Message from the President and the Board

GMFER is grateful to all of you who are an integral part of our work. Our collaborative journey has made for imaginative, creative, and fruitful outcomes in sustaining the web of life.

“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”
Wade Davis

GMFER is looking for creative and meaningful ways to disrupt the dominant conservation paradigm in the African continent, a paradigm that is largely failing human and animal communities.

Worthy successes are to be found amidst the conservation story of today’s Africa. Still, such successes are scattered, dwarfed by the overarching tragedy dominating the remains of the continent’s wild heritage.

Despite substantial resources being poured into Africa in support of conservation, iconic wildlife communities continue to plummet from poaching, trafficking, habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the wildlife trade, the use of animal body parts in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the fallout from human wildlife conflict.

Together with Africa’s wild creatures, her indigenous human communities are also the victims of corrupt governments and the legacy of an obstinately privileged colonial past.

The dominant conservation ethos governing the continent is neo-colonial

The dominant conservation ethos governing the continent is neo-colonial. Organizations deeply committed to conservation are equally disengaged from the humans who live with and adjacent to the animals they wish to protect.

Indigenous peoples and their wild relatives share a common heritage, yet the many stories about Africa of a once vibrant and now disappearing rainbow are narrated by voices not African; an incongruous reality that alienates those most important in restoring a vanishing world.

The historical context that disenfranchised Africans is often ignored in contemporary conversations about conservation. Approaches that may have contributed to successful conservation practices in pre-colonial times are rarely resurrected within a framework of listening and learning. Mythologies, and legends that formed the architecture of a distinctive way of life are dismissed as unsophisticated.

Indeed, only a sliver of indigenous cultures qualifies as a legitimate ‘poster child’ for a wiser way of being. Still, a reflexive dismissal of a way of life that is incompatible with the dominant conservation ethic can be experienced as alienating and disempowering, engendering deep-seated and justifiable resentment among people of the land.

We forget that there are ways of being in the world and in the company of wild creatures that do not have to mirror the dominant ethos intrinsic to western culture and western modalities of conservation, nor do they have to pander to the belligerent neo-colonial philosophy of the communist party of China.

At the heart of the overarching failure of conservation in Africa is the disengagement of indigenous communities from the conversation about conservation.

Global, national, and Asian markets for elephant ivory, rhino horn, lion bone, tiger bone, pangolin scales, donkey hide, and the virtually infinite list of body parts of endangered creatures trafficked from Africa escalates the demise of iconic wildlife. The absence of accountability vis-à-vis wildlife crime is -demonstrably- underwritten by corrupt governments and ineffective judicial systems. And, yes, unmitigated greed plays a role; nevertheless, at the heart of the overarching failure of conservation in Africa is the disengagement of indigenous communities from the conversation about conservation.

If conservation in Africa is to succeed, parity must be established between emerging indigenous voices passionate about Africa’s wild heritage and the global voice calling for action. Our conversations about conservation must depart from being purely didactic to deeply experiential, deeply bound to nature.

We must reimagine the dominant paradigms governing conservation in Africa. The animals we love deserve it; the humans who are our brothers and sisters call for it.

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