Regional Demand for Conservation Training – Peace Parks Foundation and World-Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa

Field research conducting interviews and analysis of conservation management graduates of the Southern African Wildlife College in eleven SADC countries.





Peace Parks Foundation and World-Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa (WWF-SA)


Leif Petersen, Andrew Charman


In 2008, SLC was commissioned to investigate the strategic options for future conservation-related training in southern Africa, as conducted by the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) in the Kruger National Park. This project required comprehensive analysis of the regional demand for conservation training at SAWC and the development of a strategic plan to enhance the effectiveness of training service provision.

In total, SAWC has trained more than 2,500 individuals within SADC and further afield. SAWC produces the highest number of middle management-level graduates of all SADC conservation agencies, excepting Mweka, Tanzania. These graduates tend to be employed in lower to middle management levels, commonly field-based within protected areas and community projects throughout the SADC region. Its programmes have been recognised and accredited by the SADC community and SAWC itself has been recognised as a SADC ‘Institute of Service Excellence’.


An engagement with conservation authorities by means of survey tools took place across southern and eastern Africa. To ensure evenness, SLC developed a comprehensive range of survey tools for disseminating information to different management levels in the field.

The extent of the engagement was as follows:

  • 69 questionnaires were sent to known SAWC graduates (Diploma-level middle managers)
  • 81 questionnaires were sent to national park or senior conservation managers
  • 9 questionnaires were sent to country training managers within agencies6 questionnaires were sent to country conservation agency directors.

The surveys were followed up with extensive phone interviews to discuss relevant feedback. In addition, site visits at SAWC took place, and a SWOT analysis of the previous training methodology was undertaken. A full review of all other conservation training organisations in the SADC region was conducted in order to best understand the niche SAWC fills.


Research and feedback has shown that SAWC fulfils an extremely important role in providing natural resource management education at the uniformed and middle management institutional levels within SADC. It follows a highly innovative approach for regional or local conservation training.

SAWC training has produced a sizeable diaspora of graduates, all of whom speak highly of the skills and knowledge attained. SAWC fills a niche in conservation training because it is flexible and dynamic and meets actual needs. The conservation sector would be considerably weakened in capacity should the SAWC regional training concept for mid-career wildlife professionals be lost.

However, the consultancy team feels that the current SAWC training model produces too few qualified graduates per country/per year to create a real conservation benefit within SADC. A key conclusion, one presently being investigated by PPF, is to foster formal relationships with other regional training institutions (such as the College of Forestry and Wildlife, Malawi, and the Natural Resources College, Zimbabwe) to enhance influence and cutting-edge training across a far greater audience.

It was concluded that SAWC should adjust its training role and become a regional joint issuer of qualifications and serve as a regional standardslifter for wildlife training. Similarly, SAWC’s emphasis on short courses and targeted skills development training for SADC nationals requires expansion if it is to be a key strategic conservation measure.