Sustainable conservation is inextricably linked to the communities living among wildlife and protected lands. Without community-supported initiatives, and a focus on the future, lasting conservation legacies are not possible.
For this reason, the Great Plains Foundation has been investing for a decade in the next generation of conservationists through conservation education and the Great Plains’ Student Conservation Camps. This targeted community project operates in Northern Botswana and Kenya’s Masai Mara and ol Donyo / Amboseli region; connecting each year with hundreds of local youth at a pivotal time in their lives. Through thoughtful engagement, the Student Conservation Camps work to instil an appreciation of the landscape, its ecology, and the importance of stewarding the land for future generations. The Student Conservation Camps build a strong case for conservation at a community level while encouraging and developing the next generation of conservation leaders.
The Great Plains Student Conservation Camps feature week-long programs incorporating (1) classroom instruction, (2) field studies, and (3) mentorship. Students receive daily thematic lessons, taught on-site by educational facilitators. Classroom lessons are supplemented by daily field studies where students observe and engage with their ecosystems, learning from conservation professionals and top safari guides. Creating opportunities for the students to informally engage with and learn from conservation professionals is the third component of the project model. Through informal social activities, like sporting matches and games, the students develop conservation mentors and positive examples of local professionals working to protect their fragile ecosystems.
A central element to the Student Conservation Camp’s successful program-model is leveraging the resources of the Great Plains commercial safari camps. The Student Conservation Camps draw upon both the equipment (vehicles, accommodation, etc) and staff resources of Great Plains Conservation to execute the weeklong program. Staff safari guides play an especially large role donating their knowledge, experience, and time; becoming role models for the students.
The Great Plains Foundation believes the more we can instill a sense of wonder and appreciation for the land, the brighter the future for Africa’s wild places.