The SDGs and Conservation Entrepreneurship

The SDGs and Conservation Entrepreneurship

With the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, it is clear that a lot goes into building a sustainable world. Reduced inequalities, decent work, quality education, no poverty, etc. - but all of that is nothing without preserving the very lands we live on. SDGs 14 and 15, Life Below Water and Life On Land, seek to address the issues of biodiversity and natural habitats.

Some facts:

As much as 40percent of the ocean has been heavily affected by pollution
Nearly 7,000 species of animals and plants have been illegally traded in 120 countries
Ocean acidity has increased by 26 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution

Human impact plays a part in much of the degradation of oceans and land biomes, such as forests and deserts. Because land and water provide important resources, like food, the SDGs provide specific goals to make fishing and farming sustainable, as well as decreasing ocean pollution. Agriculture is important to our survival, but unsustainable practices have a devastating impact on the environment. We need to throw trash away and recycle as much as we can, but irresponsibility has led to an overwhelming attack of plastics and other trash on our oceans.

The fight against plastics

We’ve seen the images of animals caught in masses of plastic waste, and heard stories about all the waste found in marine lifes’ stomachs. Plastic pollution is a huge issue, not just in oceans, but overall - it is estimated that 90.5 percent of plastic waste has never been recycled. While plastics are not the only harmful contribution from humans that affect our oceans, it is still important that the issue is addressed. Plastic production had risen sharply since 1950 - it is cheap to produce, and it’s easy for packaging. But this has created unnecessary waste. In recent years, movements have started to mitigate the pollution caused by plastics. Some of these movements tackle ocean clean up, some look at how to reduce plastics in the first place.

Single-use plastics have become a popular term because they are amongst the biggest culprits. To-go cups and straws, plastic cutlery, product packaging - these are all some examples. So, naturally, efforts to minimize or replace single-use plastics are also very popular. Loliware is one company that has joined that effort. Loliware gained traction as it was part of the first wave of startups that were invested in by the Ocean Solutions Accelerator, part of the non-profit Sustainable Oceans Alliance.

Most biodegradable straws utilize corn or paper, but Loliware uses kelp. While they have other products, Loliware primarily makes straws, and they’ve gone from only a few million straws at their start to a projected billion to be shipped in 2020. Also, the straws are edible, and people say they’re pretty tasty.

CEO and co-founder Chelsea “Sea” Briganti got her start building innovation pipelines for companies like Coca Cola and Nestle after graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York City. Raised in Hawaii, her connection to the ocean led her to commit further to eliminate single-use plastics. With Loliware, Briganti and her team are dedicated to reducing waste and making sure their processes are fundamentally ethical.

Keeping their processes sustainable is extremely important to the company, especially as they are utilizing resources from the ocean. SDG 14 acknowledges that oceans are important for people’s survival - over three billion people depend on oceans and its biodiversity. Loliware takes this to heart, and this year they will launch the first-ever Algae Sustainability Control (ASC), which will establish oversight to ensure sustainable practices and equibility. The ASC will also be involved in the design of global seaweed supply chains.

Loliware is taking one step further in fulfilling their responsibility as a startup focused on sustainability, pioneering what they call ‘Zero Waste Circular Extraction Methodology,’ which will focus on using every part of seaweed in processing. The company has managed to snag $6 million from eco-conscious investors.

SDG 15: Life on Land and Anti-poaching

Only 15 percent of the land is protected land, and conservationists work tirelessly to protect them. However, illicit poaching and trafficking of wildlife threaten biodiversity as it hurts those conservation efforts. Biodiversity is vital to all life, for food and shelter, as well as for combating climate change. It is a huge concern for the UN, and many of SDG 15’s goals and targets are focused on protecting biodiversity.

So much of Africa’s lands have incredible biodiversity, yet poaching and trafficking has been a huge issue in many parts of the continent. The fight against these illegal practices is more than law enforcement and park guards, it’s a community effort. Honeyguide, an entrepreneurial organization based in Tanzania named after a bird that guides humans towards beehives, utilizes long-term community partnerships to support conservation and anti-poaching efforts. Honeyguide runs community-based initiatives across 1.3 million acres of Tanzania’s wilderness. Their projects include education, management, human-wildlife conflict, and others. Honeyguide’s core objective is to empower communities to develop their conservation areas in a way that protects them, as well as help pay costs.

Honeyguide uses their team and resources to work with those involved in conservation. For anti-poaching efforts, they work across 6 project sites, assisting in guiding, training, and equipping more than 100 officers and village game scouts. In 2011, Honeyguide established the Tracker Dog Unit, which has been a game-changer in northern Tanzania. The dog duos have made incredible accomplishments in the fight against poaching, including major arrests and the confiscation of ivory and other illicit items. Even more incredible, 2 years after the unit was established, all elephant poaching seized in Kilimanjaro (however there have been some casualties throughout the years). Honeyguide is heavily invested in equipping handlers with training and care.

Honeyguide also works with wildlife areas with developing anti-poaching efforts. In early 2017 members of their team - the Chairman, Anti-Poaching Commander, and Community Liaison Officer - introduced a project to Makame Wildlife Management Area, Tanzania’s largest WMA. Composed primarily of open woodlands, Makame is home to rare species like the oryx and bushbuck. Their visit with members of the community that supports the WMA, including village game scouts, covered basic operations of their anti-poaching campaign, and how to successfully implement the campaign.

With this long-term partnership between Honeyguide and the community, Makame WMA governance has the capacity for these conservation efforts. Makame is a community-owned conservation area, so it is important that these partnerships are viable:

“The residents believe that by having a well organized WMA, wildlife will increase,
and provide satisfactory prey ground. Through this, their livestock will be
protected from wild animal attacks. This is an encouraging indication to us
to extend our operation in working with this community.”

- Mr.Ole Kirimbai, Honeyguide Chairman.

Conservation Entrepreneurship

Conservation efforts are always needing innovation and scaling up to catalyze local action. Entrepreneurship can make a huge impact in coming up with solutions to conservation issues, like Honeyguide’s community-based model. Solutions don’t always have to be direct action either. Even educating people to not be afraid of animals and how to have a better relationship makes a huge difference. After all, successful conservation efforts depend on changing human behaviour. If you’d like to learn more about conservation, consider reading an article on Five Ways to Advance Conservation Entrepreneurship.

What projects do you know of that work on securing life on land and below water? How can you utilize community in your projects/ideas?

Join the Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition and get started on the path of social entrepreneurship.

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