The traditional approach to creating awareness and making people partake in conservation is a direct plea for people to change their ways and to start caring for nature.

Tenikwa Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre creates awareness by informing people of the threats that is affecting Southern Africa’s Wild Cats and some other species, in hope that in time people will renew their perspectives and start to do something for conservation. The main purpose of Awareness is the changing of people’s behaviour over the long term.

Traditionally conservation Awareness methods used consequence to tell people why they had to change e.g. the threat of global warming; the extinction of species etc.

Although important and with proven success, with the times that are changing the direct approach to creating awareness is becoming less effective. Awareness’s true aim does not reach people of all backgrounds. For people living in impoverished communities it is hard to grasp and think about the plight of nature, when they are struggling to get even the most basic needs like food and clean water for themselves. So directly telling them to change their ways to save some specie they may not even have been aware of and does not impact their day to day priorities, are not the most effective way to make them make an inconvenient change.

Another big factor that is affecting the traditional methods of awareness of conservation, is that people do not want to wait for their efforts to be rewarded, they want to see an immediate recompense and effect of their actions.

We live in an era of instant gratification promoted by the rapid development in technology and increase in the use of social media. The youth want to see things happening now or sooner… otherwise they move on to get results elsewhere.

The traditional approach to getting buy-in from the younger generation has to be adapted and new strategies used to make a change and to inspire people of all generations and backgrounds to partake in conservation. Pitching conservation change at the lower and middle income community has always been difficult and yet these are the children and young adults who will drive our future in South Africa.

Tenikwa is involved in several community-conservation projects in the Crags that really shows a new way of thinking in terms of conservation and value to the community. Tenikwa uses the Tourism Industry as a resource to generate income through the Awareness programs they offer to guests to see the cats of Southern Africa, which is ploughed back into the conservation projects and the wildlife hospital.

The Kurland Village Recycling Swap Shop Initiative is a great project that encourages members of the community to collect recyclable items like cans, plastic etc. and swap them for non-perishable food-stuff, school stationary and second hand clothes. In this way they are cleaning up their village, the environment and also fulfilling their essential needs, but more importantly changing behaviour and getting something tangible in return.

Tenikwa also acts as a depot for the Pack for a Purpose Project. This project basically encourages travelling tourists to use available space in their luggage to provide supplies to communities in need right across the world. The items coming from the Pack for a Purpose Project are distributed to different community projects that Tenikwa is involved in, like the Recycling Swap Shop and the Come to Learn Creche.

Tenikwa has in fact, through the Pack for a Purpose Initiative, established a community to community link using conservation and tourism as a conduit.

Another innovative project that Tenikwa is involved in is the Kurland Village Gardening Club. This club consists of 35 residents of the Kurland Village in The Crags who share their knowledge and love of gardening in the community. Kurland Village is a disadvantaged community with an unemployment rate of over 60%.

One of their biggest challenges for the Kurland Village Gardening Club, is soil quality. To prepare the soils for spring, Tenikwa donated large loads of compost and introduced them to worm farming. A presentation by Mother Earth demonstrated an affordable and easy way to cultivate worms utilising Kitchen scraps and producing high quality kitchen scraps and producing high quality compost and vermicast, which can be used as an affordable form of fertiliser.

By introducing the members to environmentally friendly ways to garden, the community are rewarded with beautiful, flourishing gardens. The club members are also helping the environment by not releasing harmful chemicals into the ground and returning nutrients to the ground. Again changing behaviour with visible benefits.

The most significant thing about these projects are that they benefit the community and at the same time they are also playing an important role in conservation long term by reinforcing environmentally friendly practices in the community.

Through this win-win approach, Tenikwa has found a way of making conservation awareness deliver tangible results. This could be the start of a whole new era of conservation…

We would love to hear what your thoughts are on the topic