Lesley Greyling, Southern African Wildlife College

The role of a field ranger is a strenuous physical one, most often requiring the carry and use of weapons; it is, rightly or wrongly seen as a male orientated job choice. People still struggle to see women in roles like this, in the military or even in Police Services.

This job requires being away from family and home for long periods at a time, and even in today’s world, especially in rural Africa, this can be a problem. If the woman is not there it requires a lot more juggling and working out to enable her to be away from home for extended periods of time, and this is not always possible when children are very young.

Women themselves do not always see themselves in these roles nor do they always apply for jobs in the industry. We have come a long way but gender bias is deeply entrenched, and still is the mirror we unwitting hold to our own faces as well.

Sadly women are often harassed, even sexually, in the field, and qualified female rangers often wind up in other jobs and not in the field.

On the most pressing concerns regarding conservation matters in the communities I have worked in 

The concept of SUSTAINABLE use is my biggest concern. How do you explain to people who have next to nothing how important it is to save trees for tomorrow when they need firewood today? To suggest they deal with soil erosion issues and do not over graze land to prevent future problems when they live for today and cannot see into the future?

How do I tell them NOT to poach a warthog when they have no food? How do I expect them to see the aesthetic value of an animal when they are hungry and unemployed?

Middle to higher income households have pets; can visit wildlife areas and national parks. They have the time and the LUXURY of enjoying the beauty of nature. They understand the fact that parks and conservation areas create jobs, and why tourists visit, and they realize if the wildlife dies tourists will NOT visit and people will lose jobs and income to our economy will be lost.

These are concepts I struggle to get communities to understand when they are poorly educated, have high unemployment levels, and literally live, yet again, for TODAY without being able to think of the future.

How do I get them to protect these animals and areas when they as communities do not have the money or time to visit these areas and to appreciate nature and its wildlife?

Most communities see little or no benefit from wildlife or conservation unless they or their family members work in the industry.

On my experience with people in conflict areas

The same as anywhere else, except that they are often more desperate and more stressed than in other rural communities. I have never been treated badly by local communities. I have survived several crimes of severe violent natures, but not IN communities I have visited.

People in rural areas in Africa, whether in conflict areas or not, all seem to suffer from some form of quiet desperation, caused by either conflict, or poverty. Wealthier areas have very different communities, with different issues.

People living with conflict have the same look in their eyes as people living with hunger. Neither is easy to see. Both have welcomed me and shared the little they have with me, both have smiled more than they have frowned. I find more anger and resentment in urban areas than in rural areas, even though communities in urban areas almost always have more of everything.

My top 5 destinations

Angola, Luanda and Kissama National Park, Mussolo Island I fell in love with the people and the country in a way that surprised me

Romania – Brasov County  I loved this country it reminded me of South Africa as it is very rural and every open and vast. The people were friendly, enthusiastic, simple and mainly rural.

UK, London   I hate cities but LOVE London. The vibe, the excitement, the modern mixed with the old…love it!

Mozambique, Xai Xai  Not only did I work here doing training I have holidayed here too; amazing people, awesome beaches, stunning wildlife and great beer…lol.

Galapagos Islands This is on my wish list, for the exotic species and biodiversity.


A Zambian site sharing quick read articles around work, money and adulting life with selective interviews and quotes.
The founder, editor and lead writer who left university with a good grasp of public administration, economics, money, banking and international relations is also qualified in journalism and creative writing. She has been published in Drum and The BBC Focus on Africa Magazine and has been featured in several local and international publications.
An avid bird watcher with an extraordinary fondness for chikanda ( a Zambian delicatessen that vegans and non-vegans world-wide are putting on their bucket list ) she often tweets in poetry and short prose @kwachalelo