Douglas Bruce, from Ghana, is learning conservation practices at a property in Kerala.
Think solar, think rainwater harvesting, think plastic free, think conservation in all modes. That’s what Ghanaian Douglas Odartey Nanka Bruce’s thought process now is. He is currently training in Conservation Management at Cardamom County in Thekkady, a resort that is a “learning laboratory” for Raxa Collective, a Kochi-based international company that deals with community, conservation and collaboration.
Douglas is the GM of Ecolodge Company Ghana Ltd (ECGL), a holding that has license to develop and manage lodges in National Parks in Ghana. Raxa Collective is ECGL’s management company and hence Douglas is training with them. Adept at managing properties in forest areas he is learning to upgrade the system to one that will not leave heavy carbon footprints. “I would like to replicate the practices that we are following here,” he says, believing that one’s attitude towards his/her principle comes because of the environment.
Douglas carries the spirit of the wild effortlessly, living back home at the remote Mole National Park. “It is very remote and takes eight hours drive to reach there from Accra. There are 99 mammals in the park,” he says about co-existing happily with leopards, lions, crocs and elephants. He talks merrily about an elephant that comes to the swimming pool for a dip. “When you are environment-friendly you learn to co-exist…” he says, adding that Ghana want to build its tourism strictly on the lines of conservation. And that’s his main reason for being here.
Meeting Bill Clinton
In 1994, Douglas recalls his meeting with President Bill Clinton who visited the park. He says wittily, “The American President expressed his wish to come and live in the village and eat ‘keta schoolboys’, a small nutritious fish that the community eats. He is envious of the pure air, pure water, of the pristine forest. He wishes to live with nature.” And that’s the life that Douglas wishes to give his clients.
In Thekkady he has worked in all the departments in the hotel - front office, food and beverages, housekeeping, finance, purchase and engineering.
At the front desk he was charmed by the simplicity of a soft welcome, to have a simple open air reception that merges with the surroundings, “not an imposing brick wall that is unfriendly.” Douglas feels that people here are sensitive to nature and that’s a big advantage. In Ghana the plastic menacehas grown out of proportion. “A baby elephant died after eating a plastic bottle left behind by tourists and if you angle for fish you come up with plastic,” he rues.
“Here they know where to put the dot and the dash in conservation,” he states. He is impressed by the small changes at the property, the idea of outsourcing the laundry to local washer-folk and not run heavy duty washing machines. Food in a property should be locally grown food, preferable organic, he says, impressed that it involves the people around and helps sustain livelihoods.
Such simple alternatives are far reaching he realises. Sewage treatment methods, use of solar panels, rainwater harvesting are some of the other facets of conservation that he is set to implement at his property.
These efforts, he is convinced, will slowly bring about a shift in people’s mindsets. Douglas talks about a leading international travel company that “takes informed decisions”, and chooses to endorse properties that practise environment conservation.
“Many travel companies and even individuals donate money towards conservation, impressed by the efforts of hotels,” he says.
Here Douglas is enjoying every bit of his experience. With his inimitable sense of humour he claims to be the first African in Idukki and that his colleagues should charge a fee from passersby who stare. But that was three months ago when he arrived. Today he is much known and loved, invited to weddings and funerals.
Recently he was invited to a political meeting in Thekkady and as he sat and heard the speakers he felt the passion in their voices, passion of ideology. “There is culture and warmth in Ghana but here the hospitality is touching,” he says charmed by the people of Kerala.