
“This will make way for their previous posts to be filled, thus encouraging and developing local employment,” he noted.
Van Greunen said this has also been a response to the call by the Namibian Government to businesses in the country to assist with the creation of jobs for local inhabitants.
The Level 1 Field Guide training course centres around topics such as botany, ecology, zoology, reptiles, birds, geology, as well as the predicting of weather patterns.
Ralph Kirsten from Eco Training told Nampa on the sidelines of the media day that students who get marks above 75 per cent will be awarded a certificate of achievement, whilst those that do not make it will be awarded with a certificate of attendance only.
“The biggest challenge for me as a trainer during this course was the language barrier, as most students can only express themselves better in their mother language. The other challenge is getting across ecological concepts or words to the students,” said Kirsten.
He advised that screening be done in the next intake of students, adding that those with a better understanding of the course be selected.
“However, for this first group the training is a great way for them to develop themselves regardless of the mark that they will get,” he noted.
One of the course attendees, Max Bezuidenhout who has been working at the Wilderness Safaris Torra Conservancy Damaraland Camp for five years as a bartender, said although the month-long course was relevant, it was too short, as they had to learn and grasp a lot of information in a short period of time.
He said the course is especially relevant to him as he works on a farm and should know how to identify animal behaviour.
Bezuidenhout applauded the initiative by Amarula, saying it gives prominence to inexperienced people to also develop their skills and better their lives.