The first night we landed in Kampala, Uganda and sat down for dinner, one of our AEA team recognized a familiar grey ponytail fleeting by in the distance. “I think I just saw Jane Goodall!” To the suspect of the rest of our group – it did indeed turn out to be the one and only Jane Goodall. Not to miss out on this once in a lifetime experience, we left her a note inviting her to the banquet dinner we were hosting the following night.
Sure enough, the next night Dr. Goodall appeared and sat down with our team. She was in Uganda to work with her local chapter of the Jane Goodall Institute and we were lucky enough to cross paths during the exact couple of days she was in Uganda.
She told us that in 1986 when she flew over Gombi, its hills were barren, “All of the trees were gone. All of them.” If you fly over today, the hills are now lush and green and the chimpanzees that made her a global icon have three times the amount of forest that they had before. This dramatic change in landscape can be seen with high-resolution imagery, her institute being the only NGO that works with NASA to map out such visible and changes. With these maps, the communities can now see the land and can put aside areas for conservation, those to act as a buffer around the community and to protect the watershed.
The most important and successful component of establishing this conservation effort was the provision of microcredit to communities, a success rate of 96% return of investment. Projects that were provided with financing included those with a focus on environment and sustainability, thematic area (5), such as developing a tree nursery, a chicken farm or a field to plant pineapples. Microfinance is a key to alleviating poverty according to Goodall. Starting in 1993, Goodall’s was the first program of this sort, and they have proved it works.
The success of these conservation initiatives provides hope, the key, she says, to effect change. “If you don’t have hope you are either empathetic, or you’re angry, or you’re depressed and you do nothing.”
“That’s why my talks are called a Reason for Hope”.
“If all these kids start acting locally, cleaning streams, removing exotic species, raising money for stray dogs and they know all around the world other young people are doing the same thing, then you get hope”.
She shared a story her friend crafted about the power of hope. In it, Satan is having a garage sale and all of the books that he and his hoards have written have been marked down, all being sold for only $7-$10. Titles such as How to Lie and all the most horrible things you can think of, were in this clearance section. However, there was one book that cost $2,000. The title of this book was How to Eliminate Hope. The reason is if you eliminate hope, you can do anything with people, and you don’t need to buy any of the other books at all.
Her recommendation for the next generation to create sustainable projects and effect change is to “surround yourself with people who have hope, energy and enthusiasm. It is about rolling up your sleeves and taking action. Second, find out what your passionate about and do that. Don’t listen to other people and feel you have to do this or that. What do you care about? And then find a way you can do just that.”