Mentorship should start at an early stage

Friday November 27 2020
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Mentorship. Kaddu Ssebunya is a lawyer and political scientist from Makerere University. A respected voice for wildlife, conservation and sustainable development, Kaddu currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer at African Wildlife Foundation of African Wildlife.

By Edgar R. Batte

What does your job entail?
As the CEO, I have the responsibility of making sure the operations of Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) run well, making sure we have enough resources; human, funding and the infrastructure, we need. I make sure we have relationships with governments. I spend a lot of time talking to African leaders, cooperation leaders and Pan-African institutions to create an environment that our staff and partners can thrive in their ambitions and mission on the continent. Our results are global. We do not do conservation for only Uganda. Part of my job is to build relations with the global community to come and support conservation in Africa.

How did you get to where you are today?
Conservation for me was an accident. I went to Europe for further studies after Makerere University. That was at a time when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of United Kingdom. She brought environment to bear because at that time she was fighting Europe over environmental policies; that is when I started asking myself, ‘what is this big deal?’. At that time, there was Eastern and Western Europe. Germans were more of conservationists. 

Eastern Germany experienced a lot of acid rain from Eastern Europe so they wanted to have uniform policies and contribute to environmental management and some countries were saying no. I started picking interest in environmental issues and started thinking about Africa. I started looking for schools for wildlife management. That is how I started moving from political science and sociology to natural resource management. 

With your experience, have you mentored any people, and if any, what kind of mentorship have you passed on to them?
I can’t say I have mentored someone unless someone comes out to say that I have mentored them. I mean, it would be arrogant of me to start saying that I have, but I have made many friends and introduced them to the sector and guided them. I cannot say I am responsible for their success.

How important would you say it is to start mentoring conservationists at a young age?
It is very important. Like they say, ‘catch them young’. As human beings, we learn our habits, values and norms from a very early age. Once you miss that, it becomes harder to change so it is very important to mentor at a young age. In the next 30 years, four out of 10 humans are going to be African, so we need to use this opportunity to get them interested in both conservation and leadership generally. If the future world population is going to be majorly African, it will be sad if they don’t care about the environment, thus we need to play our role as mentors now.

How do such efforts tie in with leadership today?
The decisions that our leaders are making today are going to determine the Africa they are going to leave for the rest of the world. It is going to determine the Africa the young people will inherit. We need to get them in nursery, primary schools and educate them but we also need to talk to the leaders so that these people don’t find a bad situation, a harder situation. Can you imagine if we dug a dam on Murchison Falls, if we don’t talk to our leaders to stop them from making bad decisions, we are making it harder for the young people we are educating in Kidepo.