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By Tapiwa Chimbadzwa and Ngaakudzwe Tinotenda Chifamba

The success of human-animal conflict mitigation and wildlife conservation programs depends on effective data collection, management, and analysis. In every case, well-managed, examined, and collected data will lead to the best decisions and actions. To do this, one requires the appropriate data collection tools, a competent group, and a working knowledge of the processes. Therefore, Wildlife Conservation Action has advanced by utilizing new technology as an addition to our toolkit in our desire to carry out our work as efficiently as possible. We managed to host a training on the SMART Data collection tool thanks to the assistance of Panthera and Lion Recovery Fund. An artificial intelligence system called SMART will aid in data gathering, reporting, and performance evaluation. At Tashinga Camp in Matusadona National Park, the program took place from May 29 to June 4, 2023.

A group of data managers and community guardians convened for a six-day intensive session on the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), which was taught by Panthera's Matthew Phiri. The purpose of the course was to give the participants the skills and know-how to efficiently collect and manage data using the SMART data model. The workshop was divided into three sessions: one for the data managers, one for the data collectors, and a combined practical session to assess the team's understanding of the material. The first session was an introduction to the SMART data model and its significance for wildlife conservation and community development. The facilitator described the SMART data model as a standardized method for monitoring and managing wildlife populations that can assist and ensure the efficacy and sustainability of conservation activities.

The data managers were taught on the importance of a positive attitude in data collection and management. According to SMART, adaptive management monitors the effectiveness of management actions and provides feedback mechanisms to learn from the results. In a multifaceted dynamic landscape, this is paramount to ensure sustained success. A critical tool for this to work is good communication, hence the emphasis on consistent briefing and giving feedback between data collectors and managers. The participants also learned how to use the smart automotive application to collect data and together with how manually captured information can be entered into the smart database. They were taught how to use GPS devices to map out the areas and track wildlife movement patterns and record human-wildlife conflict incidences. They also learned how to use SMART software to analyze the data they collected and generate reports that could be used to inform conservation efforts.

The training was not just about technical skills, however. The participants also learned about the importance of community involvement in wildlife conservation. They were taught how to engage with local communities and how to work with them to collect data and monitor wildlife populations. This was highlighted as an important skill set in getting correct and reliable data.

“ This was an eye opener to me. I really appreciated the event and i fill SMART will help us to make SMART decision especially when it comes to applied research in this day and age. I feel challenged. The workshop was well prepared and i learned a lot. Thanks to Widlife Conservation Action and Panthera"

Varendeni Henry -Nyaminyami Rural District Council.

As the workshop drew to a close, the participants were filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment. They had learned a great deal over the past six days and were excited to return to their work with a newly found confidence in their ability to collect and manage data using the SMART data model. They knew that their efforts would help to protect wildlife and livelihoods for generations to come.

It was a great workshop. In SMART, we learned a lot about data collection.It's safe to assert that I learned something new from this experience that will assist me carry out my duties well. I am certain that SMART has made our work easier. Most importantly, the facilitation was excellent since the facilitator was patient and engaging . 

Tellmore Siazemba, Wildlife Conservation Action Community Guardian

In the end, the workshop was a great success. The participants left with a deep understanding of the SMART data model and its importance in wildlife conservation. They were now equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively collect and manage data, and they were eager to put their new skills to use in the field. Thanks to Matthew Phiri and Panthera, the future of wildlife conservation in the communities looked brighter than ever before.

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