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CASE STUDY: Improving protected area management through business-skill sharing

Improving protected area management through business-skill sharing

Earth Skills Network (ESN) brings leaders from the business world and protected area managers together, in a mentor-mentee relationship, to share knowledge and transfer key business skills with a view to improving the business management in protected areas. Earthwatch have worked with Shell on this programme for over 10 years. In this time 64 Shell business mentors have been partnered with 184 protected area staff from 20 African and 6 Asian countries.

Farouk Dubiure - Park Manager at Mole National Park at Lajuma Research Centre, South Africa

“The potential scope of the Earth Skills Network is vast. Many of the organisations that manage protected areas face significant challenges relating to business management. Without a strong organisational foundation, protected areas are unable to effectively manage the rich ecosystems under their stewardship. We are utilising the skills and resources of international businesses to meet this need, and in doing so we are helping businesses to better understand the value of natural resources to their organisation, and the important role of protected areas.”

Stacey Baggaley, Senior Programme Manager at Earthwatch Europe

Building meaningful relationships

Mole National Park, in Ghana, is a key wildlife area for elephants and antelopes and is considered an important site by Ghana’s Wildlife Division, which is responsible for all wildlife in the country and administers the protected areas.

Andrew Stevenson, Manager – Business Development, Shell Energy Global Accounts, has a background in strategic planning and previous commercial experience in Ghana. Having the opportunity to work with a protected area in West Africa gave him credibility in the discussions he was then having with his customers in that area. Andrew made an ideal business mentor for Farouk Dubiure, the Park Manager at Mole National Park.

Prior to Earth Skills Network, Farouk and his team had little exposure to business planning and marketing. Andrew brought a wealth of experience and supported Farouk in these areas during Earthwatch’s Residential Training and through ongoing mentoring.

During the programme, Farouk had the following to say: “I have an excellent working and personal relationship with my mentor. My mentor is not only concerned about getting a plan developed for the site, but very much interested in seeing the development and sustainable management of the site, especially after visiting the site and seeing its potential, challenges and needs.”

The Residential Training facilitated open discussion between Andrew, Farouk and his team on the needs and challenges of Mole National Park. They worked together to write an action plan to focus on priority needs for the protected area.

Farouk Dubiure (left) and his colleagues Robert Koomson (centre) and Ali Mahama (right) from Mole National Park, Ghana

Bringing benefits to protected areas

Over the 12-month mentoring period facilitated by Earthwatch, Andrew helped Farouk and his team apply their learnings and implement the action plan. Actions included:

  • Developing a proposal to finance the upgrading of road infrastructure and the park’s facilities to enable Mole National Park to become more accessible and attractive to eco-tourists. Through this, they secured US$ 30,000 to upgrade critical game-viewing roads.
  • Developing a marketing plan to increase the visibility of the park. They have since developed a new website on Mole National Park (with the support of a partner) which is helping to attract new visitors to the area.
  • Actioning the marketing plan which had a specific strategy on tourism. With this in mind, the park attracted a private investor to build new luxury lodge under a tourism concession. The lodge owner supports the tourism marketing thereby allowing the park management to benefit from the income and focus on their conservation / education activities. In the period 2014 – 2017 Mole saw a 50% increase in tourism. A particular rise was observed in domestic tourists where numbers rose by 65%.
  • Identifying and targeting potential sources of funding to help achieve the park’s conservation objectives. For example, Mole National Park successfully sourced over US$ 130,000 from the African Elephant Fund for the conservation of the park’s elephants. The additional funding and activities within Mole National Park are contributing towards the Forestry Commission’s national elephant strategy.

Participating in ESN has enabled Farouk and his team to further develop their stakeholder skills. John Naada Majam, the Northern Regional Manager of Ghana’s Wildlife Division commented:

“The ESN programme is showing a visible impact. Since receiving mentor support, the Park Manager [Farouk] is networking and collaborating more with organisations and attracting more development projects for the protected area.”

Building capacity for business


ESN mentor Andrew Stevenson, Manager – Business Development, Shell Energy Global Accounts at the Lajuma Research Centre, South Africa


Andrew was inspired and motivated by his experiences of working with a protected area. ESN provided the opportunity to fully develop his communication and leadership skills whilst also increasing his knowledge and understanding of protected areas. 

This experience has also benefitted his engagement with stakeholders in sustainable development. Andrew is engaged in supporting environmental initiatives in partnership with his customers. On a daily basis, he now works with some of Shell’s largest customers to transition to renewable energy such as solar or wind and to convert vehicles run by fossil fuels to carbon free electric vehicles or those powered by renewable natural gas or hydrogen.  Andrew explains: “An example is a recent solar project that was done in partnership with Facebook.  For the first time, Facebook provided the equity to finance a solar project and Shell Energy is managing the power offtake from the project.  This allows both companies to replace the power they use at their own facilities with renewable energy.”

Another way for customers to decarbonise is through nature-based solutions, such as preventing deforestation.  Andrew became familiar with the some of the benefits of avoiding deforestation from his collaboration with Mole Park, where there has been a focus in order to protect habitat. Since April 2019, Shell has invested in nature-based solutions as part of its strategy to act on global climate change, including addressing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by customers when using its products.  

Andrew has gained greater awareness and appreciation of protected areas, cultures, communities and operational realities in countries like Ghana. He says: “The ESN programme was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.  Working with the talented and committed Mole team and Earthwatch focal points opened up a greater understanding of the vital role NGOs play in sustainable development and the need for companies like Shell to support such worthwhile initiatives.”

  For more information, head over to our news story


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