The Mazda Wildlife Fund fittingly celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2010, the International year of Biodiversity. "We view conservation and environmental education as a top priority," says Doreen Mashinini, Mazda Marketing Manager at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA).
"In 1990, the Mazda division decided to shift its marketing approach from sport sponsorship to conservation, in order to support worthwhile long-term initiatives that would benefit all of the people of South Africa. Driven by the spirit of commitment, the Fund aims to protect and preserve South Africa's rich and irreplaceable wildlife heritage for generations to come," says Doreen Mashinini. The founders of the Mazda Wildlife Fund had exceptional foresight 20 years ago in anticipating the problems facing the environment today of global warming, resultant natural disasters and the increasing loss of biodiversity — and decided to support NGOs in their quest to protect the environment.
The Fund has formed partnerships with the major environmental NGOs in South Africa and relies on their guidance in deciding which projects to support depending on their conservation priority. To date, over 300 applications for support have been received, of which over 150 have been approved by the Fund's Advisory Board.Seven structured environmental education projects, including the internationally recognised Eco-Schools program, reach hundreds of thousands of children each year and open their minds to the importance of being responsible custodians of the planet they will inherit. Seventeen projects focus on the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems, from rhinos and birds of prey to wetlands, grasslands, toxic chemicals and wildlife trade. Five research projects expand our understanding of sustainable resources, coral reefs, whales and dolphins, vultures, and crocodiles.
One of the purposes of the Fund for Mazda is to provide fully maintained Mazda vehicles to approved conservation and environmental educational projects — and project managers stress that without reliable transport for use in remote areas their work would not be possible. Thirty vehicles are currently provided to 29 projects situated throughout South Africa, covering a wide spectrum of biodiversity, ecosystem and educational activities. "The breadth and depth of the Fund's influence is remarkable—and the numerous projects have made a huge contribution to the state of South Africa's environment," says Humphrey Le Grice, Manager of the Mazda Wildlife Fund. "Without the support of Mazda this would not have been possible."
The support of a sponsor such as Mazda is also a major endorsement of the projects' worth and provides credibility for obtaining additional funds from other sponsors, both local and overseas.
The effects of the program can be described in the Japanese phrase san'po-yoshi, meaning three-way benefits—for South Africa's biodiversity, for the Mazda brand and for society alike.
In recognition of these efforts, the Company was awarded the American Chamber of Commerce's Stars of Africa Gold Award in the environment category in 2004 and the Stars of Africa Silver Award in 2005.
"With each passing year, the legacy of the Mazda Wildlife Fund is strengthened, and the commitment of Mazda to sustain its support in the long term is a priceless contribution to understanding and protecting South Africa's rich natural heritage for all of its people," concludes Doreen Mashinini.