In an industry fraught with NGO’s that often fall into the trap of competing for funding and limelight, is a new conservation organisation really what the continent needs?
Consider the possibility that while attentions are focused on Africa’s national parks and securing these important biodiversity reserves (and rightly so, with an upsurge of climate-related disasters, heightened poverty and a growing disconnect between Governments and the people they are meant to serve as a backdrop to this tale) another crisis is unfolding in parallel… the matter of protected areas that fall outside of national parks falling to neglect and ruin.
This is in fact a very sad yet very true story and indeed, the reason that yes, another conservation NGO has entered the stage with the explicit purpose of addressing the void in focus on these key conservation areas outside of national parks.
AND WE’RE OFF…
Conserve Global (Conserve) got out of the starting blocks in April 2020, amidst the chaos that the COVID-19 pandemic flung at the world. But they say one should never let a good crisis go to waste or in this case, get in the way!
So, a three-strong team of conservation die-hards took up the gauntlet and armed with determination and a formidable collective track record, set off to find ways to transform Africa’s impending conservation crisis into opportunity. Goodness knows, the continent is ripe for opportunity! This starts with the realisation that development and conservation are not mutually exclusive.
THE PLAYING FIELD
Africa’s conservation estate is vast if you look at just the numbers (perhaps not vast enough if you look at the green patches on a map!). National parks amount to about 850 000 sq km or 210 000 000 acres. But then if we add in the concession and community areas which surround the national parks, these vital landscapes rack up to twice that much again – an astounding 1 700 000 square kilometres or 420 000 000 acres.
That’s the scope of the playing field at stake here… a very critical one if one thinks about the fact that they are needed for landscape connectivity, as reservoirs of biodiversity, as vaults for ecosystem goods and services – the livelihoods and prosperity of Africa’s people depend on them – as buffers for climate mitigation and possibly most topically, as untapped opportunities to bring financial upliftment and development through the establishment of diversified nature economies. Problem is, with the rate of poverty growth (Africa’s population is set to double in the next 25 years) and wanton habitat destruction, there are probably only 5 years left to secure these landscapes before they are lost forever. Conserve is determined to halt this demise and turn it around.
SO NOW WHAT?
If the legacy of fragmented efforts and competing agendas has taught us anything it’s that collaboration is the best way forward. Conserve’s modus operandi is to support African governments and to work with rural communities as well as other like-minded NGOs, to secure and expand conservation landscapes, taking on the direct management responsibility of these critical areas for the benefit of people and wildlife.
We are embracing people and organisations with ideas that challenge conventional conservation thinking and outdated approaches to community inclusion; we are actively inviting new perspectives, innovative ideas and creative solutions, that – if directed to the right projects at the right time – can provide strong impetus to efforts that help protect and restore wilderness areas at risk of degradation, while simultaneously uplifting and empowering the indigenous communities living within and alongside them.
WHAT’S OUR END GAME HERE?
Conserve has set the rather ambitious target of protecting 25 million acres by 2030 and we aim to do this using a financial model that also bucks tradition and that does not rely on a single funding source, but rather employs a blended finance approach that taps into a diversity of revenue streams.
For example, forward-thinking carbon solutions will allow communities in remote areas to monetise their natural assets. Ultimately, the plan is to serve Africa, her people and her wildlife by mobilising innovative funding, optimising economic benefits, involving rural communities in value chains and securing intact ecosystems for the benefit of Africa’s people and wildlife.