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Connecting Classrooms to Conservation

Through its Classroom Africa program, AWF is giving rural communities in Africa access to a quality primary school education for their children—and in the process incentivizing them to participate in conservation in exchange for education opportunities.

Part of this effort includes supplementing classroom lessons with conservation-focused field trips and extracurricular activities. At the Lupani Community Primary School in Zambia, for example, teachers underwent training to learn how to teach science in a way that makes use of the natural world around them. The landscaping around the school was designed to underscore this connection. Nature trails lined with indigenous trees—all properly labeled, of course—weave throughout the campus.

The biggest conservation impact of Classroom Africa, however, comes from the landscape protection that goes hand-in-hand with our support. In exchange for AWF constructing a new school or renovating an existing one—and providing teacher training, conservation education and other support to ensure a quality school—communities agree to specific, significant conservation actions. With Lupani School, for example, the community set aside roughly 40,000 hectares of their land for a critical elephant corridor. These conservation covenants directly address the threats that make each location a priority for AWF in the first place.

Wildlife corridor

Manyara Ranch Primary School once sat in the middle of a key wildlife corridor connecting Manyara and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania, impeding the movement of wildlife. AWF intervened in 2008, rebuilding and relocating the school to give wildlife like the lesser kudu the space it needed, while keeping students and teachers out of harm’s way. AWF is currently renovating the school, which continues to thrive academically thanks to AWF support.

Protecting the forest

Deep in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, bushmeat hunting and forest degradation threaten critical habitat and wildlife, including the endangered bonobo. Several years ago, the local community made a commitment to conservation when it—despite fierce opposition from neighboring villages—agreed to work with AWF on a land-use plan to protect the forest and practice sustainable agriculture. When AWF constructed the Ilima Conservation Primary School, the community further agreed to stop illegally hunting.

Securing biodiversity

Kidepo Valley is part of a landscape that traverses northern Uganda up to the Imatong Mountains in South Sudan. On the Uganda side is Kidepo Valley National Park, which boasts at least 86 species of mammals, including the aardwolf, caracal, African elephant and buffalo. Deforestation and expanding agriculture threaten the integrity of this diverse ecosystem, but 14 area villages have recently agreed to a land-use plan covering 659 sq. km. AWF is planning its next cluster of Classroom Africa schools to support the villages in this venture.