In Beneath the Baobab from Jamma International, wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan hosts cutting-edge conversations about conservation work led by communities around the world.
Meet the Host
Gordon John Buchanan MBE is an award-winning wildlife cameraman, presenter and public speaker. His work includes the nature documentaries Tribes, Predators & Me, The Polar Bear Family & Me and Life in the Snow. Gordon Buchanan has a reputation for relishing dangerous and tough assignments. He has taken part in challenging expeditions and adventures around the globe including South America, Asia, Africa, Papua New Guinea, Russia and Alaska, always with a view to raising awareness of the fragility of the world’s endangered species and habitats.
About the podcast series
In this series learn about Community Based Natural Resources Management, hear from indigenous peoples who are exercising their rights to do innovative work as custodians of resources for generations, then find out how they’ve developed work schemes, governance and management systems that allow them to place a high value on wildlife and build the economic case for conservation. The future for wildlife and endangered species can be positive, if we are all prepared to listen. Join Gordon and his guests Beneath the Baobab for stories of hope as well as brilliant, radical and innovative ideas for solving the problems faced by humans and wildlife.
Guests: Maxi Pia Louis and Lorna Dax
Synopsis: In the first episode of Beneath the Baobab, Gordon Buchanan chats with Maxi Pia Louis, Director of the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO) to find out what Community Based Natural Resource Management is. Namibian-born Maxi’s passion for people and wildlife has driven her to look for better conservation solutions in the face of climate change and increasing economic pressure. She explains how studying abroad and being a student during the Apartheid years has inspired her work to create positive change for nature and to protect and champion human rights. Maxi also tells how inspiring eco-tourism schemes and changes to governance have supported successful CBNRM movements across sub-Saharan Africa, and shares her hopes for a future beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
Maxi Pia Louis
Guests: Prof. Amy Dickman and Darwin Kanai Gakenia
In this episode, Professor Amy Dickman chats with Gordon Buchanan about the complexities of developing community-led conservation and some common misconceptions that can trip up wildlife-lovers around the world. Amy’s the joint CEO of Lion Landscapes and one of the co-founders of the Pride Lion Conservation Alliance. Her dedicated career and wealth of on the ground experience gives her a unique insight into developing biodiversity solutions where dangerous wildlife and people co-exist. She tells of her journey to engage with the elusive Barabaig tribe around Ruaha National Park, Tanzania, to understand and work around lion-killings in this area. Amy also shares her joy at successful programmes to preserve and monitor wildlife whilst enriching the economic resources of villages.
Prof. Amy Dickman
Guests: Dr Moreangels Mbizah
Synopsis: Dr Moreangels Mbizah has dedicated her life to protecting the livelihoods of rural African communities in human-wildlife conflict and is world-renowned for her work with lions and large carnivores. In this episode she talks with Gordon about her life’s work and current focus as Director of Wildlife Conservation Action in Zimbabwe. Moreangels explains how the recruitment of Community Guardians as well as the introduction of predator-proof bomas and livestock kraals has allowed communities to manage their livelihoods without conflict with lions, elephants and hyaenas in Nyaminyami, Zimbabwe.
Dr Moreangels Mbizah
Guests: Dr Dilys Roe and Sam Shaba
Synopsis: Dr Dilys Roe and Sam Shaba share examples of models for supporting livelihoods and wildlife to thrive in shared spaces, from ecotourism and carbon credit schemes to incentivisation of the sustainable use of natural resources. The thing that most inspires Dilys in her work is visiting locations to connect with communities, people and practises and to find out how community-based conservation is working. She explains how she’s working with international expertise to bring these voices and experts to the forefront of conservation innovation and policy. Sam Shaba then talks to Gordon about his work at Tanzanian Initiative Honeyguide, which works in landscapes where community conservation is key to wildlife conservation. He explains how their projects have developed and gained pace in Wildlife Management Areas like Randilen, where community partnerships are central to conservation.
Dr Dilys Roe
Guests: Shane Mahoney
Synopsis: Shane Mahoney is an internationally recognised wildlife expert and conservation advocate – and is the Founder and President of Canadian enterprise Conservation Visions. Born and raised in Newfoundland, Shane has a unique insight into the inter-relationship of wildlife, individuals, communities and environments. In this episode he shares with Gordon his thoughts on historical narratives around conservation, and what nature can teach us about finding a way forward. He’s worked extensively to advocate for transformation in governments and institutions to help them to reassess their values and goals around conservation.
Episode 6 – Resource rights are human rights
Guests: Lesle Jansen
This time Gordon Buchanan’s talking with Lesle Jansen to discuss how resource rights are also human rights. Lesle’s background working with prison inmates in South Africa post-apartheid sparked a career in international law and her continued work to defend the rights of indigenous communities to use and exploit their own resources. She shares her personal story and fascinating insights into why she believes conservation needs to shift from being militaristic in practise to becoming people-centred and rights-based.
Dr Shylock Muyengwa
Episode 7 – Community Rights to Resources
Guests: Dr Shylock Muyengwa and Dr Brian Child
Dr Shylock Muyengwa and Dr Brian Child have teamed up from their homes on other sides of the world for years, conducting fieldwork and research with communities to help develop increasingly sophisticated models and practises for wildlife conservation with people at their heart. They explain how the pioneering CAMPFIRE programme worked to devolve rights for the use, management, disposal of and benefit from wildlife resources and how learnings have been built upon to build modern-day CBNRM. They also discuss the legacy of colonial land practises and laws in contemporary conservation and share ideas for overcoming this. Brian and Shylock discuss the social and practical aspects of this approach but also share details of the governance dashboard they developed with villagers to help them create participatory democracies for decision-making.
Dr Brian Child
Guests: Professor Adam Hart
This time, Gordon chats with scientist, conservationist, and broadcaster Professor Adam Hart about how we can move international public understanding of sustainable use forward. Adam shares his story, from a young entomologist to a sustainable use convert and co-director of a successful volunteer programme in South Africa. He also discusses the wider consideration of habitats when working to conserve wildlife whilst benefitting from its resources. Adam has developed a rhino-thick skin when taking to social media to challenge misinformation around sustainable use in conservation and says strong reactions and harassment on these forums can be a deterrent to academics advocating for these approaches. He does however share how he’s been watching coverage become more positive as public understanding increases. Adam and Gordon also discuss the role of media more widely in representing complex issues such as hunting and natural resource use, causing Gordon to reflect upon his own work as a wildlife filmmaker. We also hear from Adam’s colleague Lynne Mactavish, who shares her passion for wildlife. She also reveals the tough day-to-day decisions she makes as a custodian of the Nkombi volunteer conservation programme founded by her father.
Prof. Adam Hart
Episode 10 – From Fortress Conservation to Locally Powered Wildlife Policy
Guests: Malidadi Langa
From government office to grass-roots campaigning, Malidadi Langa has long been a leading force in Malawian wildlife policy. In this episode he chats with Gordon about how he’s used his experience in economics to become an international voice in rural development and decentralisation. They discuss the problematic impact of “fortress” conservation policies that historically isolated communities from their traditional resources. Malidadi explains the journey of the community development association within the Kasungu National Park, known for its elephant population near the Zambian border. He also discusses the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic for the park’s once thriving foreign tourist trade and shares actions from this year’s African Protected Areas Congress in Kigali. Today Malidadi continues to represent Malawi in the Southern Africa Community Leaders Network and advocates for conservation initiatives that prioritise local investment, respect human rights and support sustainable livelihoods.
Episode 11 – How Community Conservation is a Mechanism for Democracy ft. Dr Rodgers Lubilo
Guests: Dr Rodgers Lubilo
Dr Rodgers Lubilo grew up in a village next to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia where wildlife, human life and livelihoods have always coexisted. It was in the mid-nineties when Rodgers became interested in local CBNRM initiatives. He then led a movement that convinced his family and village leaders to follow in experimental and innovative sustainable use programmes. As a pioneer of CBNRM in Zambia, Rodgers has been a driver of innovative change that has swept across conservation projects and fieldwork in Southern Africa. He says the biggest impact has been in seeing governments recognise the knowledge and expertise communities have in managing their local wildlife, and that this has been a driver of democracy and regeneration. In this episode of Beneath the Baobab, he shares his journey from farmer’s son to Director of CBNRM Programmes at the Frankfurt Zoological Society Zambia and Chair of the Community Leaders’ Network, where he continues to champion new talent, thinkers and practitioners in the conservation space. He explains the kinds of benefits and services he’s seen come to communities – including his own – since sustainable use models have boomed in the region. We also hear case studies from some of Rodgers’ colleagues, George Tembo, president of Zambia Community Resources Board Association and Petros Muyunda, Deputy National Coordinator at Zambia Community Resources Board Association recorded at the IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress.
Dr Rodgers Lubilo
Episode 12 – Communities, Conservation and Change in Scotland’s Wild Places ft. Mike Daniels
Guests: Mike Daniels
“We are all dependent upon the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the soils that we grow our food on. To mismanage them and treat them badly as we have done for centuries: we can’t go on that way.”
In a special final episode for the series, Gordon meets up with Mike Daniels of the John Muir Trust in Scotland. They take a walk through the beautiful landscape of East Schiehallion in Perthshire, where the Trust has recently completed a million-pound investment into restoring a footpath and visitor amenities on the mountain. Gordon and Mike discuss the unique nature of land ownership in Scotland and how that might be changing as more communities begin to take on stewardship of the land. Mike also shares schemes that have been put in place to restore a pre-Victorian version of nature and biodiversity to some of the areas they manage. They discuss the complex issue of deer management and the impact of burgeoning populations on animal health and trees, as well as how rewilding can involve communities and begin to address the imbalances and problems created by past exploitative land practises in Scotland. The pair finish their walk with a conversation about the proposed Carbon Emissions Land Tax and how this pioneering new legislation might support land use models that allow people and nature to co-exist.