Alice Macharia – Hope Is Communities Leading Conservation for the Good of All (Jane Goodall Hopecast S2 Ep7 )


Full Transcript:

Jane Goodall (00:04):

It began when 12 high school students came up to me in Dar es-Salaam and told me that they had all these different concerns about what was going on in their world; that was in 1991. And so we got together and formed Roots & Shoots with its directive that each group does something to help people, something to help animals, and something to help the environment. It started with volunteers, a beach cleanup in Dar es-Salaam. And one of them came to me and he said “my father said, what are you doing this for? You’re not getting paid.” So Roots & Shoots actually began volunteerism in Tanzania. It didn’t exist before. And it makes the young people feel so good, a feeling of pride. There’s been like that from the beginning, this pride of accomplishment. So that’s part of the magic of Tacare. It’s all of these different things woven together, isn’t it?

Jane Goodall (01:07):

We are all connected. All our voices matter. And it will take all of our bold talents and strengths to create a healthier planet.

Jane Goodall (01:15):

Our mother, our one and only-

Jane Goodall (01:17):

I aspire to change the world too, because of the hope she gave me.

Jane Goodall (01:20):

The Earth is beautiful-.

Jane Goodall (01:21):

She devoted her life for us [crosstalk 00:01:23].

Jane Goodall (01:23):

Together, we can save the world.

Speaker 5 (01:27):

Together we can, together we will.

Jane Goodall (01:27):

What is your greatest reason for hope? I’m Jane Goodall, and this is the Hopecast. Today, I get to speak to a really inspiring person, Alice Macharia. Alice joined JGI in 2004 as a project coordinator for East Africa programs. And she’s now vice president of JGI USA’s Africa programs. Alice has always had an interest in people and their relationship with the environment. And it’s that passion that has driven her to help advance JGI’s Africa program strategy. This is exemplified by Tacare, JGI’s method of community led conservation. We recognize the vital role that can be played by local and indigenous communities in protecting the environment. Once they’re able to make a living without destroying their environment and once they realize that protecting the natural world and all its biodiversity is for their own future, not just for wildlife.

Jane Goodall (02:41):

Alice is helping them develop ways in which they can live in peaceful coexistence with wildlife. We’ve reached a point where we’re ready to scale up this approach throughout and beyond the range of chimpanzees. I’m thrilled to be able to speak with Alice today. Her passion and commitment continually inspires me. I hope you enjoy this hopeful conversation with Alice Macharia. Well, Alice it’s really absolutely lovely to finally have you on Hopecast because you’ve been such an important part of JGI for so long. How did your journey with JGI begin and what made you decide to apply for a job with us?

Alice Macharia (03:32):

I became aware of the Jane Goodall Institute when my lead aunt, Dr. [inaudible 00:03:37]recommended that I look at the work that JGI was doing and how they were engaging and working with communities in western Tanzania. I was actually looking at the JGI approach against some of the other community-based natural resource management approaches that were being held, which were being implemented at that time. And again, the difference was just the integrated nature of it and especially the integration of health, which was one area that most NGOs and conservation organizations had not been doing for a very long time. And so looking at what are we doing in the different countries? How can we put them all together and have a strategy that sets a path that guides the path forward of how JGI will make an impact on chimpanzee conservation, but also people’s lives in Africa.

Alice Macharia (04:26):

So getting external evaluators who went and looked at what was happening in Tanzania, and then seeing what elements of that methodology of the Tacare methodology could be applied in the DRC. And so again, it was just a great time to see how this work that began in 1994, but even before that, in terms of the methodology that you and your mom used in terms of interacting with communities could then be taken to another landscape, which was really complex. So, how could we use the interactions with the communities? In Tanzania, we had a lot of community resource people, a lot of champions. How could those resource people now be used in this other context in the DRC as well as the technology? How could we do that in this new landscape to make sure that we were successful? What can we do and how can we do it better?

Jane Goodall (05:22):

When I look back now, there wasn’t anything like that back then, and people said, “you can’t have a program where you are protecting the forest, planting trees, educating kids, you’ve got to focus.” And we said, “but it’s all interrelated.” And I always say, what’s the point of educating girls if they go back to their village and get sick and possibly die, because there’s no sanitation. But it was so difficult to get the initial funding. In fact, the very first funding was just for planting trees. It was real hard work for George and me to get them to understand this interrelatedness of everything, this holistic approach, which of course has been the hallmark of Tacare.

Alice Macharia (06:09):

I think that was what made the project or that approach so unique because the recognition that when you are dealing with an individual, you’re dealing with all the facets of that individual, so you have to deal with everything. You have to deal with the person who’s interested in protecting their farm, the person who’s interested in protecting the forest, protecting their family, providing for their family. So all those things are what make us whole. And so if you don’t address one of those things, you’re not in balance. And so how can we ensure that when you are addressing that individual, you’re looking at them from that perspective.

Jane Goodall (06:47):

So tell me, I’m just curious right now, what was your impression when you first got out and actually saw Tacare on the ground?

Alice Macharia (06:56):

For me going to Tanzania was amazing, because I got to see people in action, meaning the staff members facilitating the process, but also the communities being able to participate to air out their opinions. And for them saying, these are the things that we need. So if we’re talking about health, what are the things that we need? We need improved clinics. The women were saying; well, I really need to be able to plan my family. And then the same woman is saying, but I’m also interested in few [inaudible 00:07:31]stores. I’m also participating in my credit and savings.

Alice Macharia (07:34):

And so really seeing how in action, you have individuals participating in all these different activities, but they’re excelling in them, because that’s how they live their lives. And so that was fantastic in terms of seeing that work and then taking the boat right to Gombe. And I always remember, as you are riding the boat, it’s just amazing on the lake. And then you get there, it’s this pristine forest. You’re hearing chimpanzee calls in the background, it was amazing. It just had this feeling of seeing and coming home and experiencing all these different things that I’d been reading about. So, it was excellent.

Jane Goodall (08:13):

The interesting thing is that right from the start, let’s say thanks to George. Right from the start, he involved the people. Right from the start, he said, “Jane, we mustn’t talk about conservation in the villages right now, they’re struggling to survive. We need to help them.” And then gradually, they will come to understand that the health of the forest relates to their health, and the importance of education and the importance of trying to bring the forest back to the Bear Hills all around Gombe. And you’ve had such a lot to do with the recent growth of Tacare and all the programs that we are doing. I didn’t know about your aunt, but thanks to her that she told you about Tacare.

Alice Macharia (09:02):

Exactly. Yes, and she played an instrumental role in just getting in the conservation field, but just in terms of looking at JGI and the work that the communities have been able to do since then, the reforestation that’s taken place in some of the villages that had landslides years back, and you see this beautiful forest and the communities see that as their own resource. And I think that’s what’s so important is for people to be given that space, to articulate their needs, so that they can also see beyond the day to day, you need to put food on the table, but to see that there’s so much that can be done, that they can be a part of and they want to be a part of, but the circumstances sometimes are just not in their favor.

Alice Macharia (09:52):

And so seeing how the project and the work that you began all those years ago, has really enabled people to take control of their environment and of their lives, I think has been an immense success and a lot for the Jane Goodall Institute to be proud of and really look forward into how can we extend that work, how can we expand it in other areas, and how can we take those individuals to continue to be champions for other places in Tanzania and where we work?

Jane Goodall (10:31):

Tacare began with 12 villages around Gombe border. Now it’s in a 104, it’s basically throughout Chimp range. The people now understand the importance of saving the environment. They absolutely get it and really all our JGI methods began with Tacare. Something that brought you in was women’s education, women’s health, women’s position in society. So, do you want to talk about what you’ve seen with Tacare with what it’s done for women, which is huge?

Alice Macharia (11:06):

Absolutely. One of the things that I really enjoyed and loved participating in, and that was from the very beginning was really looking at, okay, the Tacare project, how are we empowering women? How are we giving women the space and the tools for them to become leaders in those areas? And so it was great to also see the different ways that involvement took place. There’s the Girls’ Scholarship Program, which continues to date and has made again an impact in Western Tanzania and a footprint for young girls who at that time qualified to go to secondary school, but their parents didn’t have the money to send them to secondary school. And then in addition to that, as part of the scholarship program, there was also looking at women who are just getting into leadership positions and what additional training did they need, and then it moved them to the next level. And so now we are also seeing quite a number of girls who graduated through that program, who are either coming back to Kigoma and holding leadership positions within government or some of them taking on leadership roles within their own communities.

Alice Macharia (12:16):

And I remember one time, I was at the Kigoma Airport and I was getting ready to leave, and the lady checking me in said, “I was a recipient of the Girls’ Scholarship Program.” And I said, “really?” She said, “yes, I graduated from secondary school because of this program, and it gave me this opportunity to make this career and to do something that I wanted to do with my life. And so I can never thank the Jane Goodall Institute enough because it made this difference in my career.” And so these are the kinds of stories or you meet women who were not as engaged, let’s say in making decisions with regards to their lands, and right now they’re part of the Village Land Use Management teams. Some of them are leading those teams, and we’ve even supported women who are part of the Village Land Use Management teams, but they hadn’t completed their secondary school.

Alice Macharia (13:12):

And so they have come back and said, “could you enable me to finish secondary school, because I feel like it’s going to really make a difference in terms of my ability to articulate what I have to say and to move forward to the next level.” And so really looking at these stories and wins with regards to how we’ve been able to get women to those places that they need to get to, and to be able to speak and to be heard as well as the economic bit with the micro credit and the community conservation banks. Again, we are seeing a lot of women; they’re the most active in these groups.

Alice Macharia (13:47):

And so they’re setting aside small businesses, but again, it’s about my own empowerment, their own empowerment, and them feeling that they can actually have the resources to make a difference in their lives and their children lives most importantly. And then when we talk about the family planning aspect of it, it can impact so many other women’s lives for them to have the decision on when they want to have the children and how many they want to have, so that they can support them to be better individuals, to go to school, to feed them, to again make a difference in their own lives. So, it’s great to see all these different facets of how JGI is working to support the communities and especially women.

Jane Goodall (14:29):

Absolutely. And you know, this micro credit, there was a huge meeting of international politicians and conversationalists and everything called The State of the World Forum, and it was leading up to the year 2000. And I met all kinds of people when I went to that. And one of the people I met was Muhammad Yunus with his micro credit. And he invited me to go and visit Bangladesh where it began. It was life changing for me meeting these women who they told the story of how, for the very first time, they could take out a small loan and they’ve never touched money before because it was always the husband. They demonstrated holding out their hand for the money. And Yunus told me first time the hands were shaking. And when they told me their stories, they were crying. The women who take these micro loans and then pay back are proud.

Alice Macharia (15:27):

You’re right. I mean, it’s just made a difference from small businesses that they’ve started from baking, soap, anything, but just that sense of ownership and that they have their own resources to be able to implement it and use them, however, they please or in the area that they feel the most that it requires.

Jane Goodall (15:51):

That’s part of the magic of Tacare. It’s all of these different things woven together. Isn’t it?

Alice Macharia (15:57):

Absolutely. I think the pride that young people have when they’ve done something either for the environment, for animals or people and how it carries along in their lives, just going around and visiting the Roots & Shoots groups. They’re taking even the work that Tacare is doing with the communities and implementing it in their schools. And so you’ll find them doing the tree planting, the beekeeping, having pilot activities where they can show their parents how to do better agriculture. And so this cross generational learning is really important in making a difference. Because sometimes as parents, our children actually challenge us. They’ll come home and they’ll say something and you say, “oh yeah, wait a minute. I need to do that better.” And so they’re also using that opportunity and that’s also a vehicle for change because those individuals are leaders now. And they’ll just continue to be better leaders because of their experiences with Roots & Shoots. So like you said, that’s the magic of the approach is also having young individuals who are going to really make a phenomenal difference in the environment and in our world.

Jane Goodall (17:12):

And again, the magic is they get to choose, it’s not a top-down. They get to choose what they do as long as the group does something for people, something for animals, and something for the environment. And of course that’s spread right through Tanzania. And I was talking to Japhet who heads up Roots & Shoots, and he said “we’re getting to a critical point where we’ve got so many people who’ve been through Roots & Shoots that they are going to have a major say in the government of the country and the business of the country.” And they keep those values with them, respect, respect for each other, respect for the environment, respect for animals. And I’m absolutely thrilled that my granddaughter is now going to work for Roots & Shoots. But what she’s going to do is to develop the caring for animals side of it, which tends to get a bit left out.

Alice Macharia (18:11):

That warms my heart Jane in terms of your granddaughter supporting the Tanzania team and going back and working with the Roots & Shoots team. And I’m sure you’re just super proud of her. One thing that also struck me was the number of girls. So Roots & Shoots, Tanzania, has more girls participating in Roots & Shoots. And so I think when we are talking about that critical mass is also usually you see, you have many girls, but then they’re not getting to decision making offices. But I’m very confident that through Roots & Shoots, I mean just the level of participation, engagement, and just they are at the forefront of presentations, talking to their leaders that we should hopefully see that same level of engagement continuing on as they move up in societies.

Jane Goodall (19:11):

Alice, you and I both recognized the important role that women play in the world today. It’s becoming evident all around the world, more and more women going into leadership positions. So, how has it evolved since you joined JGI?

Alice Macharia (19:31):

Think in terms of how it’s evolved since I joined JGI is really being intentional in ensuring that what we do when we are implementing activities and when we are implementing projects, we are very much aware and responding to, if it’s inequality or issues that prevent women from sitting at the table or being there, when we are implementing activities. And so being very mindful of what can we do to ensure that if we are having a meeting to do with a resource, let’s say it’s water; the women are not sitting at the table. How do we ensure that their voices are being heard? Do we need to implement a different way of engaging them? Do we have to have extra meetings at times when they’re available? Do we need to have smaller meetings with the women and then bring their ideas to this larger forum? And this was something we also experienced in the DRC.

Alice Macharia (20:31):

I remember we implementing a wartime sanitation project and the women had taken us to see this spring that had been built by Dario and the team in the DRC, and it was providing water to this area. And so the lady took us and showed us this place, the water it was providing them, and everything was working perfectly. And then as we were walking back, there was a group of men sitting, having a meeting. And I remember I asked the ladies, I said, “what’s going on over there.” And they said, “oh, that’s the community meeting, it’s the Baraza, they’re meeting.” And I said, “but I don’t see a lady or a woman in that group.” And they said, “yes, it’s only the men who meet there.” And so then I asked them, “so how do you get the issues that are important to you? Like in this case, water, for example, how do you ensure that that is being represented in the meetings?”

Alice Macharia (21:26):

And they said, “what we do is we have to ensure that we communicate that to either a male leadership who’s going to be in the meeting and hopefully they communicate their needs.” And so what can we do as an institution when we are having or facilitating certain projects to ensure that the women’s voices are heard?. Do we need to make sure they’re coming in as technical experts because in some instances that has worked where some of the men say, “no, no, no, we can’t have a lady sitting here,” but guess what, they can allow a technical expert to come and sit. So maybe the woman comes and talks about the well and the technical implications in terms of fixing it and what need to happen in terms of providing water.

Alice Macharia (22:09):

So really looking at spaces and creating those spaces for women to be heard because it will not come naturally and it’ll not come organically. We have to make sure that that’s being created. So, there are a number of examples where you look at the situation and you say, “no, we need to have more women here when we are talking about even our work in the countries.” How can we ensure that research is always one that I bring up Jane? You were in Gombe, you conducted research, and we need to have more African female researchers who are also in Gombe collecting data on chimps, on baboons, on the botany aspect of it. So, what can we do to create the conditions that we enable women to actively participate, to share their opinions, and to be heard?

Jane Goodall (23:03):

I think Alice from the beginning, JGI has really tried to partner with corporations. We’ve tried to partner with; well, certainly in Tanzania, we couldn’t have done anything without involving the government. It just wouldn’t have been appropriate, but involving the business community as well, because they have the resources that we need. So, what’s been your experience with these kinds of collaborations outside the conservation communities?

Alice Macharia (23:35):

It’s an area of growth. That would be my comment. I think we’ve done pretty well, but we could do more. One of the areas that would be really instrumental would be growth in terms of what is the private sector’s role in terms of ensuring that these communities have those resources and conserve those resources for the greater good. There’s so much money being made in terms of profits. How can some of those resource sources be injected into these communities, so that they have those basic services that they need from education to health. Those are not things that they’re worrying about, but instead they’re more focused on protecting the resources or really ensuring that these are common goods that are valued by all, not just them and that the institutions who, far away from them are making a lot of money, are causing destruction to the environment are plowing some of these resources back into these areas.

Alice Macharia (24:36):

So, I think there also needs to be this shift in terms of looking at these resources as common goods for everyone and seeing how can we find money and the wherewithal to put that money into those communities because these disparities continue to grow. And then of course, when we are talking about the governments again, the governments have such an instrumental role in terms of creating the policies and enabling environment for the work to get done. But we also know that in most instances, they don’t have the revenues to be able to meet the needs that their communities or their country men and women need.

Alice Macharia (25:15):

And so being able to work with the government, so that we are able to support them and facilitate the implementation of those policies in the areas that we work in is also critical, but also seeing conservation as part of the development agenda, because in so many instances you have conservation and development, almost at two different parts of the spectrum, but really looking at it as an integrated piece that these forests, these waters, they’re such a critical piece of the economy. To conserve them for the future will continue to ensure that you get those benefits.

Alice Macharia (25:53):

How do we ensure that this really critical piece? And like you said, we are at crossroads, and I think that’s where we need to get to where conservation is being looked at as part of development. So when we are talking about water, how can water conservation be seen as part and parcel of the development agenda? So what are we doing about that? How are we looking at the forests in terms of conservation? And so I think this is the point that we really need to look hard and deep and see how can those governments be supported?

Jane Goodall (26:30):

Do you have a story of somebody who’s so much benefited from Tacare and it’s made such a difference in their life?

Alice Macharia (26:40):

There was one time, we had gone to Kigoma. There are many stories, but this one, I was actually thinking about it yesterday. And we had gone to Bubango, one of the northern villages, and there was a honey group that was showing their work there. So, they had the beautiful honey and beautiful jars. They had also made candles from beeswax. They had lip gloss. They had all these products that had been made from honey and really proud about showing the work they’ve done. They were talking about the money that they were now making from selling the honey. And when they were done, I asked them “could you show me where you have your beehives?” And so this one individual said, “okay, I’ll show you.” And so we got in the car, and we went to forest and it was actually a private forest that he had encouraged his family to set up. And so because of him, now they had the forest, but most importantly, they had the beehives in the forest and they were collecting honey.

Alice Macharia (27:45):

But what was even more impressive was that he had also encouraged people and they had built like an outdoor classroom. So, it was open air and they had benches outside, and he said “what I do now is that I bring Roots & Shoots members, I bring community members.” And so we get to sit here. We talk about different issues, but we are sitting with nature. So people are also experiencing with nature as they’re learning about beekeeping or specific method of growing or planting trees. And in that moment, it was so inspirational because here was one individual who was basically espousing, the Tacare methodology. So, he was doing all these different pieces of the work and really having an impact, not only on himself but on all these young people and on the community. So, I think that was one story that really stuck with me in terms of, you always see every individual matters, every individual can make a difference, and there was one individual who’s making a significant difference in his community.

Jane Goodall (28:58):

Alice, what’s so fascinating that Tacare has made a huge difference, not only in Tanzania, but the Tacare method has made a difference in DRC as you were talking about in Uganda, in Burundi, in Senegal, in Malawi; it’s all involving local people and giving them a voice. And it all started because as the habitat around Gombe was destroyed, the chimpanzees were vanishing and Gombe was an isolated community. And it’s fascinating to me to think it was because of concern for the chimpanzees and other wildlife that led to this Tacare approach involving the people too, realizing they’re part of the landscape, not separated from it.

Jane Goodall (29:51):

What’s happened is that because of Tacare, different villages have agreed, first of all, to get this buffer zone around Gombe where women can go in and collect firewood or mushrooms or something like that. But also other villages have set land aside to make corridors, linking Gombe’s chimps to outside remnant groups. And that will be the saving of the chimps of Gombe because they were down to a 100 and that’s probably not a big enough gene pool to ensure their future survival. But now, I believe it’s four females from outside have come into the Gombe group with their special genes.

Alice Macharia (30:35):

I think that’s amazing. And just the work that has been done to understand, what are the threats to the chimpanzees, but how can communities be part of that solution in terms of coming up with strategies or activities like in this case? I think the land use planning has been that really important piece because it’s enabled the establishment of corridors outside of Gombe National Park, so that the chimpanzees can move in these areas. And so again, when we are looking at threats to chimpanzees in other parts of Africa, it’s looking at these types of approaches and how can they be implemented when we’re talking about habitat degradation, when we are talking about slash-and-burn agriculture. So communities cutting the forest, because they have to go through this cycle of farming, what can JGI do to work with the community, so that they are able to stay within the piece of land that they have, but they’re also able to get enough of a produce to survive, looking again at the land use [inaudible 00:31:43]plant piece.

Alice Macharia (31:44):

So, how can that also be used as a strategy to address the habitat degradation? In other countries, there’s also the consumption of wild meat. And so what are the strategies that JGI can implement to work with the communities to either change, if it’s the diet or work with the low enforcement, so that they’re able to enforce certain species that should not be consumed outside of the national park because they’re endangered. And so really working with communities to be the agents of change, the implementers of change, but also supporting the work that we’re doing, because ultimately the lands belong to the communities. We have so many chimpanzees that live and pass through these community lands. So the more that we can work with the communities to protect them, to understand, and to really be part of this process is really critical.

Jane Goodall (32:39):

People are understanding that we depend on healthy ecosystems and a healthy ecosystem is made up of that mixture of plant and animal species, each one of which has a role to play. We need to protect the ecosystem that will improve the lives of the people. The improved lives of the people will help to protect the ecosystem. So, it’s all one wonderful puzzle and Tacare along with our chimp research is really helping to put the pieces together in a way that’s meaningful for people, animals, and the environment. So Alice, I think this has been a super conversation. It’s lovely to be speaking to you who’ve done so much for our Africa programs. It’s been a real treat for me. And I just want to thank you for taking the time and being part of our Hopecast.

Alice Macharia (33:37):

Thank you so much, Jane. I also want to see that you continue to give me hope and really realize that the work that we are doing came from this place of interconnectedness. And so we are continuing with that message. And I just want to say, thank you for this opportunity.

Jane Goodall (34:00):

Well, we’ll thank each other, and we’ll thank all the people who’ve made JGI and Tacare possible.

Alice Macharia (34:07):


Jane Goodall (34:26):

It’s beginning to happen, isn’t it? You’ve heard about it. This change, the sea change that we must have if we care about the future. Nature is amazingly resilient. You can take an area that’s absolutely destroyed with time and perhaps with some help it can regenerate. And an example is the Tacare program I told you, where a seemingly dead tree stumps if you stop hacking them for firewood, then in five years, you can have a 30-foot tree, and animals almost on the brink of extinction can be given a second chance. It’s inspiring this indomitable human spirit, this determination of people, a resilience of the human spirit to make the world a better place, truly are our hope for tomorrow. Thank you.

Jane Goodall (35:22):

Feel hopeful and inspired to act with the Jane Goodall Hopecast by subscribing on apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google podcasts, and anywhere podcasts are found. I’m your host Jane Goodall. The Jane Goodall Hopecast is produced by the Jane Goodall Institute. Our production partner is Frequency Media. Michelle Corey is our executive producer, Gao Kosha in our producer, and Matthew Earnest Filler is our editor and sound designer. Our music is composed and performed by Ruth Mendelson with additional violin tracks from Angie Shear. Sound design and music composition for the conservation chorus is by Matthew Earnest Filler.

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About Author

Scientist. Activist. Storyteller. Icon. Jane Goodall blazed the trail and changed the world. Now, she's studying new subjects – humans! This brand-new podcast will take listeners on a one-of-a-kind journey as they learn from Dr. Goodall's extraordinary life, hear from changemaking guests from every arena, and become awed by a growing movement sparked by Jane and fueled by hope. Join us as we get curious, grow compassion, and take action to build a better world for all. As we face some of the greatest challenges to humankind and the natural world, we have a unique opportunity: the power of technology to connect and share ideas. Now is the time to galvanize people around Jane’s message of hope in action and bring big thinkers together to change hearts and minds alike. The Jane Goodall Hopecast is produced by the Jane Goodall Institute by Dan DuPont, Shawn Sweeney, and Ashley Sullivan. Our production partner is FRQNCY Media. Michelle Khouri is our executive producer, Enna Garkusha is our producer, and Matthew Ernest Filler is our editor and sound designer. Our music is composed and performed by Ruth Mendelson with additional violin tracks from Angie Shyr. Sound design and music composition for the Conservation Chorus is by Matthew Ernest Filler.