“Where and how are conservation and social impact linked?” one may wonder. Social issues involve making decisions on the utilization, accessibility, and sustainability of the earth’s natural resources. This of course includes wildlife. Conservation efforts have always had benefits, which the wider community enjoys, and costs which are most felt by the communities closest to the protected areas.
It is this area in which organizations like PAMS Foundation—organization I served with for two and a half years—help to address some of the social issues surrounding conservation. PAMS Foundation is a 14-year-old international non-governmental organization whose mission is to protect wildlife and habitats through collaborative, supportive, and inclusive measures that benefit both nature and local communities.
What does PAMS do?
Today, PAMS is still at the forefront of various conservation activities (mainly centering around the protection of elephants) and promoting awareness of the direct and indirect value that conservation has on the planet and how it is linked to society’s social issues. PAMS engages and works very closely with communities and farmers in wildlife protected areas to create meaningful relationships that foster not only collaboration but also trust. Through these relationships, PAMS is able to enhance sustainable social living lifestyles that create a win-win situation for both the affected communities and the wildlife.
PAMS Wildlife Conservation
Did you know that statistics show that an elephant is killed every 15-20 minutes somewhere in Africa? That is how urgent the need for saving elephants is. To address this problem, PAMS works to mitigate illegal wildlife trade through its various projects by collaborating with different stakeholders such as wildlife government agencies, international law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, and local authorities in protected areas. PAMS also reaches out to the communities by directly addressing the social issues that arise due to the competition for land between the increasing population around the wildlife conservation areas and wildlife.
PAMS Collaborates with local Communities
They also collaborate with local communities by creating employment for over 200 locals as patrol guides. Many who were previously involved in poaching-related activities join PAMS in the efforts to arrest poachers, confiscate ivory, illegal timber, weapons, and dismantle snares and poisons set for the wildlife. In addition, PAMS develops educational programs in community schools to promote best practices and lifestyles that enhance living in harmony with nature and creating awareness of its value to the youth. All of these combined efforts have resulted to significant social impact in terms of jobs created, peace within the communities—since their crop fields and homesteads are now safe—various small sources of income, educational awareness within the guides and youth, and support to game rangers and their families.
My Time with PAMS
During my time with the PAMS Foundation in Arusha, Tanzania, I was very lucky to work with a great team during what was one of the most wonderful and fulfilling experiences of my life. I worked closely with an amazing team whose members were Krissie Clark (Executive Director), Wayne Lotter (Chairman/Director), and Steven Msabaha (Driver/Logistics Manager) at the headquarter offices in Arusha. We happened to be sharing our offices with a beautiful black cat—that was adopted as a stray kitten—called ‘Paka’. Paka often kept me company while everyone was out in the field. With integrity, teamwork, courage, creativity, and inclusivity as our core values, we aimed for nothing but the sky.
About the team
Wayne was the most hilarious person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Often he would crack jokes and imitate the calls of different animals during moments when everyone’s attention was consumed by their computers. This always helped break the seriousness of the work atmosphere. Krissie was very nice to all her employees, yet was able to remain focused on making sure that all our goals were achieved efficiently and effectively. Lastly there was Steven, the Logistics Manager, a very good example of ‘hard work pays.’ Steven has no idea about this, but he inspired me in many ways through his stories. He was very open with his life experiences, honest, and often cracked jokes too.
World ranger Congress 2012
And then the World Ranger Congress……It was indeed a great and memorable experience at PAMS which was the main organizer of the World Ranger Congress in 2012 attended by more than 250 rangers representing 40 countries. The congress, an event held in different locations every three years, allowed rangers to acquire and share new skills and knowledge besides creating partnerships. It was also a source of motivation for all participants since they have similar experiences of being at the frontline of conserving wildlife. The event had lots of entertainment too. Other great events at PAMS were the World Elephant Day and the World Rangers Day that were often celebrated with long walks within Arusha.
Whereas being part of conservation efforts was very fulfilling, there were risks that we had to live with every day. There was often tension in the air, for instance, uncertain of the funding for our planned projects. Another unpleasant experience was when one morning we found our offices had been broken into and ransacked. We were not sure what the bandits wanted, but it was evident that they were searching for some information as papers and files were scattered throughout the office. And of course, I will not forget to mention that engaging in conservation related activities is a risky business. A business that by default comes with many enemies—those that unlawfully benefited from wildlife trade like ivory. Sadly we lost Wayne in 2017, who was at the forefront in fighting to conserve wildlife.
For me, the journey and the efforts of social impact continue today, even while at SIVENTH, though from a different angle—by leveraging technology. I think we all have a role to play, in big ways or small ways, and together we can make a difference in the world around us. Are you involved in any socially impactful efforts? Let’s continue scanning our environments, there are lots of opportunities to make a difference. As Albert Einstein said, “Those who have the privilege to know, have the privilege to act”.
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