Local ranger program

To effectively carry out conservation measures, projects require dedicated, skilled and trained people in the field and the community. The establishment of a local ranger program called “Caretakers” was identified by ECF as an important step in ensuring conservation objectives were enforced in the field and understood in the village. Caretakers are local people with knowledge and understanding of their local environment, the ability to communicate with locals and visitors, and self-motivated to protect nature. They are identified through the FPA process and later employed by CBOs. They are trained in conservation methods, equipped with communication equipment, uniforms and sometimes means of transport but do not have the legal rights of (governmental) protected area staff or forest rangers. They may inform and educate people, and report infringements to the relevant authorities. Caretakers assist with the monitoring of biodiversity, educate/raise awareness and perform CA management tasks. They are responsible for data collection, ongoing wildlife monitoring and the submission of progress reports to the ECF. Caretakers are a key point of contact (trusted and respected) in the community, and act as an example of the socio-economic benefits of nature conservation. 

  1. Prudent selection means chosen individuals are trusted, have the capacity to learn new skills, openness to accept new ideas, and responsibility to report/carry out objectives 
  2. Involving caretakers in all aspects of capacity building with local institutions and authorities involved in land management and nature conservation, including forest agencies, municipalities etc.
  3. Participation in training sessions using the tools/skills required of the position as well as fostering strong ethics, honesty and commitment to the nature conservation objectives
  • Outmigration of young people is a barrier to finding a suitable caretaker for long term project goals and application. 
  • Educating communities on ecosystem-based management practices and applications will challenge previous perspectives of wildlife while demonstrating how conservation can benefit the community and develop respect for the caretaker position.
  • Community capacity building leads to a supportive atmosphere for caretakers to operate in. Local authorities and community organisations are institutionally weak so general institutional strengthening and capacity building is encouraged.
  • The role of caretakers is initially misunderstood by local and authorities. Effort and coaching is required to establish the understanding that policing and enforcement represents only a minor part of the scope of work of stakeholders and that main emphasis should be on raising awareness, providing information and guidance, and leadership within the local community. 
  • Ensuring caretakers receives education and training means the tools and resources employed can be accessed and utilized.