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Fred Swaniker

From the 7th to the 10th of September, a few of the GWF team headed off to the Business of Conservation Conference in Kigali Rwanda. Kathleen Hay, our Travel & Tourism Academy Program Manager, Sibusiso Mnisi, the Conservation Academy Program Co-ordinator, and Gemma Thompson, our Senior Communications manager share their highlights and top things they learned.

Business of Conservation Conference 2019

New Conservation Talent

“One of the sessions I attended which really stood out to me was about capturing Africa’s conservation potential. It was about how can we get more people with new talents involved in Conservation to elevate the conservation industry. Fred Swaniker, the founder and CEO of African Leadership Group, led this session. He said the conservation industry should not be driven by only an select few people known to the world as ‘conservationists’, and that we need new faces of the people who have huge influence in the world like Jack Ma or Trevor Noah. Environmental Investing was a theme of the conference so he added that the conservation industry needs to make money to sustain itself. I think as an organisation we should not only focus on the organisations that are only in the conservation industry to partner with to improve our GWF Conservation program. If we can reach out to different organisations and people to explain the significance of conservation, we can get more people who will invest in conservation, and more people will start to be aware about the industry. Conservation is everybody business.”

Sibusiso Mnisi

The sky is the limit for our students!

“There were several speakers at this conference that reminded me again and again of the immense opportunities and possibilities currently unfolding for the next generation of conservation students in Africa. Old school ideas and stereotypes have made way for a new way of thinking and branding the traditional “conservation” model.  An outstanding talk was given by Beks Ndlovu, who founded African Bushcamps. His life story is one that our GWF Conservation class needs to hear. After spending many years as a highly accomplished safari guide in Zimbabwe & Botswana, Beks opened his first safari bushcamp which has since grown to 8 in total and has established a foundation to support communities in those areas. His story is an example of the web of opportunities that are possible in the safari guiding industry and that with passion, hard work and dedication, the sky is the limit!”

Kathleen Hay

We don’t protect what we don’t love

“A resounding theme that came out of the conference for me was this idea that “we don’t protect what we don’t love”. We need to grow in all people a deep understanding of, and love for, Africa’s wild spaces and wildlife. And the only way to really do that, especially for those communities who are geographically closest to those wild spaces, is to ensure that they have healthy livelihoods. When someone has no food to feed their family or no clean water, protecting an endangered species just cannot be at the top of their priority list. But when we can create sustainable and constructive industry that is integrally linked in increasing the health and livelihood of rural communities, then we will have a winning formula for conservation. Dr Ewan Macdonald summarised it so perfectly: “Those people who live alongside the wildlife are those who will ultimately deliver the conservation of those wildlife.”

Gemma Thompson

ALU – A Pioneer in education in Africa

“In an ever-changing world, narrow academic theory quickly loses relevance.” (ALU)

“From the first hour of the Business of Conservation Conference conference, it was clear that this was different to all other conservation conferences and that the African Leadership University is an institution forging new ground in the way that conservation is being taught and understood.  Fred Swaniker is the founder and CEO of the ALU and is “on a mission to bring better leaders to Africa”. The teaching approach at ALU is breaking new ground. It has moved past academic theory and focuses on critical thinking, entrepreneurship, problem solving within a pan African and Global context.

I noticed such a parallel to GWF with our shared vision of creating access and innovative learning approaches. It is so exciting to see the future avenues of learning (such as ALU) that are possible for our students in the future.”

Kathleen Hay

Inclusivity of youth is Key

“Hitachi Kariuki is creator of the short film “Symbiosis”. This film was inspired by his attendance of an ivory burning ceremony in Kenya in 2016. One might think that it was the symbolic act of burning the ivory that got his attention. It wasn’t. What he noticed was that there were no young Kenyan people at this remarkable event. He looked around and saw a lot of the same faces one sees in the conservation industry. There was an air of exclusivity for the elite and “important”.  He urged the Business of Conservation Conference delegates to find ways to include the youth in these important ceremonies, decision-making processes, and narratives. He asked those with years of experience and weight in the conservation industry to help the youth understand the value of natural resources and show them that it is something they can benefit from and engage on with serious interest. He noted that it’s not just about including them, but really involving them in leadership. This really struck a chord for me and again hit home the importance of what we’re doing with our Travel & Tourism Academy… not just educating young people in this field but growing up vital participants and leaders in the economy of wildlife”

Gemma Thompson

No longer islands…

“If there was one dominant message that stood out over the course of the Business of Conservation Conference it was that conservation, business and people cannot operate as islands. A lot has been done bringing together different sectors and role players in the management of natural areas, but we were reminded that a lot still has to be done. The future sustainability of our natural areas and biodiversity is only possible through the intricate web that brings together business, government, tourism, conservation entrepreneurship and community integration into conservation management.

It was so interesting listening to Juliet Kabera, the Director General of the Ministry of the Environment on Rwanda’s approach to prioritizing the health of their natural environment, preservation of their wildlife and implementing public-private partnerships for park management and tourism development. The Travel & Tourism economy of Rwanda grew by 13.8% last year – one of the fastest rates in the world, and now welcomes 1 million tourists a year. The gorilla population has also increased by 25% in the last 8 years. An inspiring success story!”

Kathleen Hay

To get in touch with Kathleen Hay, our Travel & Tourism Academy program manager, click here.

To learn more about the Business of Conservation Conference, click here.

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