World-renowned activist and primatologist Jane Goodall has launched an innovative micro-finance program in the war to save chimpanzees. Having spent over 10 years living in the wild with chimpanzees, alongside local communities in Tanzania, Goodall has earned a practical perspective that few can match.
In a recent interview with CNN, she commented on Gombe National Park, her heart’s home in the wild, “I looked down from the plane and there was a little oasis, a little tiny 35 square mile Gombe National Park; and it was surrounded by completely bare hills. You know, there were basically just no trees left, and there were clearly more people living on that land than the land could support.”
Goodall knew that if she wanted to save Chimpanzees from utter isolation, the local economies must see value in responsible business practices. Coexistence needed to be an economic result. She adds, “They (local villagers) were clearly too poor to buy food from elsewhere. The land was over-farmed and infertile, and there was terrible erosion because the slopes are really steep. It was pretty clear that, you know, unless we could do something to help the people there live a better life we couldn’t even try to save the chimpanzees.”
Today, the Jane Goodall Institute has created a micro-credit loan program for the villagers near Gombe National Park. The program empowers environmentally responsible farming, helps teach the villagers how to manage the land sustainably while at the same time providing for their families.
“You’ve seen this complete cycle of regeneration. Villagers’ lives improving. Education going up quickly, especially women, and the start in the downward trend in family size,” said Goodall. “Animals on the brink of extinction can be given another chance when people care and are determined.”
As the villagers adapt to sustainable practices, they are seeing notable economic growth. As the forests grow back, the chimpanzees will see a brighter future.
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