The Cultural Geography group collaborated in a successful KIGO project on European Nature Entrepreneurship together with Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences, Helicon Opleidingen and Rewilding Europe. For three years these partners joined a search party to explore the possibilities for training this new breed of entrepreneurs. During the final symposium on June 16th, several ideas from (potential) nature entrepreneurs were showcased and several of them received a mini-business consult from experienced conservation consultants.
Matthew McLuckie, Enterprise Development Manager at Rewilding Europe spoke about the development of ‘conservation enterprises’ and the use of ‘conservation covenants’ in Europe during his keynote speech at Knowledge estate Larenstein in Velp, the Netherlands. McLuckie defined ‘conservation enterprises’ as commercial activities generating economic and social benefits in ways that help meet conservation objectives. McLuckie shared his insights on nature entrepreneurship in Africa and Europe based on his experiences at Conservation Capital and Rewilding Europe and underlined the opportunities in Europe for eco-tourism and wildlife watching in particular. “People are prepared to pay a lot of money to watch wildlife in Europe.” McLuckie explicates: “at the isle of Mull white-tailed eagle watching attracts up to £5 million of tourist spendings every year”.
Educational activities in Western Iberia
One of Rewilding Europe’s pilot area in Western Iberia, located around the border of West-Spain and North-East Portugal, was chosen as the project’s focus area to experiment with educational activities like the Erasmus Intensive Programme on European Wilderness Entrepreneurship and research on the topic of nature entrepreneurship. Collaboration with the local partners of Rewilding Europe in Western Iberia - Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre (FNyH) in Spain and Associação Transumância en Natureza (ATN) in Portugal - was vital for the successful implementation of these educational activities and research projects. The local NGO’s hosted bachelor and master students to execute theses and internship projects about mapping landownership in the Portuguese nature reserve Faia Brava, the negotiation of space and the involvement of locals with Faia Brava and ATN, and stakeholder involvement in FNyH. Western Iberia was also featured in an educational documentary on Rewilding Europe produced in an additional WURKS project NatureToGo, in which a diversity of stakeholders talk about how they see the future for Western Iberia.
During the three years of the KIGO-project, many educational activities have been developed to educate this new breed of conservationists with a set of entrepreneurial skills. There are still challenges to be overcome, but one thing is clear; there is a demand for this kind of entrepreneurs. Even though the project has almost ended, the curricula that have been developed at VHL University of Applied Sciences, Wageningen University and Helicon Opleidingen will continue. The partners of the KIGO-project European Nature Entrepreneur have the ambition to seek European funds to further internationalize the curricula and collaborative research on European nature entrepreneurship.