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From small seeds: The power of community-led conservation for biodiversity

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

The first week of #Cop26 included the historic commitment from 17 private and government funders of $1.7billion to support the critical work of indigenous peoples in combatting deforestation and preserving the biodiversity of forests.

We welcome this crucial commitment as we believe the people on the ground who live in the communities affected by deforestation and biodiversity loss are best placed to offer sustainable solutions.

As part of our international work, SDG Changemakers support one of Kenya's leading guardians of the forest and the wetlands, vital for the future of people and the planet.

Who are the Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group?

Maurice and his wife, Salomé.

Maurice Wanjala founded the Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group (KCWCG) thirty years ago. The group protects Kenya's smallest national park, home to three iconic and endangered wildlife species.

Maurice and his team of professionals and community volunteers have been running a tree nursery planting native trees for the past decade.

Maurice seeks to translate his lifelong leadership in community-led conservation in western Kenya into a sustainable future for the region's communities, wildlife, and ecosystem.

In 2020, Maurice was named one of Disney's Conservation Heroes.

How did the partnership with SDG Changemakers start?

One of Kipsaina's tree nursery employees, hard at work.

We were introduced to KCWCG by Sam Forsyth. Sam had met Maurice while he was working as a BBC Wildlife cameraman 25 years ago.

Sam is Chair of the UK charity KEEP - Kipsaina Education and Environment Partnership, which raises funds for Kenyan education and conservation projects, including KCWCG. As a teacher, he also connects young people in the UK and Kenya on conservation and environmental challenges.

What started as a conversation about fundraising for a project connecting schools in North England and Western Kenya quickly became a much more extensive collaboration. We pinpointed the solid and coherent vision that the team had, which rolled out from their ambitious plan for the future. The project includes increasing tree production and planting capacity, developing whole new sustainable farming options for the local community, and training in sustainable building techniques.

How does SDG Changemakers support Maurice Wanjala and KCWCG?

While Kenya has committed to reversing the dramatic deforestation and pollution of water as a critical priority for the country, Maurice and his team faced a key challenge - how could they fund a rapid increase in production from 200,000 to 2.5 million trees per year?

The solution was to support Maurice and his team with a sustainable development roadmap focusing on people, planet and cash flow, accompanied by a coherent pitch for funders, which would enable organisational growth and implementation of their long-term plan.

"Before [SDG Changemaker's] support, we had the ideas, but we had no idea how to make them a reality. Now we have a plan, and critically the confidence to pitch that vision to partners and funders". Maurice Wanjala

Using our network to partner for impact

Part of our business model is to partner for impact. Consequently, we have called on our Associates Network and existing clients to collaborate on this project and work together.

For instance,

  • We have commissioned Type and Face to design KCWCG's first-ever website. The website will showcase the work of KCWCG over the last three decades.

  • We have connected AfriReuse Pads, one of our clients working to reduce period poverty and combat violence against women in western Kenya, with Maurice to discuss their experience transitioning to a social enterprise model supporting a charitable organisation with Maurice and the team.

The core outcome of this collaboration has been to support KCWCG in its quest to become a new planting partner for the search engine/ social enterprise Ecosia. Ecosia generates income to plant trees globally from its search engine.

The team can now expand their tree planting capacity and reforest a second forest block in the government's 'Adopt a Forest scheme'.

Beyond enabling KCWCG to continue their climate action activity, the partnership with Ecosia also allows the group to pursue their other goals of creating meaningful work and providing skills and resources to the community, which aligns with broader Sustainable Development Goals. A factor that is especially important in rural Kenya, where work opportunities are limited.

KCWCG is now well on the way to creating opportunities for people while protecting the planet. Their experience is also a great illustration to other local communities around the globe, how this model can scale. We look forward to supporting them in their next stage of growth.

To learn more about what SDG Changemakers do and how we support organisations like yours, get in touch.

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