The elephant in the (class)room
Midway through a discussion focusing on risk analysis someone jumps to their feet shouting “ELEPHANTS!” and within a matter of seconds the classroom is deserted.
The participants on Earthwatch’s Business Skills for World Heritage program can, for the next few minutes, be found lined up along Mpala Research Center’s electric fence watching the herd pass on the far side of the river.
Business Skills for World Heritage, Mpala Research Center, Kenya: program participants sat around fire-pit.
Distractions on the program are infrequent given the lack of phone and internet coverage, but when they do arrive are generally worth being distracted by. The elephants, wild dogs, hippos and antelope that do pass by are also a captivating reminder of why the Business Skills for World Heritage program came about. The initiative, a collaboration between Earthwatch, UNESCO, Shell, and the Shell Foundation seeks to help preserve some of the most beautiful and threatened places on Earth – natural World Heritage Sites.
The participants lined up along the fence are a mix of business planning experts from global energy company Shell, and senior managers of UNESCO World Heritage Sites from across Africa including Simien National Park (Ethiopia), Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya), W National Park of Niger, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Madagascar), and Lake Malawi National Park. They have come together at the Mpala Research Center in Laikipia, central Kenya to undergo a training and mentoring program focusing on business planning, which covers subjects from budgeting to marketing strategy to risk management.
Steven Kamerino, the Site Director for Lake Turkana National Park, highlights the benefits of the training: “To conserve a National Park it is important to understand biodiversity and ecology; but to effectively manage the park it is critical to know how to make the best of limited financial and human resources – and this is where knowledge of business planning is vital. It helps us move from where we are to where we want to be in the most efficient way possible”.
Simon Reid, who manages the program at Earthwatch, states “This cross-sectoral skills sharing program is unique and groundbreaking. It offers vast potential to improve the management of protected areas across the world, but will also be a key mechanism for business to develop positive relationships with the conservation world.”
The World Heritage Site managers are partnered with the Shell business leaders for the next 12 months they will work together to help improve the management of these spectacular protected areas – and to ensure that wildlife will continue to be welcome distraction for people for generations to come.