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Classroom AfricaThe African Wildlife Foundation created a program in 2013 called Classroom Africa “to provide rural communities access to a quality primary school education” along with “a strong incentive to engage in conservation.” The main aim of Classroom Africa is “to foster the link between education and conservation, ensuring a stronger future for Africa’s children and its wildlife.” Operating in several African countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the program empowers underprivileged children by providing them with education and opens opportunities for them to pursue careers as conservationists. Wildlife education programs like Classroom Africa can uplift low-income children while also protecting the environment.

Primary Education in Developing Nations

Children in developing countries often lack access to primary education, especially in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa where Classroom Africa is based, more than 20% of children ages 6 to 11 are not receiving a classroom education, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. Extreme gender disparities in school attendance also exist — females are more unlikely to never receive an education in comparison to males.

Wildlife education programs like Classroom Africa provide educational opportunities to children in low-income areas and teach them about their local environment and sustainability. As a result, children are more likely to utilize and protect the natural resources around them, which can improve their quality of life in the long run. According to the World Bank, in 2018, sub-Saharan Africa held 66% of the world’s most extremely impoverished people. Wildlife conservation organizations can alleviate poverty by offering primary education opportunities that teach children practical skills and lessons about their local environment.

Greater Access to Opportunities

Wildlife education programs can set up low-income students for career opportunities later in life. With knowledge about wildlife conservation from a young age, children are more likely to grow up to pursue and succeed in careers as conservationists. In turn, these children serve their local communities and environments by improving sustainability and preserving natural resources. Children may also learn skills involving resource management and conservation, which have a multitude of social and economic benefits for low-income communities.

Additionally, wildlife education programs may provide teacher training programs, which create productive job opportunities for adults in the community. Wildlife education can alleviate poverty by creating job opportunities in developing countries and encouraging members of low-income communities to conserve and utilize valuable natural resources.

Quality of life is closely linked to environmental sustainability. Natural resources can yield an expansive range of socioeconomic benefits when people have the knowledge and power to conserve the environment. Wildlife education programs teach children from a young age how to use natural resources sustainably. One generation of educated conservationists can pave the way for future generations to reap the benefits of a sustainable environment.

Wildlife conservation can provide ample economic advantages that improve quality of life. For example, “safaris in Kenya generate close to $1 billion in annual revenue,” which would simply not be possible with a crumbling ecosystem and diminishing wildlife. A thriving ecotourism sector is able to create jobs for people in surrounding communities, providing an income that helps lift disadvantaged people out of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Wildlife education is particularly valuable in rural, low-income communities that are surrounded by nature but home to few people who have expertise in resource management and conservation. Children who partake in wildlife education programs can spread their knowledge to other community members, leading to a more sustainable community as a whole.

Classroom Africa shows that wildlife education benefits people in all stages of life. It teaches children valuable knowledge about resource conservation and sustainability and it opens career opportunities for young adults, especially in developing countries. Younger generations who partake in wildlife education programs can work alongside older ones to conserve their local environment and reap benefits while still prioritizing sustainability.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr


On May 18th, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Village Enterprise announced that it would be forming a coalition with the African Wildlife Foundation as part of its ‘graduation program’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The new partnership will focus on alleviating poverty in the DRC while simultaneously conserving the Bonobo population in the area.

Bonobos

Bonobos are a type of great ape that can only be found in the DRC and are the closest living biological relatives to the human species. They are known for their peaceful lifestyles and female-led societies; unfortunately, Bonobos are currently endangered and on the brink of extinction.

You may be wondering, what does alleviating poverty in the DRC have to do with the endangerment of Bonobos? Surprisingly, quite a bit. The reason Village Enterprise and the African Wildlife Foundation decided to cooperate on this issue is because the alleviation of poverty in the DRC may very well be a saving grace for the Bonobo population.

Threats and Risk

The primary threat to Bonobos’ survival is poaching. As of 2018, 90 percent of the people living in the DRC can only afford to eat one meal per day; as a result, many people turn to hunting wild animals for food. Even though it is technically illegal to hunt Bonobos under current DRC law, many are so desperate that they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep from starving to death.

Impoverished people have also taken to selling Bonobo meat in the marketplace. As they are increasingly rare, Bonobo meat is becoming increasingly more valuable, meaning people who are in a tough financial situation may find law-breaking and Bonobo extinction worth the risk if it means providing for their families.

Since there are so few Bonobos already — and they have a relatively slow reproduction rate of 4-5 years — the population is decreasing rapidly and will continue to do so if economic conditions in the DRC remain the same.

New Partnerships and New Hope

The new partnership hopes to get to the root of the issue by utilizing Village Enterprise’s expertise in entrepreneurship to train the African Wildlife Foundation how to successfully start businesses throughout the DRC. In a press release detailing the goals for the new alliance, Village Enterprise stated that it expects the African Wildlife Foundation to open 240 new businesses by the program’s end.

If this strategy works as planned, the increased employment opportunities — and subsequent economic stimulation — would mean that approximately 720 less households would live in extreme poverty (surviving on $1.90 or less per day). Alleviating poverty in the DRC could mean creating less of a need to hunt Bonobos to sell or feed one’s family.

Sixty-three percent of the DRC’s population currently lives below the poverty line, making it the poorest country in the entire world. The Congolese people are in desperate need of an intervention such as that done by the Village Enterprise and the African Wildlife Foundation. Though the preservation of Bonobos is undoubtedly important, this program will hopefully have a much broader effect: providing relief to a country in crisis.

– Maddi Roy
Photo: Flickr