Over the last couple of months we’ve been putting a lot focus on building a catalogue and map of Zimbabwean conservation efforts. Whereas this drive is, in part, an attempt to organise and document information that may be useful to others, it’s aim is equally to communicate stories and efforts in a way that may promote understanding and inspire action.
One way MAPA works more broadly to achieve the latter goal is by running trainings to equip the people who are best placed to communicate these efforts and issues – conservationists themselves – with the tools to do so. It was for one such training, as well as to connect with the Zimbabwean conservationists we had been speaking to, that we found ourselves at Mapumula Lodge just outside Harare at the beginning of May.
Prior to arriving at our rustic training venue we were a little worried about internet connectivity and power cuts, but our hosts had worked hard to make sure that those fears were quickly dispelled. Between the smooth technical experience and the late-autumn sun, bushveld-air, home-cooked catering and twenty dedicated and enthusiastic participants this was easily one of our most enjoyable workshops to date!
After two intensive hands-on days of learning how to use Google Earth, Google Maps, Fusion Tables and the Open Data Kit, our participants had the opportunity on the third workshop day to apply their new skills to their own projects. Prior to the workshop, many of them had never used some of these tools, so we were extra impressed to see the projects that participants chose to work on. These included mapping schools and cattle dip-tanks with Fusion Tables, a Google Earth tour of points of interest on a private conservancy, and two applications using Google Forms & Fusion Tables to create a crowd-sourced map.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Zimbabwe – not only did we have the pleasure of meeting a group of extremely dedicated conservationists, we also had the privilege of travelling back to South Africa via the wild open spaces of the beautiful Gonarezhou National Park. We are so grateful to all the Zimbabweans who welcomed us into their conservation lives and helped to make this workshop specifically, and the (still ongoing) conservation drive more generally, a success.
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