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Responsible Resource Use: Bushwise and the SAWC

Updated: May 29

“We all must be aware of, and take responsibility for, how we live and what we use.” — the Southern African Wildlife College

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the challenges facing our planet? Many people want to make a difference but struggle to know where to start. In fact, there are many changes you can make in your daily lives and at your place of work. One of these is through the practice known as responsible resource use. In collaboration with the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC), Bushwise students are taught about this concept and learn how to apply it in their daily lives.

What is responsible resource use (RRU)?

As many areas of the world become increasingly urban and commercialised, there are increasing threats to the longevity and sustainability of our natural resources. Scarcity, inflation and degradation pose serious risks to our natural ecosystems and habitats; this is something that those of us in the wildlife, conservation and ecotourism industries see every day. 

Responsible resource use is a concept that goes beyond the sustainable use principle. It means that to conserve our natural resources, we must use these resources in morally responsible ways. These decisions should be rooted in science and directed towards positive action to improve the quality of our soil, water and biodiversity (the SAWC). 

To determine if a practice qualifies as RRU, we ask if it fits the four guiding principles:

  1. Is it holistic?

  2. Is it ethical?

  3. Is it regenerative?

  4. Is it inclusive?

The UN Under-Secretary says this about responsible resource use: “Problems of resource scarcity are related to changing patterns of consumption and production, with developing countries moving from agricultural to industrial ways of life, while wealthy countries continue to consume more and more natural resources.” — Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary and Executive Director UNEP

Students learning about responsible resource use

Responsible Resource Use, the SAWC, and Bushwise

Through our collaboration with the SAWC, Bushwise students participate in an RRU training module. The course aims to introduce students to the concept of RRU and entrench it widely as a way of thinking about all resource use activities, whether in their personal life or in their future jobs. 

RRU is a step beyond sustainable use thinking, which has grown in popularity over the last 40 years. It is holistic, inclusive, needs-driven and Afro-centric. During this course, students are introduced to the theoretical background of RRU and given tools to apply it to their home and workplaces, to make tangible changes and improve the use of resources.

At the end of this module, students should understand both the conceptual framework and the real-world implementation in conservation and urban landscapes and in the context of present-day African society. Through interactive site visits, students observe the big picture of ecosystem services, including how human populations use those services and resources.

Students in the bush learning on reponsible resource use

Practical experiences in the field

During this module, students go to different sites near Kruger National Park and learn how companies and organisations incorporate responsible resource management in their activities. We encourage debate and discussion among the students about how we live, what we consume and use, and how we dispose of our waste. 

In May 2023, Bushwise students participated in this module and alongside their instructors from the SAWC, went to three unique sites to learn about their RRU practices. The sites we visited were Wild Olive Tree Camp, Mzansi Genetics waste site and Nyeleti farming. Each one of these places has incorporated responsible resource use in an amazing way, which we use as an example of what these practices truly mean and the impact they could have.  

  1. Wild Olive Tree Camp was born out of the local community, where there is significant overlap for social and economic applications of RRU. On this site visit, students learned how Wild Olive Tree makes responsible decisions for resource management, and how they minimise their environmental impact.

  2. Mzansi Genetics Waste Site is a registered waste dumping site in Welverdiend, the community bordering Kruger and the Manyeleti. The owner of this waste site collects and sells trash as an income generator. This is an opportunity for students to understand RRU from an economic and ecological perspective, including how to properly recycle and how to prevent air pollution that comes from burning trash.

  3. Nyeleti Farming is located in the agricultural sector and is a great example of the confluence of social, ecological and economic influences in RRU. The farm is relatively small at only 14 hectares, and all of its waste is returned to the soil as compost (they send no trash out of the farm). They plant many different vegetables and many of the resources are used responsibly, including water irrigation across the plantation. 

We are proud to continue this responsible resource use training alongside the SAWC, as our Bushwise Professional Field Guide students train to become the most responsible, ethical guides they can be. Watch this space to see how the next cohort of field guide students learn about RRU!

A special thanks to the SAWC for the information and photos contained in this blog.

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