African Wildlife Foundation

Nairobi, Kenya

Baboon and baby     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

BY THE NUMBERS: Currently backing 31 conservation-oriented projects that generate more than $2 million annually for African communities; spent $19 million on programs in 2010
WHO'S IN CHARGE: Patrick Bergin, 47, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania and project officer for the foundation in Tanzania’s national parks
WHAT IT DOES: Launched in 1961, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is one of a growing number of NGOs pushing a more inclusive ­approach to conservation based on a simple philosophy: local people should be factored into the equation. AWF starts by sending field researchers to identify species and landscapes at risk, then employs a host of education, advocacy, and development plans to give local people sound reasons to care for their land and wildlife. One method is what the AWF calls conservation enterprises—sustainable businesses like wildlife tourism and eco-sensitive agriculture. In 2008, AWF partnered with Rwandan communities to build the swanky, locally owned Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge near Volcanoes National Park. It now attracts well-heeled tourists who come to see rare mountain gorillas, generating a flow of dollars that supports locals with infrastructure and development projects. AWF also brokered a deal between Starbucks and small coffee growers in Kenya. In exchange for adhering to strict ethical guidelines for both labor and cultivation, Starbucks offers farmers lucrative contracts.
EXTRA CREDIT: AWF earned a top rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy. Thanks to its success, its people-centered programs have been emulated widely, particularly in the past decade.
LOOKING AHEAD: The group recently launched a website (awf.org/conservationtourism) that catalogs community-owned safari lodges that conscientious travelers can visit.

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