We began this year with a trip to a place that, for us as a team, has become a home-away-from-home in so many ways. The Grumeti Concession in the Serengeti where the Grumeti Fund is based, is where we filmed our first long format documentary and where we have done so much work over the years for Singita and the Grumeti Fund. This time we were focused on filming everything that makes up the Grumeti Fund – looking at all the detail. This is truly an amazing organization!
The Grumeti Fund is made up of six departments, each of which are geared towards achieving the Fund’s goal of conserving the Serengeti ecosystem. To date, each of these departments has seen great success. The six departments include conservation, anti-poaching and law enforcement, community outreach, research and monitoring, relationships and special projects.
We were privileged to document all of these departments, in terms of having the opportunity to chat to the people behind the scenes, and the leaders of the individual initiatives, as well as community members in this area that play a huge role in the conservation of the Serengeti ecosystem.
The Grumeti Fund and Conservation
More about their Anti-poaching and Law Enforcement
The vast majority of poaching incidents at Grumeti involves commercial bush-meat poaching, however, elephant poaching for ivory is a constant and increasing concern. The Grumeti Fund combines cutting-edge technology with well-trained boots on the ground to combat this dual-poaching threat. They have established 12 permanent scout patrol camps and a network of high-lying Observation Posts which are manned 24/7. Furthermore, a state-of-the-art digital radio network and accompanying law enforcement database ensure Grumeti’s limited resources are deployed efficiently and effectively.
We have spent a lot of time with this team and are always inspired by them – they are constantly working to push the bar higher – to be better and improve upon the work they are doing to protect this vast area, and to ensure they do so alongside the communities on the outskirts of the reserve.
Community outreach – core to the Grumeti Fund
The Grumeti Fund developed and launched UPLIFT (Unlocking Prosperous Livelihoods for Tomorrow) – a community outreach program designed to enhance the livelihoods of individuals living along the boundary of the concessions. In a corner of Tanzania where 99% of wage earners are farmers – an occupation that is extremely vulnerable to external threats such as climate change and crop-raiding elephants – the Grumeti Fund is giving individuals the knowledge, tools and resources needed to provide for themselves, their families and their communities as a whole. UPLIFT employs a three-pronged approach to enhance livelihood security: assisting youth to achieve higher levels of education; increasing income generation opportunities; and promoting the peaceful coexistence of wildlife and humans.
To witness this was really powerful as a team, we learnt so much and were also able to connect with people within the local community. This is what we thrive off of – meeting new people, working with organizations creating change, and learning new ways of living. Being out of our comfort zone, or just working to understand others and their daily challenges, is a huge part of why we do what we do. We hope that this will come across in our films because the work the Grumeti Fund is doing within these communities is something that most definitely needs to be shared!
Research & Monitoring – an ongoing exercise key to conservation success
In order to better understand local ecological systems, and to measure the effectiveness of the community and conservation work, the Grumeti Fund invests significantly in research and monitoring programs with the aim of maintaining long-term records of changes in key variables.
Their team monitors climate, soil carbon, hydrological variables, vegetation biomass and species composition, fire, alien species (livestock and plants), large mammal numbers, large and important bird species and human-wildlife conflict. State-of-the-art GIS mapping software enables them to accurately map everything from wild fires and alien plant infestations to human-wildlife conflict and poaching incidents. This data ensures that only the best evidence-based information guides decision making.
The Grumeti Fund’s unique department – ‘Relationships’
The Grumeti Fund works to build, maintain and strengthen close relationships with all relevant government, conservation and local community stakeholders that operate within the Serengeti ecosystem, thereby enabling them to effectively carry out their work. Specifically, the Grumeti Fund works in partnership with Singita, who hold the concessions on the land they manage; the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism; various district and regional government authorities, local village councils and an array of other government entities and non-profit organizations.
We loved learning about this department, something easily overlooked. Communication and collaboration is key and the Grumeti Fund are doing this so well, and have a fresh approach – working with so many different people.
The Grumeti Fund’s Special Projects
Collaborating closely with other departments the Special Projects function works as a force multiplier across the Grumeti Fund. Introducing new technologies and innovative methods of conservation, anti-poaching and research and monitoring, allows the organization to produce more effective and efficient results and puts the Fund at the forefront of cutting edge conservation.
Established special projects include the canine unit, DAS, reconnaissance drones, covert TrailGuard cameras and the fitting of remote download GPS collars to crop-raiding elephants. Other projects being spearheaded by Special Projects are the Grumeti Fund black rhino expansion program, the re-introduction of Greater kudu and a much-needed aerial support program.
Overall – the Grumeti Fund is an organization that inspires us and that we feel we have grown with and learnt a great deal from. We encourage you to visit their website and follow them on social media, they need your support to continue the good work they are doing. We cannot wait to share the final work we produce for them with you all.
Thank you to our on the ground crew for their work on this particular job – Oli our Director of Photography who managed the team and is the Co-Founder and Director of Black Bean Productions, Alizé Jireh and Sacha Specker. Alizé and Sacha have become an integral part of our Black Bean Productions’ team, and are responsible for the photographs seen in this blog. Alizé edited all the behind-the-scenes videos, and we love sharing more about our team and giving credit to all involved. Every project of ours involves creative collaborations like these, and this is core to our Black Bean Productions’ culture.