WE CANNOT DO IT DIVIDED
Beks Ndlovu from African Bush Camps shares the key insights he gained at the Conservation Lab 2016.
In the lead up to the event, I must confess that there was so much else going on, including other shows and my personal travel schedule, but I knew at the back of my mind that this was no doubt one of the most important, because it spoke very close to my operating principles and is a subject that I think every travel company should be paying close attention to. When I knew there was an opportunity to speak and present, I immediately put together my presentation and ideas, which I was thankful were accepted for presentation.
Despite the fact that public speaking is not at the top of my most favourite pastimes, I felt important enough to put myself out. I have never done an “un-conference” type of event and so had no idea what to expect, but I could clearly see that it had been well thought through and most importantly, was based on participation and not being a spectator. Hence the actual experience was new and captivating and if anything, there were a number of debates I wished I had seen, but one could not do it all.
After two days of the un-conference, I was able to walk away with key ideas, some of which were merely confirmation of some of my opinions, but some of which were new:
- One size does not fit all. The success stories of Kenya may not be adapted by Botswana. Neither can Zambia’s be adapted to Zimbabwe’s. Each country is spectacularly different and requires a different approach and thinking.
- There is a clear need for the industry at large to be more coordinated in our efforts to tackle the conservation issues that plague not only Africa, but the world at large. Without cohesive and well-coordinated attitudes, we are in for a hiding and a great loss.
- Conservation awareness should not only be amongst industry people who largely already know the issues, but every single citizen of this world. It cannot be assumed that the average urban person is disinterested; for the most part, they simply do not know what is at stake.
- Government policy is the key to enabling better success for the private sector to win the fight on conservation. It is of utmost importance that government is on board and influenced to come up with strong policies that allow for the protection of wilderness areas and the wildlife within.
- There is no conservation without rural community, and there are no rural communities without conservation.
The aims and goals of my organisation are to challenge the industry and travellers to Africa to be more conscious in their thinking and ways of doing things, and how their choices impact their footprint on this planet. Tourism and conservation are not two different industries, but one wholesome practice that cannot do without the other. We are in a time of crisis with our wildlife and such times call for radical changes in our thinking and ways of doing things. Despite our best intentions thus far, in conserving our wildlife we are falling behind and there is no better time than now to start acting differently. However, we cannot do it divided.