I’ve just spent time inside a successful conservation business. Surprisingly it wasn’t full of do-gooders. Instead it has harnessed the energy, humanity and collaborative spirit of a very diverse set of people. It has built a unified and positive culture, evident in the attitudes and actions of everyone you meet. From neighbouring villagers, to Game Rangers, to headquarters and tourism staff. Everyone is welcoming, well-informed and, where required to be, professional.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy www.olpejetaconservancy.org is an enormous enterprise that manages 90,000 acres of plains and woodland in the lee of Mount Kenya. It covers the majority of its operating costs from its own commercial revenues. 80% from tourism (attracting over 70,000 visitors per year) and 20% from agriculture (7,500 head of cattle properly integrated into the conservancy). Fundraising fills the gaps and fuels innovation and expansion. Ol Pejeta handles finance so well that it often acts as a facilitator for investments in other conservation and community projects. In the past year it has helped more than US$1M pass from well-wishers into education and healthcare programmes.
Ol Pejeta has two wildlife protection squads - a National Police Reservist team and a Rhino Patrol Unit. In a Region where far too many people wear uniform and dangle weapons dangerously about their persons, these Rangers are visibly disciplined. They’ve been tested in action against waves of poachers, who target the elephant and rhino under their care.
Ol Pejeta has a wide range of tourism properties and attractions to enhance traditional game viewing experiences. Each of these assets is well designed and constructed, and maintained by employees whose behaviours have been aligned to the mission.
The enterprise is well-marketed online, and in its various merchandise offerings and publications. There are none of the silly lapses you see in businesses where people are simply doing a job. Spelling mistakes, poor quality packaging or sloppy vehicle branding. True, the map that guides you around this wilderness does represent a triumph of artistry over clarity - but gets away with it because it is properly printed and full of relevant content.
In the four nights we spent camping on Ol Pejeta, my party felt safe and experienced none of the low level hassle and sniffing for bribes that taint so many tourist experiences across our Region.
But when I come to review the roll of donors who support Ol Pejeta, I’m surprised to see only one East African business listed. This highlights a missed opportunity. Not for donations, but for something more valuable. Our largest corporations could learn much about organisational culture through association with this impressive enterprise.
Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside in Africa