Wild Philanthropy

An engineer called Kit Miyamoto

By | Thursday, 31st October, 2019

Just a very quick story about a trip that illustrates perfectly the effectiveness of travel as catalyst and support for long-term sustainable development, and in particular the pipeline – Journeys by Design, Wild Expeditions, Wild Philanthropy – that made it happen.

Earlier last year, Kit Miyamoto contacted JbD about travelling to Ethiopia, and Chris Tinkler duly designed a trip that used Wild Expeditions. For those of you who don’t know us, Wild Expeditions was set up to provide people with the means to travel Ethiopia responsibly. Part-owned by Ethiopian nationals, we use helicopter, aircraft and our own frontier mobile tented camps as a means of designing safaris unavailable through standard travel channels.

Kit’s itinerary took him to the Omo Valley, where he was guided by Lale Biwa, Kara elder, one of Wild Expedition’s owners, and our chief guide to the south. Kit stayed at Lale’s Camp, and was hosted by both the Kara and the Mursi. As well as enjoying everything the Omo has to offer by way of adventure, culture and geography, he was conscious of the challenges faced by the people of the Omo, especially the dam-induced failure of the Omo River’s floods, and the knock-on effect it has had food security and, therefore, the collective community’s many ways of life.

As readers of this blog will know, Wild Philanthropy has been raising money to fund the Kara Community Farm project, which seeks to install a pump and so provide a constant supply of water, and allow the Kara to grow crops for themselves and to sell to Lale’s Camp. An engineer, Kit was especially drawn to the project, which at the time was in further need of financial support and the kind of technical ability that Kit – and his colleagues back home – just so happen to possess in abundance.

Kit is Global CEO of Miyamoto International, a global structural engineering and disaster-risk reduction firm providing resiliency expertise that sustains industries and safeguards communities around the world. Alongside this Kit runs Miyamoto Relief, a non-profit that applies engineering expertise to sustain life in at-risk communities around the world, so you know where this story’s going. Inspired by his trip, Kit set up his own fundraising scheme on his return, part of which included inviting Lale and myself to a conference in Las Vegas. Trumping being the first Kara to visit the UK (earlier this year), Lale follows it up with his first ever visit the US, addresses the conference, raises thousands of dollars, and inspires a group of engineers to volunteer to travel to the Omo (January 2020) to complete the project. An extraordinary chain of events.

The lessons of the story hardly need spelling out. Wild Philanthropy was set up to provide multiple ways to invest in Africa’s at-risk ecosystems. It uses Journeys by Design’s significant heft, experience, and creativity to introduce travellers to the meaning of sustainable travel, and in particular to the conservation enterprises that it supports. In using us, it is sure of both the delivery of an extraordinary safari and the fact that a great deal of the money stays in Ethiopia.

That’s the model. However, as the above more than amply shows, it’s a model that adapts to the creativity of philanthropic individuals. There is no way we could have foreseen the Kara Community Farm being potentially completed by the efforts of an engineer called Kit Miyamoto – or that those self-same efforts would end up with Lale Biwa leading the cause in the halls and streets of America. That’s all down to Kit, who has effectively written this story, and to whom we are all extremely grateful.

If you have any questions about either travelling to Ethiopia or supporting the Omo Valley and other at-risk ecosystems, please do get in touch.