In a partnership spanning over 5 years, Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation is committing R10 million to the African Wildlife Economy Institute (AWEI) of Stellenbosch University. Through research, outreach, teaching, and engagement with stakeholders, the partnership between AWEI, under leadership of Prof Francis Vorhies, and the Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation team aims to promote sustainable and inclusive wildlife economies across Africa. The funding will assist the development of research, influence and engagement in wildlife economies, targeting a wide array of stakeholders from decision-makers to ordinary citizens across the continent.
A strong focus of the collaboration will be on enhancing the game meat industry and promoting the consumption of related products in South Africa and beyond.
Sustainable and resilient wildlife economies are critical to aligning wildlife conservation with inclusive economic development in Africa. With wildlife tourism heavily impacted by the pandemic, there is now also increasing recognition of the need for growth and diversification in the sector.
Oppenheimer Generations Head of Research and Conservation, Dr Duncan MacFadyen explains, "Sustainable and inclusive wildlife economies are critical to the future of wildlife conservation in Africa, however, there is a lack of knowledge of wildlife economies and what is required to enhance their contribution to sustainable development and wildlife conservation across the continent. There is an urgent need to develop and diversify Africa's wildlife economy, to ensure the future conservation, as well as the sustainable utilization of wildlife and associated ecosystems".
The sustainability of the wildlife economy depends on well-functioning value chains in products such as tourism and recreation, hunting and fishing, and wildlife products including game meat.
A Taste of Game
The game meat industry is diverse and has seen continued growth. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural developed reported that the average gross value of game meat amounted to R38 million between 2000 and 2008. More recently, Wildlife Ranching South Africa estimated that by 2018 the value of game processing at R4.5 billion annually. This growth is predominantly due to consumer demand for healthier, GMO-free, low-fat protein. The increased demand and supply of game meat contributes to rewilded landscapes, rural economic development, job creation, and food security.
Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, explains “Stellenbosch University is delighted to be partnering with Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation in the form of the African Wildlife Economy Institute - a multi- and transdisciplinary centre for research and engagement on the governance and management of wildlife economies for sustainable and inclusive development. By bringing together academics from various disciplines – including law, economics, business and conservation science – to engage with stakeholders and decision makers, we aim to facilitate an enabling environment for wildlife economies across the continent. The Taste of Game initiative, which promotes the consumption of game meat, demonstrates the potential for diversifying wildlife value chains by connecting responsible consumption to transformed landscape management, and providing economic, health and social benefits through conservation."
Prof Kennedy Dzama, AWEI Chair and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences adds: “Governance of the wildlife industry is complex, and suffers both from a lack of and a surfeit of mandates, standards and regulations. However, the private sector together with government can focus on opportunities for creating an enabling environment.
“Wildlife economy value chains provide benefits for communities including opportunities for community-based wildlife management, enterprise development and job creation. A key focus of the work of the AWEI is identifying how community livelihoods can be enhanced through scaling up the wildlife economy".
Though the Taste of Game initiative, AWEI together with Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation aims to support the development of an inclusive and sustainable wild meat sector across Africa that benefits both people and nature.
Prof Francis Vorhies is director and co-founder of AWEI, and an extraordinary professor in the SU Department of Animal Sciences. This distinguished academic in the field of wildlife conservation, economics and finance also serves as Academic Director at the African Leadership University in Rwanda, and as a Research Visitor at WILDCRU (the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit) at Oxford University in the UK. His lifelong commitment to sustainable development and conservation in Africa has seen him take up and develop several innovative initiatives and roles, such as founding Eco-Plus to provide economic policy inputs to conservation, serving as the first environmental economist at IUCN (the World Conservation Union) in Switzerland, the first economist to join AWF (the African Wildlife Foundation) in Kenya, and leading the Earthwatch Institute in Oxford.
“My current research focuses on what is meant by wildlife conservation in the context of international policy and on how we can unlock the wildlife economy across Africa in support of inclusive sustainable development, climate resilience and landscape transformation," he says.
About Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation
The Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation team continue to build a first-class research entity which supports, funds and partners with national and international researchers to conduct cutting-edge research focused on the natural sciences ensuring practical and impactful outcomes. They are committed to further developing, expanding and promoting systems of sustainable conservation programmes and networks throughout the African continent.
About African Wildlife Economies Institute
The African Wildlife Economy Institute aims to be the leading academic institute in Africa for research, teaching, and outreach on wildlife economies. Its academic mandate is multidisciplinary working across the faculties of Stellenbosch University and, importantly, collaborating with universities, research institutes, and conservation organisations across Africa. AWEI aims to generate new research on wildlife economy and to use it to enhance policies, governance, and management practices within the sector.
Prof Frank Vorhies, director of the African Wildlife Economies Institute (AWEI) at Stellenbosch University
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