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ARTICLES

Community Empowerment Through Conservation

The first step towards successful conservation initiatives is recognising that participation of local communities is essential. Participation goes hand-in-hand with empowerment, a reaction we are noticing through global conservation efforts.

Globally we are in a situation where we are striving to protect the Earth’s extraordinary biodiversity from extinction. With CO2 destabilising the planet at an astonishing rate, and anthropogenic factors devastating vital habitats, worldwide conservation efforts have never been more critical. However, if we are to succeed and make a difference, there must be greater inclusion and engagement of local communities. From the depths of the Amazon rainforest, to Namibia’s arid landscapes, communities inhabit some of the world’s most remote corners, and depend on it for their survival.

Papua New Guinea Huli Tribe

“Indigenous communities are stewards of an estimated 65% of the earth’s land, hosting 80% of all biodiversity.”

Condé Nast Traveller

It is for these reasons and more, that our natural world needs ongoing protection. If we are to see increased community involvement, we must begin with increasing global education around the devastating impacts of climate change and over-tourism. It is important that people learn to co-exist in harmony with their natural environment, so as not to affect their own cultural heritage.

From active involvement comes community empowerment, which may be in the form of employment, role establishment, family support, or livelihood improvement. As a company with conservation and sustainability at the heart of everything we do, Pelorus believes the creation of roles and networks for local people to encourage empowerment of their natural world is fundamental.

There are many initiatives doing great work in bridging the gap between women and vital conservation, to resolve the issue of women being marginalised and giving them an opportunity for empowerment within their communities. Projects are empowering the women who participate, by giving them access to education which means their invaluable skills and knowledge play a crucial role in discussions and decision-making, allowing women to gain control within their communities and enrich the relationship between protected areas and local communities.

For real-world examples highlighting the empowerment of local communities through conservation, partners of the Pelorus Foundation are delivering change and making a real difference in the destinations they are positioned.

SEAS4LIFE IN KENYA

From streams to oceans, and everything in between, the maintenance of our planet’s water ecosystems is crucial. Covering more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, water is the heart of our planet of which all life depends on. Not only does it produce oxygen and a source of food, the ocean regulates our climate and offers a thriving ecosystem for marine species. Therefore, our global waterways must remain clean, healthy and free of plastics and pollutants. A healthy ocean literally equals a healthy planet.

indian island ocean turquoise whale breaching ocean alaska
river valley aerial georgia Mangrove Roots Above and Below Water

Taking direct action in the East Africa region is the Seas4Life Trust. With a strong belief that we must rebuild our most vulnerable ecosystems and protect them for future generations, the organisation raises awareness and funding which consequently benefits the neighbouring communities.

The marine conservation initiatives which Seas4Life Trust pioneers would not materialise without the participation of local communities. Not only do these communities live on the coast, but they wholly depend upon these waters to sustain their daily lives. Kenya’s coastline features economic activities and hosts an extraordinary network of interdependent marine ecosystems which act as vital habitats. Healthy, functioning ecosystems strengthen the provision of sustainable services which are critical for the well-being of local communities. Furthermore, traditional and cultural ties to the natural world means these people are affected in more ways than one from ocean deterioration, and therefore their involvement is key.

Kenya boat experience

Currently Seas4Life Trust is focusing on a project in the Msambweni seascape, a hidden jewel of patch reefs, expansive seagrass beds, deltas and mangroves. An array of incredible marine species including sea turtles, whale sharks, migrating humpback whales and the threatened dugong call this seascape their home. There is huge potential for a healthy Msambweni ecosystem to provide the community with access to economic and social benefits which, in turn, could drive an era of sustainable development, growth and productivity. For the community to realise this potential, Seas4Life Trust invites every local, regardless of age or profession, to appreciate the surrounding marine ecosystem and wildlife through research, education, skills development, conservation, and adventure. This inclusive approach to coastal protection places responsibility into the hands of the locals, encouraging a unanimous sense of empowerment as they become custodians of their ocean resources.

Alongside local ‘Green Teams’ and beach clean ups led by school children, these community-focused Seas4Life projects are leading by example.

The Frontier Collective in Africa

Illegal wildlife crime around the world is a prevalent issue, one of which unfortunately continues to this day. Specifically in Africa, over the last few decades poaching has become one of the predominant drivers of species extinction and now, around 1,000,000 species are threatened.

The Frontier Collective realises that people on the ground are often more efficient than technological solutions in most situations. To help in the fight against wildlife crime and protect wild spaces, the IUCN recommends one field ranger per thousand hectares. As the African continent is vast and its species abundant, the role of a field ranger is crucial and we need many individuals to actively make a difference.

kenya field ranger rhino

From southern countries such as Namibia and South Africa, to Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Frontier team is transitioning their expert knowledge and diverse skillset on to locals to train them to become field rangers. Actions such as changing camera trap SD cards, patrolling and enforcing the law are just a few examples of tasks a field ranger must undertake.

Becoming a field ranger however is no simple feat. Each individual applicant from the local community will face a number of interview stages where they are tested on their mindset, aptitude and physical performance. Induction training and skills development will follow, before they report for duty in the field. Once selected, the Frontier team will visit the local villages, meet their families, and come to understand each individual on a personal level. Through experiencing their background and discovering their weaknesses, the team is able to focus on inspiring each to strive towards success in their future career as field rangers. They ensure that the locals understand their ultimate goal should be to progress to a regional ranger or warden with bigger ambitions. This long term vision significantly aids community empowerment within the conservation space.

Corocora Wildlife Camp birds flying

To learn more about the inspiring partners of the Pelorus Foundation, please follow the link below.

Pelorus Foundation Partners

To understand that we, as humans, are part of a greater system is crucial. By imparting this understanding through conservation education at a global scale, communities across the globe will become empowered to look after their natural world. Thus, by living in balance with nature, we will be doing our bit to help protect our magnificent planet, its ecosystems, and wild species.

Main image courtesy of Ol Malo