What Happens When Conservancy Elders Meet Corporate Leadership Training?

"Just borrow a camel." 

Fatooma Mohammed had been silent for sometime, amid the raucous discussion of all the other elders loudly debating back and forth the answer to the riddle they had been presented with. She delivered her conclusion quietly and confidently. Everyone stopped.

The riddle? An old man had 17 camels, and has promised to divide them between his sons. The first-born gets half, the second gets a third, and the third-born son gets a ninth. How do you divide them? 

A few colourful solutions had been bounced between the elders, including slaughtering some camels and quite literally dividing the meat. But Fatooma, Chairlady of Leparua Conservancy, had got it. 

"You simply borrow a camel to make the herd 18. Half of 18 is 9, a third of 18 is 6, a ninth of 18 is 2. 2+6+9 = 17. Then you can give the borrowed animal back!"

Her audience pondered this for a second, then erupted in applause. 

This was part of the Council of Elders' Leadership and Management Training, delivered at NRT Headquarters in late March. The Council is the overarching governing body of NRT, made up of the chairmen and women from each member conservancy. Conservancy managers underwent this same training last year, and reported transformations in the way they approach their work in the conservancies. However, most of the principles of the training are geared towards a corporate environment, not to mention the whole programme is written in English. The challenge was presented to the facilitators Allan Ward and Heiz Wadegu from Forward Consulting - tailor the programme for an audience in which the majority have no formal education, and don't speak English.

"We've spent a lot of time modifying this program for the Council of Elders... and my expectations have been far exceeded. We didn't expect to have this impact in such a short space of time. Leadership and management isn't about being educated, it's about someone's ability to understand the principles, and how to apply them" said Allan. 

Thomas Leletuk, Chariman Westgate Conservancy.

Thomas Leletuk, Chariman Westgate Conservancy.

The training covered the principles of leading and managing a team, recognising people's strengths, and how to think 'outside the box' for creative solutions to challenges. 

The elders also took part in practical activities that challenged their thinking, and in most cases, their teamwork - all met with laughter and enthusiasm. 

"My hope and prayer is that what we've done will allow the elders to be much more effective in their roles within the conservancies, and ultimately have a positive impact on the communities and the wildlife" said Allan   

"This is a wonder." Thomas Leletuk, Chariman Westgate Conservancy. "Allan - you're not a teacher, you're more like a witchdoctor! Not the bad kind! You know how to work on people's minds. I feel like I've seen the light. Now, my community can cook in one pot. We no longer have three-legged chairs, we all have four."

This is just the first 3 days in an 11 day programme that will be spread over 5 months.