I joined the Sacred Natural Sites (SNSI) Initiative in 2012 as part of my M.Sc Forst and Nature Conservation at the Wageningen University. This was my first side step to the more policy related side of Nature Conservation and I went through an incredibly steep learning curve in the half year that I worked with them. First of all, I knew about indigenous people and Community Based Resource Management schemes through my studies but I rarely had the opportunity to learn from indigenous custodians first hand. Through SNSI, I learned a great lot about the everyday struggle that indigenous sacred natural site custodians have to try and conserve their sacred natural sites. And it was with great pity that I learned about places where ancestors lived that were being destroyed because of natural resources that were deemed more important that the lives of local people. And as I talked to more and more indigenous leaders, I felt more and more that it is very important to stand by them in their struggle against greed. I know that might all be perceived as quite idealistic and I tend to be more on the realistic side, but the whole process definitely thought me that we all need to be idealistic to come to realistic perspectives on the importance of conservation.
One of the projects that I worked on during my time at SNSI was the INPerspective project, where we asked custodians of Sacred Natural Sites why it is important to cherish these sides and why it is important that they are conserved. It was an incredible opportunity for me to actually hear about the importance of these sites and you can find the videos on the website of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative.
A more organisational role for me within SNSI was arranging for the custodians and partners of the initiative to join us at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju (Korea). Getting them all there was quite the challenge but we managed to have an incredible gathering on the island and it was an incredible experience.
I greatly enjoyed my time at SNSI and it seriously embedded indigenous people in my personal perspective of conservation.