Ranger Report: May 2024

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

The Akashinga Ranger Report is a quarterly newsletter that puts you behind-the-scenes with Africa’s plant-based, all-female Akashinga Rangers. You'll be immersed in the anti-poaching rangers’ activities, experiences, and achievements as they protect, connect, and restore invaluable wilderness landscapes across Southern and East Africa.

Akashinga Ranger Supervisor Wadzanai Munemo Leads From the Front to Unite Her Team

Akashinga Ranger Supervisor Wadzanani Munemo in the wilderness she protects at Phundundu, near Nyamakate, Zimbabwe. (Photo: Davina Jogi)

When Akashinga Ranger Supervisor Wadzanai ‘Wadza’ Munemo’s mother died in her last year of primary school, she was sent to live with her aunt. Although she was able to continue her education into high school, by the age of sixteen, she had little choice but to accept a marriage that had been arranged for her. The marriage failed, but its impact on her life was long-lasting, and like many Akashinga Rangers, left her with children to single-handedly support.

Wadza’s life could have continued in hardship, but as she says, “Sometimes you have a plan, but God has a different one for you."

Wadza’s brother, Jealous Matesanwa, was a local councillor in 2017 when he heard about the applications for the first Akashinga training programme at Nyamakate in Zimbabwe. “I applied because I trusted him,” says Wadza. Jealous saw something in Wadza that she didn’t even know she possessed yet, and he encouraged her when she was tempted to give up during the extensive selection and training. Wadza not only passed but flourished in her new job, eventually being promoted to a Sergeant, Sergeant Major, and then Ranger Supervisor in the last two years. Wadza says, “I am proud of myself for all those positions because it shows even my boss, the top management, they know that I'm doing a good job, and it gives me strength and confidence.”

Today, she is working hard to ensure her children have a better life than she did and is delighted to have built them their own home where they can grow up protected by her support. The position has come with sacrifice and risk, but her children understand the rewards that come from her long deployments, and they respect her work. Her son, Letmore, recognizes that protecting animals will not only benefit him but also his own children, and her daughter, Alice, hopes the job will take Wadza far and wide to teach others about wildlife.

Wadzanai Munemo at her home in Nyamakate, with two of her three children, Letmore,18, (left) and Alice, 11. (Photo: Steven Dean)

Wadza instills this kind of long-term thinking and ambition not only in her biological children, but in the rangers under her care. As Phundundu’s Ranger Supervisor, her role is to oversee everyone at the camp, providing training and coaching while maintaining a positive work environment. For Wadza, it is a calling she does with gentleness and empathy, living up to her name which means ‘to unite,’ ‘live in harmony,’ and ‘fellowship’ in the Shona language.

“I am father and mother,” she says, and the younger girls and women now look up to her as a strong leader who can impart knowledge about patrolling, investigating, and the tactics needed to be a successful ranger. She encourages her sisters, her ‘little rangers,’ to follow in her lead: “Listen to instructions, act in the way you have been taught, work hard, and use your earnings to invest in your future so that you, too, can have the advancements I have had.”

Wadza is currently completing her second house build and has plans to acquire a truck license to give her broader responsibilities at work. “Akashinga raises us up,” she says, and she leads by example to ensure this ethos is seen and felt by every ranger she supervises.

Akashinga Supports KRC Community Scouts with LEAD Ranger Training in Botswana

Community Scouts from Zutshwa practice patient carries during a LEAD Ranger Live Saver course held in March. (Photo: Steven Dean)

Akashinga, in partnership with Kalahari Research and Conservation (KRC), is supporting and empowering local communities to protect 5 million acres of the Greater Kgalagadi Transfrontier Area in southwest Botswana.

The people living in Kgalagadi Districts 1 and 2, which border the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP), are some of the planet’s oldest communities and continue to live with wildlife as they have done for centuries. There is limited formal employment in the area, and the past lifestyle of subsistence hunting and gathering is fading. Some people manage through small-scale livestock and agricultural production, but with little rain and no money to invest, the majority of village residents have few livelihood options. KRC, therefore, places a huge emphasis on enabling human-wildlife co-existence and is implementing a variety of projects to support the widest possible section of the community.

One such project, a Biodiversity Guardianship Initiative, provides significant direct financial payments into communities as a reward for their responsible management of livestock that does not encroach into wildlife areas as well as evidence of decreased poaching. This March, Akashinga supported KRC in creating a team of Community Scouts to assist with monitoring the project and record incidents of human-wildlife conflict. One of the first steps in their training was undertaking a LEAD Ranger Life Saver Course on site in Botswana.

Akashinga Ranger and LEAD Senior Instructor Mercy Mateke demonstrates medical techniques during the Ranger Life Saver training at Zutshwa. (Photo: Steven Dean)

Four LEAD Ranger Field Instructors from Akashinga Zimbabwe — Senzeni Munsaka, Sharai Viola Tunhira, Asiyatu Phiri and Mercy Mateke — travelled to Botswana to conduct the training in Zutshwa and Ngwatle villages.

The Ranger Life Saver course provides a comprehensive introduction to first aid and dealing with traumatic injuries in the field. KRC Director and Wildlife Researcher, Glyn Maude, highlighted that a week before the instructors arrived, a Zutshwa resident had been mauled by a leopard, making the training not only relevant to the KRC scouts but an asset to the community at large, whose remote location makes even basic medical treatment challenging. “People have never had this kind of training in the Kgalagadi, and I am very impressed with the enthusiasm and focus of the students, their desire to do well and please the trainers.”

Akashinga’s Director of Operations Africa, Dominique Noome, who was also present for the training, was delighted to witness how the Zimbabwe LEAD Instructors had become female champions, changing perceptions of what women can do through their expertise and professionalism.

“In Tswana culture, you wouldn’t expect women to be rangers and be out in the bush patrolling,” says KRC Project Coordinator, Tshepo Moatswi. “But with this new model, it’s an opportunity for them to showcase their skills. It might take some time, but with this training coming in, we should see a huge difference in terms of women in conservation.”

In the meantime, several of the Community Scouts spoke about the opportunities that this new income stream would create for them and their families. For KRC, it is the first step for a model that enables the organisation to create even more employment and an opportunity for women to start growing their careers and developing leadership skills in conservation.

Biodiversity Officer Nyaradzo Hoto Spreads Akashinga’s Mission Globally

Akashinga Biodiversity Officer Nyaradzo Hoto is pictured near her home in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. (Photo: Steven Dean)

Since completing her degree in Wildlife Management and being promoted to Biodiversity Officer in 2023, Akashinga Ranger Nyaradzo Hoto has taken on the role of an ambassador for Africa’s wildlife with great enthusiasm.

Recently, she was featured on an episode of the Wild for Change podcast alongside Akashinga CEO and Founder Damien Mander, where she spoke about her journey from being one of the very first Akashinga Rangers to her current job conducting monitoring, research, and data analysis within in the areas Akashinga protects. Speaking with host Nicole Rojas, Nyaradzo defended the right of wildlife to survive without interference and explained her transition to veganism as part of allowing nature to take control. "As we grow vegetables, we are also supporting climate action. The more we grow plants in the environment, the more we are fighting for climate change.”

This September, Nyaradzo will be travelling to the United States for NYC Climate Week and will attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) community from September 23-24 on behalf of Akashinga. Timed to coincide with the U.N. General Assembly, CGI brings together business, government, and civil society leaders to drive progress on climate resilience, inclusive economic growth and recovery, health equity, the full participation of women and girls, and humanitarian response efforts to crises around the globe.

Nyaradzo truly reflects CGI’s mission of “creating a community of doers who are taking action on the world’s most pressing challenges, together,” and she will finish her US trip presenting at TEDx talk at Vail, Colorado. TEDxVail has previously hosted several curated sessions on activating climate solutions, a subject which Nyaradzo has personally experienced as she explains how the energy and dedication Akashinga Rangers put into their work has already been rewarded by seeing animals flourishing in their conservancies. Look out for updates on Nyaradzo’s talk, which is scheduled for release in early October.

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