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Akashinga “The Brave Ones”: Nature Protected by Women


Many current western-conceived solutions to conserve wilderness areas struggle to gain traction across the African continent. We decided to innovate, using all female teams to manage entire nature reserves and have been astounded by the transformation and potential.

The program was started in Phundundu Wildlife Area in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi ecosystem. It builds an alternative approach to the militarized paradigm of ‘fortress conservation’ which defends colonial boundaries between nature and humans. While still trained to deal with any situation they may face, the team has a community-driven interpersonal focus, working with rather than against the local population for the long-term benefits of their own communities and nature.


  • A growing body of evidence suggests that empowering women is the single biggest force for positive change in the world today
  • Trophy hunting areas across Africa take up one-sixth of all landmass across participating countries. An expanse greater than all of France
  • The hunting industry is rapidly declining, leaving these wilderness areas and communities without sufficient income to incentivise conservation – Unless an alternative source of income is provided, these areas will be lost, along with their rich biodiversity
  • Akashinga employs the most marginalized women from rural communities; educates and trains them to be rangers and biodiversity managers – protecting the large landscapes previously reserved for and financed by trophy hunting
  • A woman with a salary in rural Africa invests up to 3 times more than a male into their family
  • 62% of operational costs of the Akashinga model go directly back to the local community, with up to 80% of that at household level, into the hands of women – turning conservation into a community project
  • These factors equal a better financial return for the local community than what trophy hunting provided
  • This is an efficient, effective and scalable model which inspires and empowers women and gives them the opportunity to secure their own destiny, whilst safeguarding biodiversity
  • It prepares women for the worst-case scenario in their roles, but fosters a harmonious relationship with local communities as the best defence against illegal wildlife crime.


The vision of Akashinga is to replace trophy hunting as an area management tool for conservation in Africa. This achieves landscape conservation at scale: A balance of ecology, economics, ethics and politics for the long-term preservation of large wilderness areas.


Akashinga aims to recruit 1000 women, protecting a network of 20 former hunting reserves by 2025 – Wilderness reclaimed from trophy hunting and run by women.


Akashinga puts the empowerment of women at the centre of the strategy. This gives the greatest traction in community development and conservation. 

Akashinga is an investment into women and their families, the development of rural communities, neighboring wilderness areas and an alternative to trophy hunting. By empowering rural women the program also locally motivates poverty reduction, healthcare, skills development, children staying in school, rape & sexual assault prevention, increased life expectancy, disease reduction and structured family planning.

Akashinga empowers and inspires. Employed, fighting fit and in charge of their physical and financial destiny, these women can help change the world.

For more information email akashinga@iapf.org

Akashinga is a project of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF)

Read The Guardian story here

Full picture essay here

~ The program is entirely vegan for a greener planet ~

Petronella Chigumbura (29) used her first salary to buy school uniforms for her children and pay for their school fees. Photograph: Adrian Steirn
International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) Founder and CEO Damien Mander fine-tunes the unarmed combat skills of qualified rangers. Mander a former Australian Navy Clearance Diver and Special Operations Sniper assembled a team of experts to train the women and lead their personal development. “The women displayed a certain toughness. A calm resilience I’m yet to understand, and perhaps some things in life are best left unexplained. What I do know is that it works, and these women, carefully selected and well trained, have the mettle to change the face of conservation forever” Photograph: Adrian Stern
Returning from patrol, Primrose Mazliru (21) switches from protecting nature to being a mother. The nurturing instinct of women has underpinned the success of Akashinga. Law enforcement and conflict resolution around the world has increasingly evolved to include women in key roles. In Africa and conservation however, men take most front line positions. Despite the fact women often do the majority of manual and household labor in Africa, Western conservation models have ignored their inclusion at scale. Photograph: Adrian Steirn

Copyright 2019 International Anti-Poaching Foundation.

To make a donation to IAPF, please click here.

One comment on “Akashinga “The Brave Ones”: Nature Protected by Women

  1. Joshx45
    November 26, 2019

    Some insight into the problem:

    You get a spiritual bonus if you make it all the way through.😇


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