By Jenni Roberts, Patrol Leader 3rd Windhoek Scouts
A century ago, in a little corner of England, Lord Baden-Powell blew his kudu horn to open the very first scout camp. Scouting has since become the greatest international youth movement in the world. Over the last hundred years it has affected the lives of about 500 million people in 216 countries.
This year Namibia is joining in the worldwide celebrations of 100 years of scouting, with Etosha also celebrating its centenary. This is particularly appropriate, as one of the ten Scout Laws is: A Scout is a friend to animals. In reality this goes beyond animals to include plants and the environment as a whole. Scouts have always been actively involved in conservation and the outdoors.
One of the chief aims with scouting is to teach young people to look after the environment and to appreciate the outdoors safely and responsibly. Camping and hiking are an important aspect of the scout programme and are great fun, as well as being educational. Every scout and cub is expected to practise the outdoor code, the scout’s guide to behaviour in the great outdoors.
The Outdoor Code
• treat the outdoors – our veld, rivers and mountains – as a heritage to be cherished and protected; and to be enriched for our own greater enjoyment and future generations.
• learn to understand Nature and her ways.
• learn how to practise conservation of soil, water, forests, grasslands and wildlife, and urge others to do the same.
• treat public and private land with respect, remembering that the use of the outdoors is a privilege.
• prevent fires and build my own fire in a safe place, and be sure it is out before I depart.
• keep my litter and garbage out of Southern African waters, fields, woods, veld and roadways.
Whenever I take from Nature for my own use, I will endeavour to return a share of her bounty.
Scout hikes and camps provide ideal opportunities to put this into practice.
One of the most exciting events on the scout calendar is the Senior Scout Adventure held in the Cederberg Wilderness area every two years. Billed as the first international event to mark the 2007 Centenary of Scouting, this year’s Cederberg adventure attracted over 500 scouts. Namibia was there to share the adventure.
Twenty-two Namibian scouts travelled to the Cederberg just after Christmas to spend 12 days hiking through the mountains. As always, the 17th Cederberg Senior Scout Adventure proved to be an unforgettable experience for all involved. Patrols of up to 10 scouts hiked, camped and participated in activities that included archery, marksmanship, diving, parasailing, flying, a commando course, 4X4 driving, a paintball ‘ultimate challenge’, astronomy, handcraft and various forms of cooking. In spite of a cold front and the, at times, exhausting hiking up and down the mountains, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We hiked 120 kilometres, swam in clear mountain pools, gazed at the stars, climbed Tafelberg and Sneeuberg, passed interesting rock formations such as the Maltese Cross, saw early rock art at the Stadsaal caves, slept in the open and made friends with scouts from different countries.
Nearer home, the 3rd Windhoek Scouts participated in a game count at Waterberg, manning three hides for the August 48-hour count. Unfortunately the count was rendered unworkable by rain after just 24 hours. With the clouds obscuring the moon, identifying the animals became impossible, yet we were privileged to see black and white rhino and sable and roan antelope, and to watch the interesting behaviour of giraffe and hartebeest at the waterhole and salt lick.
Developing environmental skills
Scouts have worked in Etosha too. Many years ago, when the Environmental Education Centre at Namutoni was constructed, scouts from Tsumeb helped build the obstacle course and, more recently, IYA teams helping to build picnic sites in the park included several scouts. Two years ago we organised an Alien Bashing Day around Avis Dam, uprooting and burning the alien invasive jumping cacti which had spread in that area. It resulted in many cactus spines painfully embedded in hands, feet and legs, but also in a much-decreased cactus population.
We have held National Scout Camps twice since independence, once on a farm near Tsumeb and once at the Stop-Over just north of Windhoek. Every year troop and patrol camps, as well as hikes and pioneering projects, keep us in the great outdoors. A very different experience will be this year’s Centenary World Jamboree to be held in the Essex countryside in England. Twenty Namibian Scouts will be participating in this fantastic event in August.
Cubs are taught from a very young age to appreciate nature. The first requirement for earning a Cheetah Badge is to know the outdoor code and to do a nature ramble. The Leopard Badge requires an appreciation of living things, while an understanding of birds and animals is needed to get the Lion Badge. Many cub-interest badges reflect this care for the environment. They include animals, birds, collector, conservation, fishing, naturalist, nature craft, outdoorsman, skies and the special World Conservation Badge.
Scouts also need to master environmental skills. Scout-craft badges are awarded for: backwoodsman, camping, canoeing, conservation, hiking, map reading, observation, pioneering, sailing, survival, canoeing, world conservation and veld craft – all skills that foster a deep respect and enjoyment of our natural environment. For those keen to hone their skills, there are specialist interest badges for archaeologists, astronomers, fishermen, foresters, geologists, horsemen, ornithologists, pioneers, water biologists, weathermen, wood-craftsmen, rock climbing, snorkelling, veld craft, and a more advanced World Conservation badge that can be earned through dedication.
Contenders for the World Conservation Badge need to acquire a knowledge of ecological terms, write an essay on species extinction; provide an illustration of ecological inter-relationships: be aware of the impact of fire, land clearing, soil erosion, flooding, water pollution and insecticides; have an appreciation of conservation organisations, laws and parks; and participate in conservation projects in collaboration with conservation officers. This provides an excellent opportunity for scouts and conservators to work together. Many a dedicated conservator was once an enthusiastic scout.
This link between scouts and nature is highlighted by the botanical names for the scouting regions. Central is known as the Combretum Region, Tsumeb and Otjiwarongo fall within the Terminalia Region, in the north we have the Mopane, Makalani, Baobab, Omuye and Omugongo regions and Keetmanshoop is in the Ebony Region. Last year Scouts of Namibia celebrated National Arbour Day by planting trees to represent each region and, as the mopane tree was the 2006 Tree of the Year, Chief Scout Thomas Amutenya planted one at Scout Headquarters in Windhoek.
This year we plan to hold our National Scout Camp in the Etosha National Park, an opportunity to link 100 Years of Scouting to 100 years of Nature Conservation by celebrating our centenaries together.
This article appeared in the 2007/8 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.