Our former volunteer Utku Kuran from Turkey/Istanbul joined us in November 2018 and here is brief experiences of him in LCMO!
How did my volunteer experience start in LCMO?
My volunteer project in LCMO (Land Conservation Mentor’s Organization) started on 30th of October and ended on 28th of November 2018. In terms of practicing, experiencing conservation and its educational activities in the villages, 1 month was benign to become a much more conscious, equipped individual to understand sustainable development in Katavi, Rukwa region.
During my stay, my primary aim was to observe and understand the conservation practices that have influence on people’s lifestyle, culture, and well-being. LCMO’s people-centered and ecosystem-based projects led me to realize follow my passion much harder and take my decision actions one step further on environmental conservation subjects in my future. With LCMO team members I went through numerous activities during my stay and I did not only participate in conservation and development activities in schools or villages but also I blended myself with the unique culture and lifestyle in my free times.
What kind of educational activities I involved during 1 month period?
I participated both in VIMA and WASIMA projects by attending school outreach programs, village meetings, documentary shows, daily park trips, tree nursery practices about sustainable agriculture. By participating in those activities, LCMO taught me to aim to help community members aware of and appreciate the value of natural resources and a rich ecosystem of Katavi National Park.
During these activities, while spending time together with students, local communities and village leaders, one of the most crucial point that I learned was the importance of obtaining people’s cooperation on conservation and its demonstration that how it benefits to them. In each project, while delivering the educational programs to communities, it was crucial to underline the benefits of conservation for the people.
5 activities I involved in during 1 month period;
• Establishment of tree nurseries in primary/secondary schools.
Purpose: On-farm tree planting to reduce timber collection from the forest.
• Educational environment classes and sustainable agriculture practices within environmental clubs and classes in primary/secondary schools.
Purpose: Motivate students about conservation practices and show how they can contribute to environmental management in the region. Also, help them to understand the benefits of nature while teaching easiest ways to generate their income sources in sustainable ways.
• Environmental documentary/movie shows in villages.
Purpose: To raise awareness about rich biodiversity and the ecosystem in Katavi National Park.
• Village Council meetings
Purpose: Implementing village by-laws for halting traditional non-retaliation lion killing practices arising from livestock keeping communities and applying traditional policies while implicating village leaders into conservation practices in border villages of Katavi National Park.
• Workshop arrangement with Wild Nature Institute
Purpose: LCMO partnered with Wild Nature Institute and overall aim was preparing two days workshop for village teachers with WNI’s educational consultant Ms. Lise Levy.
By implementing WASIMA project, the organization aims to develop a mechanism of strong locally based environmental stewardship by using the strength of traditional policing institutions for local development and environmental conservation. In the region, illegal activities like lion killing take forms and involve different people. Therefore, it is crucial to decrease lion killings and biodiversity loss. The organization aims to implement different law enforcement and efforts to tackle problems by targeting enhance human-wildlife coexistence both inside and outside of the national park. For stopping lion killings and controlling deforestation in national park LCMO arranges village council meetings regularly. I participated in two village meetings and observed how traditional policies, law enforcement, and environmental decision–making process has an impact on conservational initiatives and operations in villages which are a border to Katavi National Park.
Besides WASIMA, within VIMA project I was cooperating with team members to apply both theoretical and practical conservation practices in school classes in different villages. From indoor to outdoor classes, community education has a vital role in the overall success of environmental management efforts of LCMO. In educational activities, we were preparing alternative livelihood projects, environmental workshops, competitions, tree planting activities with the environmental clubs. By programming these kind of income generating activities, I targeted to help youth to establish their own income generating practices that help their families as well. Additionally, while arranging those activities it was opportunity for me to cooperate with diverse community members from government leaders to farmers, students, and other non-governmental national-international organizations.
What did I gain from my volunteer experience with LCMO?
As a former volunteer in LCMO, this project wasn’t beneficial only for my future studies and my professional career in the field but it was also beneficial to become a durable person while tackling challenges. Because I believe that as humans we should always be open to new experiences and challenges in life because they are the ones shaping us the better and knowledgeable person in our field. By this experience through different activities and programs, I met many different people of different ages and social levels. I improved my social communication skills and had the chance to listen and share ideas with local community, understand and feel them better.
Furthermore, as an amateur photographer, improvement of new approaches on my photography skills was another experience as well. In photographic perspective, thanks to this volunteer project I developed different aspects, perceptions and found the chance to share local people’s stories with my environment. In my opinion, by sharing my photos within different exhibitions or photo books I might bring light to people’s mind and let them know about general problems & solutions in Katavi region.
All in all, without great cooperation with LCMO team members all of those would not be possible for me. After this project, it is not possible to forget people I worked together, meetings we held together. I will keep staying as an online volunteer for LCMO’s community and try my best. Everything I learned in here will be a strong guide for my both academic and social career in my future. Passion is the only force that drives us further.