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Environment: IAPF appoints women to key roles

By Staff Writer

THE International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) has appointed two women — Moreangels Mbizah and Dominique Noome — to key roles as the organisation gears up for a major expansion across Southern Africa.

Mbizah has taken the position of Lead Ranger programme scientist Zimbabwe and Noome as director of Akashinga Africa.

The Lead Ranger programme, based in Kenya, delivers tailored training, long-term support and mentoring to develop wildlife crime enforcement leaders and instructors, who remain based in the ecosystems they are protecting.

Akashinga (or the Brave Ones) is a community-driven conservation model, empowering disadvantaged women to restore and manage large networks of wilderness, alongside their local communities.

IAPF is an independent organisation which operates the two programmes — Akashinga and Lead Ranger.

IAPF CEO Damien Mander said the foundation’s evolution to Akashinga as a model to protect large-scale wilderness regions was not just about deploying women into frontline conservation roles, but about rebuilding the organisation’s make-up, policies, procedures and leadership.

“We are proud to welcome Dr Mbizah into the team to help lead the science behind what we do. As one of the region’s most qualified conservationists, the decisions that affect the largest female conservation force in Africa will be increasingly driven by women-led research,” Mander said.

As Lead scientist for IAPF Zimbabwe, Mbizah, who was recently profiled by The Guardian newspaper as one of 40 outstanding women of Zimbabwe, will initially focus on human-wildlife conflict in and around the areas of the Akashinga portfolio.

“As Akashinga’s portfolio expands with an endeavour to have more than six million acres of African wilderness under protection by 2022 across three countries, having Dominique at the helm of this programme driving it forward is key to the equitable development of female leadership in conservation,” Mander said.

Mbizah, who studied zoology at Oxford University, is the founder of Wildlife Conservation Action, which links conservation and community development, and in 2018, her work with lions in Hwange National Park was the subject of a National Geographic short film titled One Woman’s Remarkable Journey to Protect Lions.

In 2019, Mbizah was awarded with a TED Fellowship and gave a TED talk on how community-led conservation can save wildlife. She is also a Mandela Washington Fellow and is passionate about inspiring and mentoring Africa’s next generation of conservation leaders.

Mbizah said she was excited to join the IAPF, as the Akashinga women had always been an inspiration to her, having dedicated their lives to protecting our wildlife and wild places.

In her previous role as programme lead for Lead Ranger, a fellow conservationist, Noome, supported rangers in the field through professional training and mentoring of instructors, who could cascade the skills down to their peers.

“I’m very excited to be joining the Akashinga team at this moment of expansion on the African continent. With the excellent team that IAPF has in place, as well as the close collaboration with Lead Ranger, I feel really confident that we can make big steps forward in holistic and inclusive approaches to nature conservation,” Noome added.

IAPF was established in 2009 by Mander. Akashinga is Africa’s first armed, all-female anti-poaching unit currently protecting eight nature reserves — or 1,3 million acres of wilderness – in Zimbabwe.

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