Nata Sanctuary was a hive of activity during the latter part of August as 35 community members from Trusts throughout the country gathered for a week’s training in bird identification and monitoring. The workshop was organized and conducted by staff from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and BirdLife Botswana, and was the first of its kind involving community members in Common Bird Monitoring and Important Bird Area (IBA) Monitoring. An introduction to the Management Oriented Monitoring System (MOMS), promoted by DWNP for use in community concession areas, also formed part of the training. Some participants were from new Trusts and were able to interact with, and benefit from, other long-standing Trusts from the northern part of the country which had full-time Community Escort Guides involved in natural resources monitoring.Basic skills in bird identification are needed before anyone can participate meaningfully in bird monitoring, so logically this formed the starting point for the course. The focus for this part was on common birds (needed for Common Bird Monitoring) and ‘trigger species’ for each IBA (needed for IBA monitoring). This led on to sessions on Common Bird Monitoring, presented by Pete Hancock, and IBA monitoring, facilitated by Virat Kootsositse – these included both theory and field practicals so that participants would feel comfortable about initiating these activities back in their areas. The MOMS session, conducted by Malebogo Sentsho, linked very closely with the IBA monitoring, and some of the community members who have already been implementing MOMS contributed meaningfully to the discussions on integrating MOMS and IBA monitoring.
The final day of the workshop was devoted to sharing experiences and lessons learnt in managing Trusts and their activities, for the benefit of the newer Trusts that BirdLife Botswana is engaging with. Boitumelo Sekhute-Batungamile introduced BirdLife Botswana’s PSPA project - centred on promoting community involvement in birding tourism in the Makgadikgadi area – and this provided the necessary background to show where the new community organizations fitted in. Resource persons from Government, primarily DWNP, assisted to facilitate and guide discussions to ensure that the framework provided by the CBNRM Policy was clear, so that all Trusts operate within the parameters set by the Policy.
The highlight of the workshop was the evident willingness of community members to engage in bird monitoring in their areas. Without exception, communities were enthusiastic to become active partners with DWNP and BirdLife Botswana in collecting data which could contribute to the management of their areas, and help meet the Botswana Government’s obligation to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The workshop was made possible firstly by the Nata Sanctuary Trust, which provided the venue, but also by funding from three donor agencies which are supporting BirdLife Botswana projects viz. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Common Bird Monitoring), European Union (IBA/PA monitoring) and GEF-UNDP (the PSPA project) – they are all thanked for their contribution towards making the workshop a success.