December 2015 – Children in the Wilderness (CITW), in partnership with the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA), held the first ever Tri-Nations Camp from 7 – 10 December, 2015 at Mapungubwe National Park. A total of 19 schoolchildren from rural communities in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa came together to make new friends, while also learning about the importance of conserving the environment.
“This was an incredibly special camp, as for the first time, these rural children were able to meet and interact with their peers from different countries, while enjoying a fun-filled programme of activities, from game drives to interactive lessons and outdoor activities. Essentially, this is what Transfontier Conservation Areas are all about – countries collaborating in the interest of conservation, so it was an excellent opportunity to illustrate the importance of this to the campers firsthand”, says Dr Sue Snyman, CITW Programme Director.
The Tri-Nations CITW camp forms part of a bigger project, which has seen the three countries that make up the GMTFCA collaborate on a number of initiatives, including Children in the Wilderness’ main fundraiser, the Nedbank Tour de Tuli, aimed at increasing awareness of the area and promoting the various ecotourism opportunities that exist. Involving communities that live in and around the GMTFCA is of key importance, particularly rural schoolchildren, as they will become the custodians of this area in the future.
Children between the ages of 10 and 15 from each of the participating regions were handpicked to attend, based on the potential and enthusiasm they displayed at the CITW Eco-Club sessions that regularly take place in their home villages. The three-night camp was run by a team of CITW Eco-Mentors and volunteers who coordinated the various activities. The DEA very kindly funded the accommodation for the camp, with CITW funding the remainder of the expenses and Peace Parks Foundation assisting with funding for passports.
Activities during the camp included a night drive, a visit to the Mapungubwe Interpretive Centre, a visit to the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers where the three countries meet, and a career workshop, all while learning about the importance of wilderness areas and the GMTFCA for their communities. A key emphasis was also placed on life skills and building self-esteem, providing the lessons to future leaders and conservationists. Many new friends were made and the hope is that the children will keep in touch via the CITW Eco-Club pen pal project.
“Wilderness areas are important because once a species has gone extinct it will never exist again,” says Jane (15), South Africa
“I would like to make a difference, make good decisions and respect other people,” says Tshwetso (11), Botswana
Left and Right: Tri-Nations activities; Middle: viewing deck over Mapungubwe National Park