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Agnes Tjirare recently won well-deserved international and local acclaim for her hard work and the passion she invests in conservation. In recognition of her achievements, Travel News Namibia had a chat with Agnes to find out more about her work.
Agnes was born in Okakarara but grew up in a tiny settlement, some 78 km to the east, called Ohorongombaranga. After completing school in Windhoek, she obtained a Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Namibia. Agnes was referred for employment to Wilderness Safaris by a lecturer who recognised her remarkable enthusiasm for learning and growing. At Wilderness she received intensive training and served in different roles including field guide, assistant camp manager and logistics administrator. She was also one of just a few candidates selected to attend the maiden course on specialised training in Tourism and Hospitality with Lobster Ink International. On completion of the course she became a specialised Service Trainer tasked with the responsibility of looking after more than 10 camps, focusing on hospitality, customer care standards and housekeeping training. As a Service Trainer she was responsible for over 200 staff members at seven Wilderness camps, across the Classic and Premier categories.
Driven and ambitious, Agnes paid her dues and moved up the ranks to her current position. She has served as the Children in the Wilderness (CITW), Culture and Stakeholder Officer since 2015. In this role she works with more than 10 schools and over 800 learners. CITW aims to facilitate sustainable conservation through leadership development and educating children in Namibia. According to Agnes, insight, care and commitment are required to conserve Africa’s pristine wilderness and wildlife areas. “If we are to ensure that these places continue to exist in this generation and generations to come, we need the rural children of Africa to understand the importance of conservation and its relevance in their lives,” she says.
CITW is an environmental and life skills educational programme for children, focusing on the next generation of decision-makers: inspiring them to care for their natural heritage and to become the custodians of these areas in the future. This is achieved in a variety of ways from hosting Eco-Club programmes at local schools to running camps at Wilderness Safaris and partner camps for the children from rural communities that live on the fringes of the wild areas of Africa. CITW has also begun a number of other initiatives to assist children, their parents and teachers in their own milieus, such as school nutrition schemes, village upliftment programmes and scholarship programmes. “CITW fills the gap in access and opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach for rural children,” explains Agnes.
Agnes also played a massive role over the past year in driving Wilderness’ Conservation Heroes COVID-relief project in Namibia. This project is responsible for delivering 1 300 food hampers to Wilderness’ community partners who are suffering as a result of the impact of COVID on tourism, coupled with the effects of a lengthy drought. The project assisted some 5 200 community members in dire need.
In conjunction with her work at Wilderness, Agnes contributes to numerous community and culture-related projects in order to achieve positive change in schools and communities across Namibia. Agnes has been involved in various projects, alongside governmental partners and others, among them educating local groups on best hygiene practices to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Other projects include distributing seeds and fruit trees to the Sesfontein communal garden and donating 250 outdated and unused uniforms to the Warmquelle and De Riet communities for making face masks. She was also involved in building Tippy Taps at various water collection points in villages, reaching as far as the remote Himba village of Otjinungua in the Marienfluss Conservancy.
In March Agnes was selected as one of the Top 100 Young African Conservation Leaders. “This amazing accolade provides a platform for an international voice and for a community of like-minded individuals who are out there inspiring us with their contributions to society as a way of life,” she says about the award. She was selected through rigorous judging and verification processes that had received a total of 565 nominations from 425 conservation organisations and youth networks in 23 African countries. The Top 100 Young African Conservation Leaders list is a collaboration between the Africa Alliance of YMCAs, the World Organisation of the Scout Movement, the African Wildlife Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund. The list recognises the efforts of talented young Africans and aims to inspire other youth in leading the way to ensure that conservation efforts will secure a healthy world for generations to come.
In May Agnes was announced winner of the Women and Environment category as part of the local Sustainable Development Awards. The Sustainable Development Awards recognises the importance of integrating sustainable practices into the core of business and industry as well as the daily lives of individual Namibians. It rewards individuals who have demonstrated leadership, innovation and excellence in environmentally friendly practices while encouraging best sustainability practices.
During the nearly 13 years that Agnes has been employed by Wilderness Safaris she has not only imparted job skills to her peers and colleagues but she also became a revered mentor for and inspiration to others in the company and the communities she works with. While one of her next goals is to mentor CITW beneficiaries into leading roles in the Tourism and Hospitality sector, she is also enrolled as a third-year Law student with UNISA and plans on specialising in Environmental Law or Conservation. This means we can still expect great things from this Namibian conservation powerhouse. TNN