A tribute to our co-founder John Parkin, a gifted teacher and pioneer in community-based conservation
The African Conservation Foundation lost a dear friend and colleague recently as our co-founder John Parkin sadly suddenly passed away, aged 72. John Parkin was a gifted teacher and after taking early retirement he concentrated on developing his strategic information management skills and passing on this knowledge to organisations and conservationists in Africa and elsewhere. Although British born and raised, John literally fell in love with Africa – it’s people, wildlife and environment – from his first visit there in the late 90’s. He was a co-founder of the African Conservation Foundation and became its technical director focusing on the ICT development of the organisation and its local partners.
Apart from being our ICT guru, John was also called the philosopher within the organisation. As early as 2001, he introduced the concept of local capacity building in conservation – both organisational capacity and personal capacities. A proponent of ‘bottom-up’ approaches, he made sure that the African Conservation Foundation was one of the first organisations promoting and supporting community-based conservation initiatives.
As a former Head of Information Technology, John also worked with organisations at the national level, such as Kenya Wildlife Services, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) in East Africa. This work was focusing on the use of new information technologies that supported the work of managers, rangers, educators and communication staff working for these organisations. Outputs included the very first websites for some of these organisations, the use of email, databases for research and project management and later also Geographical Information Systems.
John Parkin was working with conservation legends like Sebastian Chuwa, a Tanzanian conservationist from the Kilimanjaro region who saved the endangered African Blackwood or Mpingo tree from the brink of extinction and during his lifetime supervised the planting of millions of trees. Together they increased the communication and outreach capacity of Sebastian’s environmental education programmes in Tanzania.
John’s greatest passion was in the delivery of training to students and professionals, including curriculum, course development and training needs assessments. In that role, he was also a mentor and guide to hundreds of students, including young African conservationists and other professionals in the non-profit sector. John also worked tirelessly to help people to set up their own conservation organisations and provided them with the knowledge and facilities.
John’s contribution to conservation is widely recognised and won him a major award, the 2006 Stockholm Challenge Award in the Environment category. As a gifted teacher, he has affected so many but felt no need to draw attention to it. He believed in himself and his and others abilities to make a difference.
At the African Conservation Foundation we continue our work in John’s spirit. With an ever-expanding human population, climate change, and increasing demand for natural resources, pressure on wildlife and biodiversity will intensify. It becomes increasingly important to assist communities with bottom-up biodiversity conservation approaches and help shift unsustainable development to development options aligned with local ecosystems. In this crucial time, our co-founder John Parkin was leading the way and giving direction, engaging, training and mobilizing local people in the conservation of their natural heritage, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
Our condolences and best wishes are with John's wife, his children and grandchildren in the United Kingdom.
Following his sudden death the family have decided to have only a small family funeral and to ask people to make a donation instead to his favourite charity: https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/johnparkin