Mary Hastag, RCB Community Liaison Officer (Botswana)

RCB champions community-led conservation, so that people living near our reintroduced rhinos understand the value that rhinos and their habitat can bring to their communities, feel a sense of national pride in the rhinos and see themselves as active participants in conservation efforts. 

  RCB ’ s Community Liaison Officer   Mary Hastag leads our development and education programmes in the local community. 

RCBs Community Liaison Officer Mary Hastag leads our development and education programmes in the local community. 

By offering tangible benefits to the presence of rhinos in the area, we help to position rhinos as economic assets for the community. This strengthens our surveillance of the rhinos and increases information sharing to combat the illegal killing of rhinos and other wildlife. We hope the citizens of Botswana will become our eyes and ears on the ground, and we aim to make them our partners in protecting their natural heritage.

The communities are vital to conservation efforts. Do you remember when a cattle herder in the Makgadikgadi Pans walked 70 miles to the nearest phone to tell us about a female rhino and calf he’d seen miles from home? He’d never seen a rhino before, but he knew they needed his help. And it turned out that we needed his help to save them.

RCB’s community liaison officer, Mary Hastag, has identified several rural communities living around the rhino reintroduction areas in the Okavango Delta that need our support. It is here that we have launched our new community development programme.


Our community development programme involves

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‘Women for Rhinos’ self-help groups

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It is said that if you feed a man, he will feed himself. But if you feed a women, she will ensure that her entire family is fed, too. With this in mind, RCB has launched a scheme called ‘Women for Rhinos’ that aims to empower local women to develop new sources of income to support their communities.

To find volunteers for the scheme, Mary attended three local community ‘kogtlas’ – public meetings headed by the village chief – to explain our plans. Ladies from each of the three target communities volunteered to receive training in artisanal skills – beadwork, sewing, knitting and crocheting – and producing quality artefacts, such as woven baskets, tie-dye garments and beaded home decor.

RCB hosted a training programme, providing teachers, sewing machines and materials to enable the ladies to learn these valuable skills. Then a lady from each community took a sewing machine and some material home to teach others. Our ‘Women for Rhinos’ groups will be supported on their learning journey by RCB’s new ‘Community Mobilisers,’ who act as our representatives in the communities, offering advice and encouragement where required.

Mary is also providing essential training in how to run a business, and will assist the ladies in marketing their products to local lodges, shops and fairs to negotiate a fair price to enable them to build better lives for their family and their communities.

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Environmental Education clubs in primary schools

Thanks to RCB, children at five local primary schools aged between nine and 14 now enjoy weekly lessons about nature and conservation. We’ve even produced and printed a special activity workbook to educate and inspire young people about the natural world around them. The schools will also benefit from hands-on learning thanks to conservation projects we’re running nearby, and excursions to game reserves run by RCB and our partners will enable them to see all of Botswana’s most majestic native wildlife – for the first time. Find out more about our Education Programme.


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wildlife Fence patrol & repair

To create opportunities for the many young men who are unemployed in rural villages, RCB is initiating a programme that will train and equip them to identify and repair damage to the southern buffalo – or veterinary cordon – fence. This fence is a vital barrier between wildlife and cattle, and it prevents rhinos from wandering out of the wildlife area and into community areas, where they could endanger life or property and be at risk of poaching. These young people will also alert RCB to injured, sick or dead wildlife, and veld fires, and pick up litter. These young people will be the stewards of their wildlife in the future, so we’re giving them the best start.


teaching children through sport

Everyone in Botswana loves sport! RCB organises football, netball and softball tournaments in the villages in which we operate to bring people together. These sporting events include talks about rhinos, and help us to teach children about the importance of wildlife and conservation through the allegory of team sports.

  Mary presents a school soccer group with an indestructible football donated by RCB-USA supporters.

Mary presents a school soccer group with an indestructible football donated by RCB-USA supporters.


  Meet our Community Mobilisers. Recruited from the local communities, they provide support to our Women Groups and help to share our messages about the importance of conservation. 

Meet our Community Mobilisers. Recruited from the local communities, they provide support to our Women Groups and help to share our messages about the importance of conservation. 

CHILD FEEDING scheme and play groups

Not every child in rural Botswana has enough to eat, especially when their parents work far from home in larger towns to support their families. So RCB is working together with partners to feed 122 children under the age of five in three villages.

Our ‘Community Mobilisers’ will also be trained to run play groups at community integrated resource centres to give young people a better start in life.


“Ultimately, conservation is about people. If you don’t have sustainable development around these (wildlife) parks, the people will have no interest in them and the parks will not survive”
— Nelson Mandela

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