In the face of exponential population growth, the effects of climate change, and the pressures of fast growing nation state economies, how are we to preserve what are in effect some of the world’s last great wildernesses.
The answer lies in understanding wild Africa’s ecosystems not as the chief and inevitable victim of Africa’s economic growth, but rather as a competing resource, a natural asset. Such an asset is best understood not just in terms of the value of its attractions, but also in terms of how these great and complex systems help regulate our climate, provide for the quality of our soil and water, serve as natural waste eliminators, and protect us from so-called natural disturbances. Ecosystems generate wealth – for all.
Unfortunately, while small parts of these natural assets are publicly or privately protected, vast tracts are not, leaving them vulnerable to human habitat encroachment, poaching, overgrazing and deforestation. If things continue as they have, these ecosystems will become so impoverished as to require restocking – perhaps in as little as 10 years time. We are almost at the point of no return.
There is, however, still time, which is why we founded Wild Philanthropy. There are throughout wild Africa fantastic examples of the ecosystem flourishing as natural asset. Examples include Kenya’s Laikipia, Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe or Namibia’s the Skeleton Coast. The conservationist work done here and in other at-risk ecosystems is exemplary. It understands the inherent value of the ecosystem, the worth of the animals it holds, the importance of the local communities being among the chief beneficiaries of its conservation, and of traditional cultures being best positioned to take up the eco-challenge.
Ripe for sustainable tourism, these are exactly the kinds of at-risk African ecosystems that require the kind of financial stimulus that Wild Philanthropy, with your help, seeks to put in place. The money we invest is designed to support like-minded on-the-ground conservationists and local community initiatives (our Charitable partners) as well as sustainable eco-businesses (our Enterprise partners). We’re not the only charitable body that believes sustainable enterprise the answer to saving these ecosystems. However, I do believe Wild Philanthropy is a smaller, fitter, more targeted solution, its Conservation journey, Enterprise and Philanthropy arms all operated in-house, and as such better positioned to make a long-lasting difference in at-risk ecosystems, four of which we are ready to invest in today: they are the Omo Valley (Ethiopia), Northern Rangelands (Kenya), Enonkishu (Kenya) and the Ntakata (Tanzania). These make up our Core Ecosystem Projects.
As these and other projects get underway, so we will begin to realise the task of helping to eventually link some of these ecosystems together. It’s a long term ambition, but our vision for the first of these transfrontier, mixed land use wildernesses would stretch from the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia to Kenya’s Laikipia. Involving multiple partners at national, regional and local level, the proposed area will link up protected areas, conservancies and at-risk ecosystems, creating essential wildlife migration corridors. It’s an enormous task, but one we are determined to follow through on.
Please, join us. Time is of the absolute essence.
Will Jones, Wild Philanthropy’s Founder and CEO.