In many of our landscapes, it’s not unusual to come across an individual dressed in full traditional garb—with a cell phone clipped to his belt. On the one hand, this image is startlingly incongruous. On the other, it’s the embodiment of how this continent works: embracing its cultural history while also welcoming future innovations.
Besides Lupani Primary School and Machenje Fishing Lodge, a number of other key AWF projects—in this area that includes Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—are bringing benefits to wildlife and people in the Kazungula landscape.
To hear Craig Sholley tell it, AWF never intended to build schools. Supporting capacity building and opportunities for conservation education, sure. But physically building a school?
To some African communities, the presence of wildlife is perceived as a threat to their livelihoods. Elephants are crop eating, water tank tipping nuisances. Lions are cattle attacking predators. Routine chores involve the added danger of stumbling upon a hippo or crocodile at the riverbank.
To others, where there is wildlife, they see opportunity. For many African nations, tourism is one of the fastest-growing economic sectors. In fact, Tanzania’s earnings topped 1.88 billion US Dollars in 2013, superseding gold as their number one foreign exchange earner.
Two contrasting scenes stand out in my mind when I remember my past as a young boy herding my father’s cattle in the former wildlands of Domboshava, Zimbabwe. Mountains covered with forest full of diverse, juicy wild fruits—this was the common scenery in my early days as a herd boy, unforgettable, and one I cherished and so dearly loved. I remember the scenery changing, my beloved forests and flowing rivers were slowly replaced by bare mountains, lethargic rivers and leafless remnants of bushy trees still standing.