Economic development saves communities, which in turn saves land and wildlife.
As paradoxical as it sounds, economic development is absolutely critical to Africa’s conservation future. By setting up economic enterprises, incentivizing conservation, and investing in landscapes across the continent, AWF creates new opportunities for Africans to both improve their lives and embrace conservation. These ventures allow people to earn additional income, learn new job skills, get sustainability training, generate steady revenue for their communities, and be an important part of conservation efforts.
For much of Africa, the opportunities to achieve prosperity—such as access to quality education and to well-paying jobs with advancement potential—are still hard to come by. But, what Africa lacks in opportunities, it makes up for with its rich natural resources, incredible biodiversity, and hard-working people.
The greatest challenge is making the world, including all of Africa, recognize the vast economic opportunities that the continent has to offer if we leverage conservation. Whether it is conservation lodges that attract tourists, high-quality coffee farms in Kenya whose products could link to the world market, sustainably produced Hass avocados to meet the year-round global demand, or sustainably managed livestock operations that can link Africans to neighboring communities, Africa is rich in possibilities.
Enterprises are organized by AWF in exchange for a commitment from communities to help save the land and wildlife. Communities and brokers put up money toward an enterprise, such as a high-end eco-lodge, and AWF ensures that both parties contribute in their own way toward the lodge’s success. Communities, for example, own the land and the lodge and often get a percentage of lodge revenues, while experienced private operators are responsible for running the lodge. Operators also pay communities for leasing the land as well as employ locals. AWF is involved in various other successful conservation enterprises ranging from cultural centers and trails to beekeeping projects to women’s handicraft associations and more.
Agriculture is how most rural Africans earn their living. How they choose to use the land, what crops they use, how much they stock, and what technologies they use influences which land is used for agriculture and which land is being set aside for conservation. AWF provides training to stop farmers from overusing the fields as well as offering better seeds and equipment to help them adopt sustainable practices.
In markets like Northern Kenya, pastoralist communities depend on livestock for their livelihoods. When droughts or other catastrophic events happen, their large herds are depleted—impacting the environment and their economy.
AWF’s African Wildlife Capital has invested in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where pastoralists can sell their livestock through established distribution channels. As a result, pastoralists receive training in sound grazing management and a steady income flow.
AWF is helping farmers find sustainable ways to make a living by making it easier for them to get their goods to market. Through efforts like the Congo Shipping Project, which provides a means for people to ship their products to urban markets, AWF is helping support local businesses and individual sellers.
Owned and operated by AWF, African Wildlife Capital (AWC) offers financing to selected small- and medium-sized conservation enterprises that have the potential to generate economic benefits for the local community and protect habitat and wildlife.
Already, AWC’s investment in the Rungwe Avocado Company in southern Tanzania is paying off. This investment has helped the company sell avocados year-round, engage 2,000 community members with a goal of employing 5,000, and support Tanzania’s high level of wildlife and biodiversity.
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