Charles in Charge: Q&A with Africa Field Programs Director Charles Oluchina

Born in Nairobi, Charles Oluchina grew up in various parts of Kenya. His physician father’s work carried the family from the western Rift Valley to coastal Mombasa. After earning a degree in natural resources management, Charles gained extensive conservation experience with USAID before joining The Nature Conservancy’s Africa team in early 2012.
“I was particularly excited and captivated by the Conservancy’s deployment of focused science, business and legal tools that support local empowerment.” 

- Charles Oluchina, Kenya Director

How did you first become interested in conservation?

Charles Oluchina:

My passion for conservation was informed by the diversity of the regions I grew up in and experiences on the land and waters. During vacations I spent a lot of time on our rural farm, tending crops, looking after cattle and occasionally fishing. My vacations were a rich interaction with nature, and I fretted at the reality of going back to school.

In college my passion for nature unfolded. As class representative, I was responsible for academic exchanges, field excursions and environmental events with my faculty heads. We established a mini-arboretum, volunteered to clean stream banks and set up an active Youth Wildlife and Environmental Movement. After graduation, I did volunteer field work with the Ornithological Society of Kenya.

Why were you interested in joining TNC’s Africa team?

Charles Oluchina:

While working at USAID as a program specialist, I had struggled to convince decision-makers of the need to advance conservation at scale. By happy coincidence, TNC was scoping out a partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust. I was particularly excited and captivated by the Conservancy’s deployment of focused science, business and legal tools that support local empowerment. I wanted to join a team that was at the cutting edge of conservation.

What’s the most personally rewarding or satisfying thing about your work?

Charles Oluchina:

The fact that TNC has provided me the tools and latitude to manage the country program has been one of the most empowering experiences of my professional life. The line between risk and reward is clearly drawn, and this has made it possible to experiment with new models for testing conservation actions in this part of the world. I have also richly benefited from the network of experts and advisors that are contributing to the Africa program agenda, ranging from climate change to watershed planning to environmental-flows modeling.

What are your hopes for the future of TNC’s work in Kenya?

Charles Oluchina:

Kenya is undergoing important constitutional, legal and institutional reforms that are supportive of TNC’s focus. TNC brings high-value technical and policy capital that is of immediate strategic value to the conservation and development agenda in Kenya. TNC has already secured its position among some of the key niches in government and civil society, and with that comes the goodwill to advance partnership and collaboration for conservation.