One of the main challenges I faced when I started my career as a wildlife conservationist is the lack of capacity building opportunities. This might be more evident in developing countries, such as Indonesia, where I am from and currently work. There were very few courses and training I could access. Most of them were either hosted abroad or were quite pricey. In countries where English is not the first language, young people tend to feel unconfident in attending English-based workshops or training, so there is a need for training conducted in local language. It turned out that the need for capacity building was not something that only happened to me—most of my friends in the same field also recognised the difficulties to acquire and upgrade skills.
After a few years of working, some of my friends and I noticed that we actually still had some free time and energy that we can give to train students and more junior conservationists with the hope they would not encounter challenges that we had before. We believe that the future of biodiversity conservation relies on the regeneration of skilled and knowledgeable conservationists. Therefore, we always try to find free time to arrange a relevant trainings and courses voluntarily. Building capacities of young people may not be the priority of the organisations that we work for (although now I see that some NGOs in Indonesia have started to develop more trainings). Therefore, I think that it is important to do this as a kind of “personal” project. Plus... if we arrange the courses by ourselves, we can be more flexible in choosing the topics according to what we are most confident of or based on the needs of our target participants.
So, where should we start? The first important thing is to have friends who share similar passion. During my undergraduate years, I had some close friends who are really passionate in sharing their knowledge and experiences to other people. In fact, we established an organisation as a product of our friendship and similar vision for capacity building. (It’s called Tambora Muda Indonesia, a networking group for Indonesian young conservationists). Secondly, maintain networking with universities—with the professors, lecturers, teaching assistants, and even the student organisation members. They can always help with arranging venue and facilities for workshops and trainings. Thirdly, mark your calendar. As simple as that.
If giving a one- or two-day training is not satisfying enough, you can upgrade your volunteering level to organising a training camp! In 2018, our organisation, Tambora Muda Indonesia, held our first Conservation Camp where we trained 14 students and early-career conservationist at a 2-week camp in a national park. We got generous support, financially and physically, for this event from various friends and colleagues, which indicated that there are many people who share similar passion in capacity buildings for young people (by the way, you can see what we did on this link).
To summarise, capacity building of students and young conservationists is important for the future of biodiversity, but there is still lack in opportunities and resources. Meanwhile, we, conservation professionals, may have some spare time and energy that can be donated for nurturing our future conservation leaders. So, I challenge you to list (at least) one skill you are most confident of, take one day off work, and share your skills and experience to the future conservation leaders!