Diversifying community livelihoods from wildlife

WWF / Martina Lippuner
17 August 2020

11 December 2020: The list of winners has now been announced! Please visit the news story for details and to see the full list.

The Luc Hoffmann Institute, the African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation and the WWF Regional Office for Africa are launching a global innovation challenge. We aim to discover and incubate new revenue models that do not depend on tourism, but still enable local communities within African countries to obtain their livelihoods from wildlife, manage their natural resources sustainably, and improve their collective wellbeing. Participants have the chance to win a place in the African Leadership University’s incubation programme and access to seed money

What is the challenge?

Many communities across Africa rely on tourism to generate income and other benefits from wildlife on their land. However, all forms of tourism, including  photographic tourism and trophy hunting, are extremely vulnerable to social, economic or political instability and changes in the international market.

In order for wildlife to survive on communal lands, communities that manage the land or live in close proximity to wildlife have to derive tangible benefits. Over the past 30 years, different forms of tourism have provided significant benefits, including revenues, to rural communities who share their land with wildlife. This income has enabled these communities to fund the operational costs of wildlife management, such as employment of community scouts to do patrols and monitor wildlife, institutional governance arrangements to ensure that the benefits are equitably used and distributed, and often other benefits like direct cash payments, school fees and community development projects. In this way, wildlife-based tourism not only funds nature conservation but also provides income and employment to a significant proportion of rural people in many African countries. 

© WWF-US James Morgan

The shock to the tourism sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the vulnerability of a conservation model based primarily on tourism. All touristic activity was brought to an abrupt end in March 2020 when the world responded to the pandemic with an almost total global shut down of commercial passenger flights and lockdown measures. Employees in the tourism sector lost their jobs and livelihoods, with a disproportionate impact on people in remote and rural areas. Before COVID-19, wildlife tourism directly contributed US$29.3 billion in GDP to the economy in Africa and directly provided 3.6 million jobs across the continent, over one-third of all jobs in tourism (36.3%). 

With the prospect of very few tourist arrivals in the short-term, protected areas and other conserved lands have had problems paying the salaries of rangers and other staff, who must find other ways of sustaining their families. As people lose their jobs and livelihoods, there are growing fears of a surge in illegal hunting for both subsistence and to feed commercial trade due to the decreased patrolling of parks and conservation areas in an Africa that is in ‘lockdown’. While the prospects for recovery in the tourism sector are a matter of intense speculation, it is possible, and indeed likely, that it will take years to see a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity. Even when economic activity restarts, more resilient and sustainable wildlife economies are needed to diversify risks for communities, governments and the private sector. 

© GCShutter / Getty Images

Objectives of the innovation challenge

To discover and incubate new revenue models that do not depend on tourism, but still enable local communities in Africa to derive income from wildlife, manage their natural resources sustainably and improve their collective wellbeing.

What we are looking for ?

We are looking for innovative concepts, ideas, revenue or finance models that can generate sustained benefits for rural communities from wildlife conservation, beyond tourism. We are not calling for investment-ready proposals, but for ideas with high potential that might be developed during our incubation programme. 

Guiding principles
All ideas must create value for both communities and nature. We have laid out five equally important criteria that should be addressed in answering the questions in the application form.  Diversity, gender inclusivity and social equity should be guiding principles for all successful ideas.

Application Details


On Thursday September 10 2020, we hosted a webinar: ‘GOING BEYOND TOURISM IN AFRICA: Diversifying Community Livelihoods from Wildlife’. The webinar featured an informational session about the innovation challenge and live Q&A, as well as short inspirational talks.

The speakers:

  • Alice Ruhweza (Director, WWF Regional Office for Africa)
  • Gautam Shah (Founder, Internet of Elephants)
  • Fred Swaniker (CEO and Founder of the African Leadership Group)
  • Melissa De Kock (Community Conservation Specialist, WWF) 
  • Tolu Agunbiade (Entrepreneurship Program Manager, ALGroup)
  • Elisabeth Losasso (Beyond Tourism in Africa Project Manager, Luc Hoffmann Institute)

If you were not able to attend, you can watch the full recording below.


Please see the challenge FAQ for more information.
For specific questions about the ALU incubation programme, contact

Terms & Conditions

Read the full project Terms & Conditions.

Want to get in touch?

Email the project team at
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