Interest and commitment towards conservation grows among young Africans – AWF 

The African Wildlife Foundation Celebrates the Graduation of 31 Fellows from the 2023 AWF Charles R. Wall Leadership Program

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has announced that 31 fellows from the AWF Charles R. Wall Youth Leadership Program have graduated, amid growing interest towards conservation, among young Africans. 

The program, comprising two components the Charles R. Wall Young African Policy Fellows and the Charles R. Wall Conservation Leadership and Management Fellowship (CLMF), aims to cultivate communities of skilled and connected young African professionals poised to drive meaningful transformation in conservation across the continent.

Sixteen fellows from the inaugural cohort of the revamped CLMF, representing 12 African countries spanning West, Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa, were part of the graduation class of 2023. 

The Conservation Leadership and Management Fellowship emphasizes self-leadership, team leadership, and organizational leadership and brings together young African professionals from business, NGOs, the public sector, and community-based entities making impactful strides in environmental conservation. 

The programs are a clear indication of commitment by the AWF whose work to date has helped empower indigenous Africans to live in harmony with wildlife at a time when reports of human-wildlife conflict are on the increase.

The belief that indigenous Africans especially those close to the protected areas are able to conserve their own resources, has made these programs, grow in partnership with local organisations.

Meanwhile the Charles R. Wall Young African Policy Fellows Program is implemented in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

Fifteen young fellows will graduate from this engaging year-long program, which trains professionals to be adept policy negotiators on International Environmental Governance, particularly focusing on the Convention on Biological Diversity. 

This cohort consisted of 15 graduating fellows from 14 countries from West, Central, Eastern, Southern, and Northern Africa. 

AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya while delivering his graduation key note address in Nairobi Kenya.

AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya delivered his keynote address graduation, saying, “In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in African conservation efforts, with a notable emphasis on locally-led initiatives prioritizing the involvement and empowerment of communities living alongside wildlife.”

 “Africa must take charge of its conservation efforts now, harnessing the potential of its youth to safeguard its natural heritage for generations to come,” Kaddu said.

This graduation marks the culmination of the fellows’ journeys and provides AWF with an opportunity to reflect on the institution’s strides in engaging youth in conservation and to look ahead to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The event also recognized outstanding achievements with awards like Fellow of the Year, Best Innovation Project Award, and Best Policy Brief Award.

AWF is commitment to fostering African-led solutions and effective conservation leadership. 

The Charles R. Wall Leadership Community, encompassing both fellowships, provides a platform for continuous learning, collaboration, and networking, building a powerful movement of young changemakers dedicated to securing a brighter future for Africa’s wildlife and wild lands.

The call for applications for the 2024 cohorts closed on the 3rd of February 2024, with over 2,700 applications received, a 92% increase from last year where there were 1400 applicants. 

This is a testament to the growing interest and commitment towards conservation and sustainable development across the continent.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe will next month host the Africa Protected Areas Director (APAD) forum, a platform and network open to the representatives of national authorities of Protected Areas operating throughout Africa. 

APAD aims to foster information sharing, develop a common agenda for Africa’s protected areas, facilitate collaboration and collective responsibility among the Africa Protected Areas Directors. 

The platform is underpinned by an Africa-led agenda for protected and conserved areas as the backbone of natural infrastructure.

Three main objectives of APAD is to ensure sustainable financing for all of Africa’s protected and conserved areas; to strengthen the resilience and emergency preparedness of Africa’s protected and conserved areas to disasters and pandemics and to establish cooperation mechanisms among APADs and their networks.

APAD is facilitated by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), its current secretariat, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The conference in Zimbabwe is set to bring together APADs from all African regions alongside key stakeholders and partners that are expected to discuss collective goals as a continent.

The African Wildlife Foundation was founded in 1961 and is a leading conservation organization working to protect Africa’s wildlife and wild lands.

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