“If my children were dying from starvation, I would be first in line to poach, and if we’re honest, so would any of us.”
Colin Bell, co-founder and director of Natural Selection, stressed the importance of including communities in the tourism value chain at the SATSA Conference today. “Tourism simply doesn’t react to the realities of 2019,” he said.
Bell referred to violent reactions from the communities towards tourism industry stakeholders, such as the shooting of Kenyan Conservationist Kuki Gallman. He explained that 200 000 animals are poached every year in the Serengeti as a result of communities being excluded. In South Africa, in the Nduma Game Reserves, the communities are growing miellies in the heart of the game reserve.
These tragedies are happening because as a tourism industry we fail to bring communities into the value chain in scale and with heart. “We have to change and at speed,” he urged.
The Tourism Conservation Fund was created to achieve inclusive change. The organisation seeks to protect and promote conservation areas by investing in adjacent communities and create sustainable businesses.
Paul Zille, CEO of the Tourism Conservation Fund, explained that unfortunately, the poor communities living in the vicinity of conservation areas have currently every incentive to become part of the poaching chain as they see it as the only way to benefit from wildlife.
“We need to build economic linkages between wildlife tourism and the communities,” he urged. “By creating impact and uplifting communities, we can protect wildlife. Currently, we focus our attention on protecting wildlife and ignore communities. If we continue to do this, we’ll fail.”
Bell referred to Rwanda as the perfect example. In 1994, Mountain Gorillas were on the brink of extinction in the country. Today, there are almost too many mountain gorillas. Why? Because each person in Rwanda sees gorillas as their asset.
Said Bell: “It can be done but it’s a collaborative effort. Make the communities part of your commitment.”