ORYX Outlook – Community Conservation with Tusk Trust and WCS
In this ORYX Outlook series of blogs we are going to be looking at a few of the general strategies being employed by our partners Tusk Trust and WCS. This first blog is a look at how the projects we are working with employ a community-based conservation approach to help people as well as wildlife.
Bottom-up or top town?
Among the talks at the Paris climate conference last year there was much discussion about how the top-down approach in the previous climate talks had failed. The Paris talks suggested that using a bottom-up approach would be more inclusive and therefore more likely to be maintained by supporting countries.
Many conservation projects have been using this bottom-up approach for a long time. Generally labelled as community-based conservation, this approach seeks the involvement of local people in areas where conservation work is happening. Improving the lives of people, either by providing them with an alternative to destructive practices or through education and outreach, makes them part of the process. Either way, the fact that the areas with greatest biodiversity often occur in some of the least developed countries means that there are seldom resources to protect these areas without local involvement.
Helping people, helping wildlife
The simple fact is that in many places wildlife and habitats are being destroyed simply because local people have no other options. Helping these people helps the wildlife too. Increasing populations and expanding human settlements mean encroachment into areas that were once wild. Climate change is another factor, causing some agricultural areas to become less productive, even barren, meaning people move to new land not previously cultivated. This increasing pressure on human populations translates into increasing pressure on wildlife.
Community-based conservation, at the heart of many WCS and Tusk projects that ORYX have privileged access to, recognises this bottom up approach. Successful efforts cannot be made whilst communities have no other options available but to continue destructive practices.
There are many examples of the benefits of community conservation from across the locations that ORYX visit both with Tusk Trust and WCS.
One of the most important services community conservation can provide is education. In Kenya the Tusk Trust funded Lewa Wildlife Conservancy supports nine primary schools and two secondary schools which educate over 3,000 children. As well as helping to alleviate poverty as children get a better start in life education serves to teach children the value of the wildlife on their doorstep. This is nurturing a sense that wildlife can be an asset rather than a liability and communities are starting to recognise that sustainable utilisation of their wildlife and conservation can improve livelihoods and alleviate poverty.
In Botswana Tusk Trust also fund the Coaching for Conservation (C4C) initiative run by the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) which uses organized sport to engender self-respect and inspire a generation of ‘kids who care’. With the help of Tusk, C4C has also built a permanent Conservation Education Centre to provide a year-round programme for Ngamiland’s primary school students.
“Conservation is ultimately about people and we would be foolish to forget it” – Charlie Mayhew MBE, CEO of Tusk Trust
WCS also acknowledges that people are at the heart of any conservation effort. WCS communicates with governments and other agencies to ensure fairness and transparency for local people to ensure they are not treated badly at the expense of conservation work. For example the relocation of local people away from tiger reserves in India has in the past drawn criticism. WCS works with the relevant government agencies ensuring that the current set of well-funded voluntary resettlement packages for households within protected areas are rigorously followed to make sure they benefit those that have been relocated.
REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is a UN project designed to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests. In the past it has been criticised for being too large scale and not taking enough heed of indigenous people’s rights. In Papua New Guinea WCS are pioneering village based REDD projects which aim to use REDD funding at a finer scale to benefit local people and increase community participation.
The ideal end result of this community-based process is that local communities are both better off in terms of education and health whilst realising both the global and local value biodiversity and intact ecosystems has. Education and involvement play a key role in this approach as it requires communities to be engaged enough to protect important areas themselves. Whilst it can be a struggle both Tusk and WCS are working hard and implementing some incredible projects, putting people at the heart of the conservation effort and we at ORYX are proud to offer the opportunity for you to visit these too!
For the full range of projects that ORYX work with visit: www.oryxwildlifesafaris.com