Rob and Melani Walton Foundation Make a Transformational Gift to Preserve 30 Million Hectares of Biodiversity and Bolster Sustainability in Africa
Their $100M pledge to African Parks is the largest-ever gift to the organisation’s endowment, through which it will bolster Africa’s efforts to meet its target of protecting 30% of the continent for the benefit of people and wildlife by scaling effective park management
Johannesburg, South Africa: Conservation non-profit organization African Parks announced on Tuesday, September 14, a $100M commitment from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation (RMWF), providing one of the largest contributions ever made to the conservation of protected areas in Africa. This commitment will help to expand African Parks’ impact to managing 30 parks over the next decade, preserving a significant portion of Africa’s biodiversity for the long-term benefit of local communities, while helping to grow the organisation’s endowment to ensure for reliable funding.
“The impacts of the climate crisis are undeniable, and we must act swiftly and boldly to protect communities so that people and nature can thrive together. In Africa, part of the solution is conserving more park lands to protect biodiversity and ensure communities receive the health and economic benefits these areas can provide when well-managed,” said Rob Walton of the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation and African Parks Trustee Emeritus. “We are proud to support the public-private partnership model that makes African Parks so successful, and to help accelerate the organization’s ambitious 2030 goals.”
Founded in 2000, African Parks takes on the long-term management of protected areas in partnership with governments to protect wildlife, restore landscapes and ensure sustainable livelihoods for local communities. Currently managing 19 parks measuring 14.7 million hectares, they take on the complete responsibility and are accountable for all aspects of protected area management, including biodiversity conservation, law enforcement, community development, sustainable financing, infrastructure, and overall governance.
With more than 3,200 full-time staff, 98% of whom are from local communities, and thousands of part-time staff, African Parks has become the largest employer in many regions in which they work. Poaching has been curtailed and practically eliminated in most of the parks under their management, where more than 80% of key wildlife populations are on the rise. In the last year alone, 110,000 people received healthcare from the hospitals and mobile clinics they support, and over 100,000 children had access to education provided by the schools they support around the parks. Their goal is to directly manage 30 parks measuring over 30 million hectares by 2030. This would bolster African governments’ efforts to help reach the global target of protecting 30% of the planet for nature.
Rob and Melani Walton are longtime supporters of sustainability and conservation efforts around the globe and have been invaluable partners to African Parks since its inception. “As global citizens, we have a responsibility to protect our planet and the people and species that create our dynamic, fragile ecosystems. We are honored to continue to work alongside African Parks, governments across the continent, and community leaders in support of their sustainability goals,” said Melani Walton of the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation and African Parks Board Member.
The $100M commitment will be allocated over the next five years, with $75M going to the creation of the Rob and Melani Walton Endowment, which forms the largest endowment gift in African Parks’ history, significantly supporting its long-term resilience and growth. The remaining $25M will go to sustaining parks under African Parks’ management that need it the most. A portion of these funds will be used for five-year matching grants in conjunction with the Legacy Landscapes Fund: One to Iona National Park in Angola, and one to Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo. This funding will leverage an additional $10M for each park over the subsequent 10 years.
“Rob and Melani Walton’s commitment is uniquely visionary in providing a source of stable long-term funding that will contribute enduring protection for some of the most biodiverse, threatened landscapes on the planet. This could not come at a more important time, when investment in intact protected areas is urgently needed to address biodiversity loss, mitigate climate change, preserve invaluable ecosystem services, and create sustainable economic opportunities for people,” said African Parks’ CEO Peter Fearnhead. “This extraordinary gift will help to realise our vision of protecting vast ecosystems and their ecological functions for humanity in perpetuity”.
In an analysis conducted in 2020, African Parks identified 161 'anchor areas' in Africa that have the greatest chance of being viably functioning, large landscapes, capable of harbouring globally significant biodiversity and sustaining their flow of benefits to millions of people. However, of these, only 69 are currently adequately protected. If all 161 areas receive effective management solutions, they would provide a foundational step towards the broader vision of safeguarding 30% of Africa for nature.
With this funding commitment from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, African Parks will be able to continue to increase their impact by bringing more parks under management, continue to reduce poaching, increase wildlife populations, and improve livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of people.
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Notes to editors:
Rob and Melani Walton’s support of African Parks began in 2003 with the management of Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi and Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia, the first two parks to join African Parks’ portfolio. In 2010, the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation committed critical funding towards the rehabilitation of Akagera National Park in Rwanda, which included bringing lions and rhinos back to the country after they had gone locally extinct decades prior. Between 2016 and 2017, they supported the historic translocation of 520 elephants in Malawi; and in 2019, Melani Walton joined the US Board of African Parks.
About Legacy Landscapes Fund (LLF): The Legacy Landscapes Fund (LLF) is an ambitious new financing instrument aimed at protecting the world’s most outstanding natural places and closing the funding gap for biodiversity conservation in the Global South. Read more at https://legacylandscapes.org/
About African Parks: African Parks is a non-profit conservation organization that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. They currently manage 19 parks in 11 countries including Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Chad, with the goal of managing 30 parks by 2030. Please visit www.africanparks.org to learn more; or follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
About The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation: The mission of the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation is to elevate people, planet, and purpose by changing what people feel is possible and know is doable. The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation seeks partners who focus on the essential and interconnected elements of sustaining life, advancing all forms of knowledge, promoting understanding of healing, and increasing the sustainability of people and our planet. Please visit https://rmwaltonfoundation.org/ to learn more.
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