IN CONVERSATION WITH ANDRIA TEATHER, CEO, THE JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE OF CANADA
Andria Teather, JGI Canada’s CEO, not only works alongside one of the most influential and lauded conservationists of our time, but through the JGI Canada organization, Teather and her team are spearheading programs both at home and in Africa. Here, Andria speaks to the Jane Goodall effect and the interconnection between people, animals and the environment.
M: What is it about Dr. Goodall that allows her to be such an effective storyteller and call people to action?
AT: There’s something about Jane that’s intangible. At events, I see sold out audiences with a wide range of ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. I am blown away every single time. She carries this incredible aura about her that people are drawn to. In this time of leadership where people are questioning beliefs, whether political or corporate, she embodies a person who lives her beliefs and philosophy. She never wavers and delivers it in a concise and believable way where she’s not screaming and shouting. She’s expanding from these two issues that are incredibly important for climate change – genetically modified food and the captivity of all sorts of species of animals – to a much broader range than when she started. People listen to her on all of those issues and so she is the common denominator.
M: What is the experience of travelling to Africa with Dr. Goodall like, taking the projects that are planned and organized here and then implementing them abroad?
AT: The projects we are doing in Africa are really focused on people. We always talk about the interconnection of people, animals, and the environment. We’re addressing all three of those so a big part of our work is conservation. A big part of our work is making sure that people living in chimp-scapes are healthy, have sustainable livelihoods and are not putting pressure on the natural environment. Again, all connected. I like to say that, in Canada, ‘we are trying to create the next Jane’. Whether that’s male or female, people are going to stand up for whatever they believe in. It doesn’t have to be chimpanzees or the environment, but understand, recognize issues and problems and do something about it. Stand for something.
M: Tell us about the maternal health program that you are working on in the Democratic Republic of Congo and what that work entails.
AT: That work is very compelling. Specifically, it is a strategy to work with communities of people who live near the largest population of wild chimpanzees and other species including gorillas. We also work in twenty villages in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Congo Basin, which is probably one of the largest contiguous patches of forest on this planet. From an air quality standpoint, it’s important to all of us that we work with communities of people there to make sure that they are healthy and thriving.
M: How does that link to a chimpanzee operation?
AT: Take for example one of our projects: workshops on family planning. We talk to them about family planning because the smaller the family size, the less they have to chop down forests or hunt wild animals for food. That’s the connection. We have also worked with them on having sustainable livelihoods so crops will grow and survive in those areas. There is definitely a link, and once you work with communities of people around what they need, and they tell us what they need, they then become our partners, allowing us to have conversations with them about conservation. You can’t just walk in and say, “don’t mow down the forests;” it doesn’t work. They know that we care about their health and their livelihoods.
M. Can you tell us about the work that the organization is doing with First Nations communities and your internship program?
AT: The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, through our Roots and Shoots program is now not only working with kids in private elementary and high schools, but we’re also very focused on identifying opportunities to work with underserved populations. We’re working with the First Nations Council of BC and an organization in Uganda that’s doing conservation and reforestation work. The three organizations, with us as the lead, applied for and received funding to send approximately thirty-five youth to Uganda. They will come back and share that information, learning and experience with their communities and potentially choose careers in conservation.
M. And you feel what they would learn in Uganda could help them in their local communities in Canada?
AT: Definitely. Not only from a practical and technical side, but from international exposure. When you travel internationally, you get involved with people in passion projects that are different, but still trying to do the same thing. It changes your perspective and opens doors.