The ideals of eco-tourism organically formed in Africa decades ago on the necessity of sustainable community initiatives. With National Parks surrounded by communities dependent on wildlife for survival, it was vital to find a viable solution to provide sources of revenue in an ecologically stable manner. Now more than ever, National Parks, the Private Sector and tourism operations need to figure out a way of how to “hold the fort.” Maintaining an ethos and incentive for communities to remain committed to conservation, as well as sustaining a healthy and viable wildlife population for future tourism.
Due to there being many more communities that needed help – eco-tourism came into play. National Parks had to consider avenues which would create revenue in more sustainable ways. Approaching the private sector, with pioneer players such as Clive Stockhil, a legal platform was formed that allowed communities to benefit – sourcing sustainable solutions through eco and cultural tourism – consequently shaping conservation initiatives as well as travel experiences based on preserving the environment. Clive is a vehement conservationist and expert guide, living and breathing Zimbabwe’s wild spaces. In recognition of his commitment to the ecological cause, Clive was awarded the Prince William Award for Conservation in 2013.
Chilo Gorge, located in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe, is a success story of such initiatives. A luxury lodge nestled on the ‘edge of serenity’ formulated the Mahenye Project over 40 years ago which operates on the basis of community involvement – ensuring long term sustainability. Created by Clive, fuelled by his passion for wildlife, this project among others emerged from necessity to protect both the environment and surrounding communities.
Clive speaks into the importance of community engagement in conservation projects, as well as the reciprocal benefits of meaningful participation and protection of natural habitats. The rewards are realised through livelihood improvements – such as food, education and developments in infrastructure. These rewards demonstrate to the community that there is inherent value in conservation and tourism.
These visionaries and pioneers of conservation and community tourism have created a platform in which are undeniably vital for the future of our National Parks. Through experience of logistical and operational knowledge, as well as community contacts and previously implemented projects –an institutional memory has been formed. It is through these previous encounters, partnerships and benefits that will forge the future for conservation and tourism.
We were lucky enough to delve into the mind and immense experience of Clive Stockhil – sending his answers to our questions in a video from the deck at Chilo Gorge in Gonerezhou:
- Being a predominant voice in the human/wildlife conflict realm for almost 40 years – in that time being awarded the Prince William award for conservation – are you able to tell us how and why this all began?
- What has been your biggest challenge, and your biggest success in implementing strategies for human wildlife conflict?
- Chilo Gorge was built as a solution to providing revenue and employment for the community – consequently benefitting conservation as well as tangible benefits to local Zimbabweans – education, empowerment and a sense of responsibility towards the environment. How has this been made possible?