Beyond Tourism: Investing in local communities to protect Africa's wild spaces
For ten years, Dixon Parmuya has guided tourists on bush walks around Amboseliparkland in Southern Kenya. But since COVID-19 swept through Kenya in mid-March, the country’s tourism industry has dwindled, leaving many locals without jobs and animals without protection.
The coronavirus pandemic is creating what experts are calling a brewing conservation crisis in Kenya, a rustic home to a number of Africa’s most iconic animals. Most of Kenya’s programs to safeguard wildlife are funded directly by tourist dollars and with visitor numbers down, money for conservation is evaporation, say experts. There also are fears that poaching will rise, leaving wildlife protection hanging within the balance.
"If there's no tourism, there's no conservation," says Parmuya.
But the pandemic is encouraging countries to alter that.
Tourism will be fickle,” says Doreen Robinson, Chief of Wildlife at the global organization Environment Programme (UNEP). “We need to be more creative to expand revenue streams that may directly support local communities and protect natural assets.
In Africa, UNEP is functioning closely with governments and partners to encourage wildlife-based economies– where local communities are central to protecting the wildlife areas they inhabit, for mutual good thing about both. This includes going beyond tourism to draw in other forms of green investment in wildlife areas, like using natural resources to supply trade goods in an exceedingly sustainable way.
We have to make sure that money gets reinvested into locally protected areas, and benefits are shared with the communities protecting biodiversity and wildlife, because these communities are creating the conditions for long-term, sustainable conservation in Kenya,” says Robinson
That is something Purity Amplest agrees with. She is a component of a team of all-female rangers with the International Fund for Animal Welfare that's working to lift awareness about the importance of wildlife to Kenya’s economy and its identity.
As a ranger, I’m creating that conducive environment between the wild animals and my community. I come from that community, so that they understand me well after I tell them the importance of wildlife,” she says.