THE MISSING PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
The Conservation Lab is a platform for like minds to unite for a common cause: to help save the future of our planet. While past editions have seen thought leaders from conservation, travel, technology, behavioural sciences, philanthropy and even government converge, at the 2017 edition there was a noticeable absence from one particular demographic: community leaders, who play an incredibly important part in both the day-to-day and future planning of conservation efforts.
As journalist and founder of Safarious Anton Crone observed, it’s important that the people who are closest to the wilderness – who are vital links in managing conservation areas – are part of the conversation around conservation, if the resulting solutions are to succeed in reality. Comparing the scenario to a creative team operating without considering the views of strategic planners or the needs of their clients, his opinions were echoed by many others at the Lab.
“Conservation depends on the communities who live in or near the wilderness areas that we are trying to preserve. It is clear that we need many more community members at the un-conference, so that we can include them in the process, learn what the real challenges are and, that way, come up with real solutions”, Crone says.
In Africa, Kenya has led the charge by turning community land into wildlife conservancies; but these relationships and ‘ecosystems’ are anything but simple. For example: a 10-hectare concession might be owned by 50 different communities, with each one laying claim to a certain amount of land – each community has a spokesperson who communicates on their behalf, which means there could be up to 15 community spokespeople for every concession, who form part of a board that also includes lodge owners and government representatives, among others. Not an easy operation to manage, you can imagine.
Dickson Kaelo and Daniel Sopia, who work for the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association and Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association respectively, head up the organisations charged with managing all these stakeholders – they each have a pivotal role in ensuring conservation initiatives engage meaningfully with local communities in order to achieve long-term mutual benefits and effectiveness.
This year, as part of the our ongoing commitment to furthering conservation efforts across the continent and beyond, we’ll be hosting Dickson, Daniel and other community members at the Conservation Lab for the duration of the event. We can’t wait to hear their perspectives, as the missing piece of the puzzle slots into place.