I’m heading back to Africa next week on what I expect to be a very exciting, inspiring and productive visit. Although I always enjoy an excuse to head back home to southern Africa, this trip is all about conservation, and addressing how the African Wildlife Foundation can more effectively respond to the many threats facing Africa’s wildlife and wild places.
Zambezi National Park, Zambia
Although we’ve worked closely with the AWF for the past decade, in 2011 Carolyn and I were thrilled to join AWF as Council Members. For me, what sets the AWF apart, is that among the many other worthy conservation organizations with whom we’ve worked, AWF is completely Africa-focused, engaging with local communities to achieve conservation goals. And that’s no mean task: Africa is the second largest, and second most populous continent, a combination that too often puts Africa’s people and its wildlife in direct competition. AWF’s projects seek to create income opportunities for communities through conservation; create positive alternatives to deforestation; work with communities to prevent human-wildlife conflicts; and, train rangers and scouts to help stop poaching.
Elephant viewing by river boat, Chobe River, Botswana
Our group of 60 AWF trustees, council members and AWF’s Africa-based staff will come together in the Kazungula Heartland, home to a large population of big cats and other predators, endangered rhinos, and the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. This 33,393 square mile area is home to icons like the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Chobe National Park and Hwange National Park, links Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and supports vital wildlife migration corridors as well as human communities. Over the course of 6 days we’ll be trying to harness the many ideas of our very international group – which includes former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, and former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa --and to think creatively: for example, could drones be an important tool against escalating elephant and rhino poaching?
Lupani Primary School, Sekute community, Zambia
Equally importantly, our meeting location will enable us to interact with local AWF researchers and staff during a full day excursion visiting two AWF project sites: Lupani School and Machenje Fishing Lodge. The Lupani Primary School, located in the Sekute community of Zambia, is a modern facility built by the AWF in 2011 as an incentive for the establishment of a community protected wildlife area. Enrollment has grown from 50 to 125 students, with an involved parent-teacher association, and adult literacy classes. In the Machenje Fishing Lodge, also in Zambia, the AWF is helping the community there to protect important wildlife corridors. Here the AWF worked with the Sekute Chiefdom to construct Machenje Fishing Lodge to generate revenue and jobs for the community, while providing protection for elephants.
I’m very proud of Bushtracks relationship with the AWF, but it can’t compare with the feeling I expect to have meeting with these communities in Zambia and seeing firsthand how we can address wildlife conservation while simultaneously improving people’s lives. In short, I can’t wait to get back to Africa.