It’s about the journey: creating One Planet Living in rural Tanzania

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Implementing sustainable change is hard even when you do have the resources and infrastructure – but what about when you don’t? To celebrate the launch of its One Planet Annual Review 2016/17 Beverly Burden, Sustainability and Communications at Singita Serengeti, reflects on the successes and challenges of its journey so far

Singita Serengeti is a protected area in Tanzania, committed to environmentally conscious hospitality, wildlife conservation and community outreach since its inception in 2003. To enhance our efforts and to track our progress, we teamed up with Bioregional to use One Planet Living as a framework to help drive these sustainability efforts for the last four years.

I was Singita Serengeti’s Sustainability Integrator from 2013 until 2015, before leaving for the UK for a period. I returned earlier this year to re-join the sustainability team and have been intrigued to look at our progress with fresh eyes.

Our existing commitment to community development and sustainable conservation meant that we were already doing well on some of the One Planet Principles, including Equity and Local Economy and Land Use and Wildlife. Now we are also seeing significant achievements in areas like water and waste management.

Alongside these successes, however, we have faced many challenges. Our rural location in Tanzania means we simply don’t have access to the infrastructure required that others would take for granted when making sustainable changes.

In some cases, this means we have had to be creative. For example, a lack of local recycling facilities means that we send our waste to local enterprises to be reused. But sadly, some of these enterprises don’t succeed – most of our recycling partners have changed in the time I have been away.

For other One Planet Principles, the obstacles have been even greater. Much of Singita Serengeti is not connected to the electricity grid, and where it is connected the supply is often unreliable. This means we are dependent on fuel generators, which has proved tricky in our move towards zero carbon.

To combat this, our Sabora Tented Camp underwent a zero-carbon energy overhaul at the end of 2015, which included:

  • Solar geysers for hot water
  • Highly efficient air-conditioning units
  • A solar PV system of 500 panels and 900kWh battery storage.

Solar energy is now meeting roughly two-thirds of Sabora’s energy demand, with diesel use reduced by 70% in first six months.

We anticipated this would result in a reduction in energy use for the site, but this was not the case. This is, in part, down to our growth and some technical difficulties with fuel generators but we know that we need to redouble our efforts here with greater management focus and further infrastructure improvements.

Creating sustainable change is a journey and we don’t feel disheartened by these challenges. We will build on our achievements and continue to tackle the obstacles with a creative approach to stay true to our mission – preserving African wilderness for future generations.

You can read more about Singita Serengeti’s progress with its Annual Summary 2016/17 or its full Annual Report 2016/17

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