As part of its overall efforts to help create a sustainable future for the game industry in South Africa, the Stud Game Breeders group has taken an important new step towards transformation by establishing two programmes aimed at promoting and encouraging skills development in the industry.

Both programmes were strongly endorsed and accredited by Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA — the national representative body of game farmers in South Africa). The announcement was made on Friday, 25 March 2011 at the WRSA Gala Dinner held in Pretoria, by one of the founder members of Stud Game Breeders, Tony Morton.

The first programme announced is an empowerment scholarship which Stud Game Breeders will fund annually to the value of R70 000. The bursary is targeted at the top two deserving black students studying for a diploma relevant to the Wildlife Industry at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

TUT is one of a number of South African institutions that is well recognised for its diplomas relevant to the industry. It offers two alternative courses, Nature Conservation and Game Ranch Management. Both are 3-year courses where the first two years focus on academic lectures covering 9 different subjects along with field trips across the different provinces. The third year is devoted to practical experience in the field.

A shortlist of potential beneficiaries of the bursary will be identified by the management committee of TUT according to the students’ achievements in the first year and nominated for this award for their second year of study. Two beneficiaries will then be chosen following an interview by Stud Game Breeders and WRSA. Tuition fees, books and accommodation for the two students will be covered for their second year of study by the bursary. This bursary will be awarded annually and will be known as the “Stud Game Breeders / WRSA Empowerment Bursary”.

The second programme will employ seven third-year students for their practical year. As of 2012 each of the members of Stud Game Breeders will annually employ one student thus granting seven 3rd year students valuable work experience. Besides gaining practical experience across a wide spectrum in each member’s operation, it is also envisaged that these students will form a study group enabling them to share experiences and where possible rotate between farms.

Called the “Stud Game Breeders / WRSA Practical Student Programme”, the programme is open to all and every third-year student at TUT studying one of the two courses relevant to the industry.

In response to strong encouragement from WRSA at the Gala Dinner for other associations and study groups to support similar initiatives, the industry enthusiastically stepped forward. At least seven additional associations or enterprises spontaneously signalled their willingness to commit. Proposals will be explored separately by each of the groups or enterprises and submitted for endorsement to WRSA.

These are maybe small but important steps that signal that the Wildlife Industry is serious about transformation. The industry was undoubtedly stimulated by the keynote speaker at the WRSA Gala Dinner, Cyril Ramaphosa, talking on the need for transformation, when he urged each member to make a difference however small. Mr Ramaphosa contextualised this with a quote from the late Robert Kennedy: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation”.