WFN’s first in-country winner network training

Bringing together our Africa-based Whitley Award winners

In late August, we held our first in-person Regional Winner Training at Mpala Research Centre in Kenya to facilitate connections and build capacity across our alumni network, maximising conservation impact.

Part of WFN’s Winner Network Development programme, 14 of our Africa-based Whitley Award winners came together for a week of learning, networking and idea sharing based on their stated needs and own experiences.

The training included peer-to-peer and alumni-led teaching sessions, as well as bespoke training provided by Anthony Kuria and Rosie Trevelyan from Tropical Biology Association.

Whitley alumni Leonard Akwany, who conserves wetland habitats around Lake Victoria, said of the week:

”For me, seeing conservation leaders from various parts of Africa ignites more energy, it ignites more passion, it proves to me that I’m not the only one working in my small part of the world – we are all together as a community of conservation leaders…this is the most important thing; being inspired by my peers and what they are doing.”

SHARING expertise

The week kicked off with past Whitley Award winners and special guests Paula Kahumbu (2021 Whitley Gold Award Winner) and Dino Martins (WFN Trustee and 2015 Whitley Gold Award Winner) leading a field excursion, and guiding sessions on NGO operations and management, and the importance of communications in helping organisations to achieve their goals.

Then, the Tropical Biology Association, who have been training conservation leaders in Africa and Asia since 1994, led sessions including Developing Your Theory of Change, Conservation Planning, Measuring Conservation Impacts and Communication Skills.

Winners also presented to their peers, sharing knowledge gained from managing their conservation projects and NGOs.

The benefit of experience

Each Whitley Award winner who attended brought with them a wealth of knowledge and experience from their own projects taking place across Africa.

By holding this training in-person, participants were given the opportunity to meet and learn from one another, forging long-term alumni connections and collaboration opportunities.

Inza Koné, who works to protect Cote d’Ivoire’s Critically Endangered primates, spoke about the value of spending time with members of WFN’s Winner Network:

”We’ve been able to strengthen our bonds, but also explore together how humans and wildlife can co-exist peacefully. Although there are wide-reaching issues, communicating on solutions together has given me more hope.”

A living laboratory

The setting for this training, Mpala Research Centre also provided the chance to enjoy a few field excursions together, too.

Mpala is situated at the core of the Ewaso ecosystem – a large, geographically diverse region of central Kenya. Billed as a ‘living laboratory’, researchers at Mpala explore solutions and address real-world problems in wildlife conservation.

It served as an ideal venue for our Winner Network to learn and collaborate, as well as to learn from some of Mpala’s researchers and their work.

Looking ahead

We’re grateful to all of our attendees for making our first ever Regional Winner Training such a success, by committing their time to learning, sharing local knowledge and reviewing best practices in the name of conservation.

At WFN, we’re excited to take our regional training weeks to our winners in Latin America and Asia over the coming years, as we build more opportunities for our Winner Network Development programme, and work on our collective mission to support courageous changemakers leading in local solutions to the global biodiversity and climate crises.

We are incredibly grateful to the Evolution Education Trust and to The Rabelais Trust for supporting this programme.