Community Centered Conservation in Africa

A conversation with David Banks, Program Director, Africa

Written by Deb Crespin, Associate Director of Philanthropy
Photography by Ami Vitale

“Still the wildest place on the planet, a landscape that evokes our essential humanity and connection to animals and to the earth, the continent of Africa is still in great shape from the perspective of nature. While the economies and governance are improving fast, however, the current population of 1 billion will grow to a staggering 4 billion people in the next 90 years. It is ‘crunch time’ for Africa.”

This was the start of the talk by David Banks, The Nature Conservancy’s Program Director in Africa, to a group of TNC supporters gathered at the gracious home of TNC friends who share a passion for Africa and conservation.

As David explained, Africa continues to be the land of opportunity and promise. Phenomenal wildlife, rivers, and forested landscapes, yet we know that there will be a “perfect storm” over the next ninety years of tremendous challenge.  As the human population is projected to expand, at the same time, the natural systems that have supported this continent for tens of thousands of years are at risk of being inappropriately developed. 

The equivalent of   hyenas circling their prey, the threats to the African continent range from the undeveloped hydropower potential – damming, bifurcating, and re-channeling rivers – to oil, gas, mining and forestry.  The last remaining lands of the savannah… the dense tropical rainforest…and the nearby marine systems are going to be stressed like never before.

The Nature Conservancy in Africa has worked from the ground up, with community partners and informed by science, to take on these huge threats and seek new solutions that can alter the course of where Africa is headed.  

Banks spoke of three extraordinary projects/opportunities:  

  1. Marine protection in the Seychelles, helping leaders make smart choices about how lands, waters and oceans are used for food, water, energy, industry and more. TNC is working with the local government to protect hundreds of acres of marine systems;  
  2. Preserving habitat and increasing wildlife security – using a community-based model, TNC is working with locals in Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania.  TNC is working with lakeshore villagers who live on Lake Tanganyika on wildlife and health issues, partnering with a global health organization Pathfinder to support women and families;
  3. Restoring and protecting sources of food and water, with innovative programs, such as bringing livestock to market, creating more opportunities for local economic growth.  

We learned this: what’s good for the cow is good for the elephant! TNC has improved over 7.4 MILLION acres of rangelands throughout eastern Africa! What helps people helps livestock which helps wildlife which helps habitat.

And bringing it all back home: State Director Mike Stevens wrapped up the conversation by noting that the strength of The Nature Conservancy is that we are guided by science, work through partnerships, and capitalize on our local to global lessons and approach.  

Asante sana!


Meet our amazing Director of Philanthropy, Mary Kaufman-Cranney! 

The 2015 Professional Achievement Award winner!

Written by Meghan Wagner, Associate Director of Philanthropy 

We have amazing colleagues here at The Nature Conservancy and are so proud to honor one of our very own, Mary Kaufman-Cranney, Director of Philanthropy for our Washington Program. Mary brings energy, excitement and leadership to our Philanthropy team and most importantly, her work brings support and critical funding to our large-scale conservation projects both locally and globally. It was announced today that Mary is the winner of the prestigious 2015 Professional Achievement Award through AFP Advancement Northwest.

Mary joins a select group of Northwest leaders who have made a big impact in the social sector through fundraising and storytelling. She shares a deep commitment to mentoring others, is the embodiment of integrity, professionalism and excellence and is a Philanthropy superstar!

Mary’s leadership has spanned more than 25 years in our Seattle community. She is passionate about making an impact in our community through cause-driven organizations. She directed three major capital campaigns and secured over $60 million for youth development initiatives while the Senior Vice President of Financial Development at the YMCA of Greater Seattle.

Mary joined The Nature Conservancy in Washington in 2010 and has reinvigorated funding impact for critical conservation projects. Fundraising, at its core, is connecting people to the mission by first learning what ignites the passion in their hearts and then connecting those values to the impact they could make in the community. Mary helps donor visualize their values in action through her authenticity, and unwavering belief in the work of The Nature Conservancy’s mission. One of her great strengths is relationship building with board leaders, volunteers and our staff teams.

As a lifelong resident of Washington State, Mary has a strong connection to our lands and waters. Some of her most cherished and beloved memories are time spent with her family in nature or at her favorite lake cabin. She has experienced firsthand how nature can inspire and enrich lives and she brings that level of dedication and passion to the mission of The Nature Conservancy. 

Through her work at the Conservancy, she has traveled to Africa, Mexico, Great Sand dunes of Colorado, Alaska, and beyond. Whether she is helping with a science observation project tracking alligators in Mexico or staying in yurts in the African safari, Mary’s passion for her work comes through seeing the projects firsthand.

Please join us in congratulating Mary on this well-deserved recognition for her impact in our community!