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How Can We Navigate Towards Holistic Conservation Practices? Leading conservation experts talk ground realities and how we can overcome the challenges.

By Amit Banka

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Conservation practices have dramatically transformed over the last few decades. What used to be about only saving a species and their habitats, conservation of today has a much wider focus and objective where the interventions are more holistic. Adoption of human-centric approaches, involvement of big corporations and their funding - the landscape of conservation has undergone a sea of change. Added to that, the Covid-19 crisis has opened our eyes to the need for renegotiating our relationship with nature.

Amidst this backdrop, we organized a webinar to discuss problems and solutions with leading experts in conservation across the globe. One important point of discussion was how the dialogue about conservation needed to integrate sustainable financial models that benefit people and nature in equal measure. This means ensuring that organizations, trusts, NGOs, etc. are self-sustained, without direct dependence on outside sources for funding.

On Conservation Challenges For Local Communities/Indigenous Populations

Dr Salamatu Jidda-Fada, a Conservation Scientist and Educator residing in the UK, who's currently involved in establishing a Coalition of Conservationists in Nigeria highlighted a huge gap in funding that hinders conservation efforts.

"What we are struggling with is the fact that the NGOs working across Africa have big fundings. (And) these big funds are actually (from) international entities. The local NGOs are really not recognized at all. The biggest NGO is giving money to NGOs that are resident in the countries. I don't know whether it is a trust issue," she said.

Salamatu stressed the importance of engaging local NGOs as much as possible for sustainable conservation.

On Finding Unconventional Solutions

Anuar Abdullah, the Founder of Ocean Quest Global, has been working in ocean conservation for over 40 years. In our conversation, he clearly outlined how "funding is not everything" and how we will need to find out-of-the-box solutions to drive interventions that we are passionate about.

"I've seen funding issues. When I finally founded Ocean Quest in 2010, we created a strict policy - not to go into this rat race of grant applications, etc anymore. Ocean Quest Global is a social enterprise. We do an education program. We sell books, publications," he said.

Anuar created an enterprise to support his conservation, without any government funding. It's a successful and unique conservation story that has huge resonance with people who are actively on the lookout for sustainable financial models.

On the other hand, Dr Ram Boojh, CEO Mobius Foundation and Advisor UNFP on a transboundary landscape initiative had a pertinent take on how certain conservation efforts have been successful largely due to government funding initiatives. In India, a huge reason for the success of the conservation movement Project Tiger was due to international funding.

On Education and Awareness Creation

Donna Goodman, a water and climate change education professional, who's done extensive work with UNICEF shed light on how funding has to take into account the livelihoods of those who are dedicating their life to the cause of nature.

"In terms of the funding, I believe it's important as we go forward to acknowledge that people need to make a living," she said.

Above all, we can't ignore how we need to bring education about nature to the fore. Donna, who believes in educating and building a generation of responsible citizens shared why the younger generation is our best hope. "My real point is that education is key. So they could be a doctor or a lawyer, garbage picker, but they will all have the consciousness of picking up after themselves because they've learned it," she said.

Towards a Sustainable Future

If the IPCC Climate Change report is any indication, the time to act is now, or never. My takeaway is that putting nature into focus for businesses, governments, educators and ordinary citizens is increasingly important. In fact, it's never been so urgent to nurture the next generation of nature professionals.

The ground realities of certain vulnerable geographies and ecosystems cannot be ignored. Remarkable people and organizations have overcome many challenges and their work has the potential to inspire millions. It's now time for us to give top priority to nature for a sustainable future. In fact, let's go one step further and give top priority to the people of nature.

Amit Banka

Founder & CEO, WeNaturalists


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