The Connection Between Community, Conservation and Tourism
Last week a family of elephants could be seen walking by the runway at Mfuwe International Airport. With the sun setting pink behind them, their graceful silhouettes continued to capture the eye as they made their way into the denser bush.
In light of Covid-19, it is a reminder of how much nature has reclaimed our urban spaces. While this has caused delight across the world at large, for us in rural Zambia, living side by side with wildlife is a long established way of life. But even in South Luangwa, the wildlife has noticed the lack of tourism.
While the economic impact and the lessening of a human presence in the park, has sadly seen an increase in poaching, it has also reminded us of how important our relationship with the natural world is.
Thanks to the efforts of Kafunta and our friends at Meerbusch Rotary Club, we have secured some funds to help create a Visitor Centre at Project Luangwa. While our primary focus over the past few months has been in supporting vulnerable communities through this difficult time, we see the Visitor Centre as an important milestone in securing the future of our projects in the valley. It all comes down to the critical interdependency of:
Community – Conservation – Tourism
Communities are ultimately at the forefront of the conservation effort, providing intelligence and resources to protect our natural world, but living in such close contact with wildlife offers vast challenges, both physically and economically. Without their efforts, there is zero chance of protecting vulnerable species and habitat, but for them to be bought into the struggle, they must see the real benefits that conservation brings.
This is where tourism comes in. By visiting the valley and staying in our member lodges, part of your accommodation costs go directly to supporting Project Luangwa. This in turn benefits the community through education, sponsorship, gender support and empowerment, and conserving wildlife and habitats. By purchasing something from our shop, or buying a pack of Ufulu pads, you are also supporting local artisans, or offering girls and young women better sanitary hygiene, and a better chance at not missing out on school.
We are not alone in our task, and one of the unbelievably positive things about the valley is the incredible relationship each of the NGOs and other organisations share. Tourism, through direct funding from LCCF, or from its positive economic impact, allows each of us to continue making a real difference.
Ultimately when you visit the valley, you can feel good knowing your safari is not just creating wonderful memories for you, your family and your friends - it is also serving the community.
It is only through the symbiotic relationship of Community, Conservation and Tourism that real positive change can happen. Tourism directly benefits the community, which empowers them and reaffirms the need to protect our wildlife and eco-systems, which in turn is what keeps visitors coming back. Without this relationship, and without the support of our fabulous member lodges and donors, we could not carry out all of our vital work.