Ranger Report: September 2023

Full name
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.

Ranger Update: Akashinga in the Hurungwe District

Written by Deputy Community Liaison Supervisor, Pamela Maisiri

Community Guardian Melody Mucherwa surveys the bush as evening falls near Hotel Village in Hurungwe District. Last year, eight Community Guardians were trained to mitigate human wildlife conflict by liaising with surrounding the communities, checking boundaries for human and animal tracks, and ensuring livestock are safely secured at night. (Photo Credit: Steven Dean)

August and September have been very busy months for the Akashinga Rangers in Zimbabwe’s mid-Zambezi Valley. Lions and hyenas have been entering local community spaces, killing livestock such as cows, goats, and chickens. With these cases of human wildlife conflicts (HWC) on the rise, the rangers have been working alongside our Community Guardians in strategizing best practices for coexistence. By working together with ZimParks, several lions have been safely and successfully captured in cages and translocated to protected areas further away from the communities. Camping in the bush with partners from ZimParks and Bushlife, we continue to monitor lion and hyena activity near villages.

Despite such busy schedules, the Akashinga Rangers have been playing sport as another way of collaborating with people in the local communities and refreshing our minds. Our netball team recently won all of their games in the friendly matches held on Heroes’ Day public holiday in Marongora.

A Sisterhood of Rangers
Short Film by Steven Dean

At just 23, Grace Mponde’s experience reflects that of many Akashinga Rangers who have faced abuse and hardship and are now gaining confidence through their conservation work. Watch this video to see how Akashinga is empowering women across Zimbabwe by allowing them to provide for their families and create their own support network of new ‘sisters.'

Chiyevedzo Mtero Joins Akashinga’s K-9 Unit
Chiyevedzo works with Belgian Malinois, Levi, during an afternoon training session at Phundundu. (Photos by Steven Dean)

Akashinga Ranger Chiyevedzo Mtero, 26, has a long-standing love of animals. Growing up she named her family’s dog ‘Danger’ because he enjoyed showing off his bite work skills and protecting the household.

It’s no surprise that Chiyevedzo is a natural fit for the K-9 unit. After completing her initial ranger training in August 2021, she joined the unit a year later and spent January – April 2023 receiving intensive training in Harare. The course covered every aspect of handling a trained dog, including caring for a service dog and handling a sniffer dog to detect substance and human scents. Chiyevedzo was delighted to pass the challenging course with flying colours and says, “I became more proud of me,” when awarded Best Student.

A few months into her work at Phundundu, Chiyevedzo has impressed the K-9 unit with her energy and conscientious approach to her work and has already managed to share some of the skills she learned on her course with the rest of the team.

Zimbabwe LEAD Training Academy Begins Operations

In June, ten Akashinga Rangers completed their Intermediate Field Ranger Instructor Course in Kenya to qualify as LEAD Ranger instructors. LEAD Ranger is a collaborative initiative between Akashinga, Thin Green Line Foundation and Ranger Campus that delivers tailored training to rangers in the field. This marks the start of an in-house training wing at Phundundu Camp.

Head of Academy, Blessing Paul Chirombe, explains that the new instructors endured a highly competitive process through a variety of challenging LEAD courses that assessed a positive attitude, knowledge, teaching competency and physical fitness. Following their return home, a Ranger Life Saver course run entirely by Zimbabwean instructors took place from August 7th - 16th, training four Community Guardians and seven Wildlife Crime Unit Officers (WCU) to deal with traumatic injuries in the field.

Akashinga Ranger Sharai Viola Tunhira is welcomed to the LEAD family by Instructor Jackson after receiving the Field Ranger Training Team badge at the completion of the Kenyan training course. (Image courtesy of LEAD Ranger)

Instructor Tendai Kadohwata says she enjoys being able to impact her own community, “It is a great opportunity to pass on the knowledge to my fellow colleagues in our own language and culture. I feel the message will be more understood if they hear it from one of the village daughters.”

Ranger Feature: Pedzisai Phiri
Photo Credit: Davina Jogi

Pedzisai Phiri, an Akashinga Ranger from Chundu, grows emotional as she talks about losing her first husband to a road traffic accident on his way to meet their newborn baby. Pedzisai was devastated. She had worked her way up from nothing, teaching herself to farm tobacco and succeeding in a male-dominated industry, with little education or resources. Her husband was inspired by her work ethic and they supported each other as they laboured between the capital, Harare, and the tobacco farm where they worked in order to support their young family. With the accident and loss of her husband, Pedzisai felt that she had lost everything. To grieve, heal, and restart her life, she moved back in with her parents.

Four years later, she applied to the Akashinga programme hoping that her work as a farmer would prepare her for the physical requirements of the job. Around the same time, Pedzisai met her new husband, who completely supported her and volunteered to look after their children so that she could complete the required six months of training.

Pedzisai recounts how the community initially looked down on them, constantly gossiping that it was unheard of for a woman to go to work while the man is left at home with the children. Over time, however, people witnessed the family progressing and their perceptions changed.  Many other women in the community are now looking for opportunities at Akashinga.

Pedzisai loves the honour that comes with her job and is particularly proud to be doing so well in a career that was previously reserved for men. As the youngest in a family of 10 children, her given name means ‘finished’ — a true reflection of her determination to complete whatever challenge she sets her mind to.

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