The conference was an unforgettable experience. Being in the same place as so many powerful players in the conservation world opened my eyes to endless possibilities. The networks and connections made are immeasurable.

Brackenhurst was a serene and powerful place to have hosted the event and so befitting for a conservation conference.

I went there not knowing what to expect and honestly a little nervous and feeling like I was in the deep end. But as immediate as the first talk and hearing all the amazing stories from the first panel of trail blazing women, I felt I was in the right place. I enjoyed all the morning Plenary discussion, but the “Diverse Perspectives from Successful Conservation Leaders” was especially important for me. The speakers, (Krithi Karanth- Centre for Wildlife Studies, India. Leela Hazzan- Co founder Pride Lion conservation Alliance. Alice Ruhweza- Africa Lead, World Wild Fund for Nature WWF. Musonda Mumba- Terrestrial Ecosystem unit. Musimbi Kanyoro – United World Colleges & women’s Learning) as established as they all are, they were very grounded and talking about their different backgrounds, influences, challenges and journeys. I realized they were just like me and everybody else in the room. They were just women doing what they loved and wanting to change the world in the process. it was a wonderful introduction to Pathways 2020.

The workshops were practical and targeted relevant conservation issues. I feel now I’m equipped with tools to help us with our project and I know I have people to aid and assist and even benchmark with.

If possible I would have gone to all sessions but unfortunately I had to choose.

The first day I did “Exploring Civil Society Empowering and Capacity Building Needs”, discussions on how to empower NGOs and CBOs and how to work with involved communities. “Conservancies and Land Use” and “Power, Privilege, Race and Identity in Conservation”, which pulled quiet a crowd. Very sensitive topics were discussed in a very respectful and safe space, such as issues of silence in conservation, what our privileges are and how to use them for good.

Day 2 was, “How to Break Through in Fundraising for Conservation Projects”, participants shared their fundraising experiences and many bumps experienced on the way, and frequently asked questions by potential funders. Tips on how to ask for funds without feeling uncomfortable. Hoe essential professionalism and honesty about your project are.

“One Health”- the interesting topic of human, animal and eco-system health. I learnt about 30 by 30, which is the aim to protect 30% of the worlds surface by the year 2030.

And the last session was “Getting Collaborations to Deliver”, which got most of us speaking and tackling issues such as how to deal with slow government officials and officers that don’t seem to have the same sense of urgency we have with our projects. Also saw different CBOs and NGOs collaborate for a common cause that worked. Learning that other players in the game are not always competition.

Day 3 was mostly “Demystifying Monitoring and Evaluation for Conservation” I chose this one because it made me slightly nervous at how little I knew about Monitoring and Evaluation. The sessions were interactive, we did practical exercises in groups and even did short presentations of our findings. They made it all seem manageable and demystified the jargon.

My last choice of the conference was “Is Trophy Hunting an effective Solution to Mitigate Human Elephant Conflict?”, one of the Presenters used Botswana as a case study. It brought on interesting questions and debate about the recent lifting of the hunting ban, what trophy hunting really is, and the opinion of many people was that there has to be other ways to save the situation of elephant human conflict.

I left the conference feeling motivated and confident! I wish to thank Cincinnati Zoo and Pathways for this brilliant experience.

All the best,
Tjipo

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