Conservation Goals

Engaging communities in the conservation dialogue can take many forms but creating meaningful and memorable experiences around conservation is what leaves a lasting impact.

The Great Plains Foundation is using sports as a tool to bring the conservation conversation to the forefront with communities in the northern Okavango Delta. Titled, “Conservation Goals”, this innovative program leverages the resources of Great Plains Conservation and its partners to promote a positive, constructive, and action-oriented dialogue with local communities about conservation.

Background

Started in 2018, the Great Plains Foundation’s Conservation Goals brings together an all-star team seamlessly blending solid, impact-driven conservation with effective community engagement. Recognizing the collaborative nature of team-sports, Great Plains partnered with highly accomplished, retired professional soccer player and coach, Gordon Gilbert, to organize sporting competitions and training clinics throughout Botswana’s Okavango Delta; a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Conservation Goals builds upon a successful similar project in Kenya’s Amboseli Region that blends conservation and athletic competition titled the “Maasai Olympics”. Through its work with the Maasai Olympics, the Great Plains Foundation has seen the dramatic cultural shift toward conservation practices encouraged through athletic engagement combined with conservation education and messaging. Conservation Goals is using soccer (aka football) as the vehicle in Botswana to encourage community engagement in adopting a strong conservation ethic. Through the coordination and hosting of a series of soccer skills clinics and community tournaments, Conservation Goals has a clear goal in mind: generating dialogue and action around conservation issues in Botswana.

Goal

Conservation Goals is designed to use the intrinsic nature of group athletics to build positive community dialogue around conservation. Through consistent conservation messaging, participants are encouraged to adopt good conservation practices and implement them in their daily lives.

Key to the program is that a clear commitment is made by teams and players to take conservation messaging into the community. Working alongside Great Plains community liaisons, teams identify a conservation “problem” and “solution” to address as part of their participation in Conservation Goals. Examples include littering, predation of livestock, crop losses due to wildlife, sustainable community agriculture, and clean water. During the soccer clinics, the teams report on their projects and collaborate among themselves and with members of Great Plains Foundation toward a solution.

Each year, two awards are given as part of Conservation Goals: one to the team that has the best conservation project with the best outcomes and one to the most winning soccer team. In this way, both athletic achievements and conservation achievements are celebrated.

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