Grootvadersbosch skills training and jobs help uplift Hessequa community

From an EPWP contract position at Stoney Point Reserve to conservation assistant at De Mond Nature Reserve and, most recently, an appointment as full-time field ranger at Grootvadersbosch – Nico du Preez’s career progress is a shining example of a CapeNature success story.

The Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve in the Langeberg in the Hessequa district, about 22km from the nearest town of Heidelberg, boasts 250ha of southern Afro-temperate forest.

The reserve employs 27 appointees in the project in positions ranging from visitor management, hospitality services, infrastructure maintenance and alien vegetation management to road and trail maintenance, firefighting, ecological and primate monitoring to general maintenance, and 135 people benefit from these jobs.

Conservation manager Adrian Fortuin regards the progress of two EPWP participants’ appointees into full-time employment, the cohesion between permanent staff and EPWP participants and the upskilling of EPWP participants as some of the highlights of the job-creation project run at this reserve. The workforce currently comprises 44% women, 64% youth and 4% people with disabilities.

To adapt to the “new normal” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the reserve has ensured that staff adapt to new ways of operating and interacting to ensure their safety.

The maintenance of firebreaks in the fire-prone landscape of the reserve is critical to ensure the containment of fires and the project has a 10-man team that annually attends to maintenance of critical firebreaks.

Some project staff are trained as chainsaw and brushcutter operators to assist with trail maintenance, and the reserve’s baboon and vervet monkey population movements are monitored daily.

Project staff are equipped with other valuable skills, including 23 trained as firefighters, and more training to be rolled out. The firefighters have already been called out to several fires, including devastating blazes threatening the towns of Greyton and Genadendal in December 2019.

As with all CapeNature’s EPWP projects, says Fortuin, training has been at the forefront of the development path mapped out for EPWP participants , enabling them to take on work normally reserved for permanent employees and in some cases resulting in full time employment.

In addition, CapeNature has arranged computer training for eight beneficiaries, as well as life skills training such as basic water awareness.