Akashinga, International Anti-Poaching Foundation's (IAPF) exclusively female anti-poaching unit operating in the Zambezi Valley has received a US$700,000 grant from Australian businesswoman Judith Neilson who was born and raised in Zimbabwe.
IAPF's Akashinga - The Brave Ones is Africa's first armed, all-women unit involved in animal conservation. The grouping has managed to reduce cases of poaching by 80% in the Zambezi basin.
The grant, according to IAPF will be used to recruit more women as wildlife rangers to defend the expanding wilderness portfolio under Akashinga's mandate, including one of the largest remaining elephant populations on earth in Zimbabwe's Zambezi Valley.
It will also be used to develop community-based infrastructure.
Made up of single mothers, abandoned wives, survivors of gender-based violence and school dropouts who undergo intensive ranger training, the original 16 members of its unit have made waves across Africa for their less confrontational approach to ending poaching.
"IAPF announced it has been awarded a US$700,000 (A$1 million) grant from the Judith Neilson Foundation, which will be used to strengthen its 'Akashinga - Nature Protected by Women' programme in Zimbabwe," said IAPF in a statement.
"The programme, which has been a catalyst for change across the region, focuses on social impact to achieve conservation at scale, with the empowerment of women central to its strategy.
"The grant will be used to recruit additional women as wildlife rangers to defend the expanding wilderness portfolio under Akashinga's mandate, including one of the largest remaining elephant populations on earth in Zimbabwe's Zambezi Valley, and to develop community-based infrastructure. These projects are in partnership with local communities, where the women recruited for service reside."
Akashinga was formed by former member of the Australian Army's Special Operations unit Damien Mander who is also IAPF Chief Executive Officer (CEO), in 2009 after three years of service in Iraq.
Now with over 500 members, the programme has been expanded beyond Zimbabwe to protect other poaching-prone areas on the African continent
"Akashinga's strong focus on supporting marginalised women in rural areas, hand in hand with delivering infrastructure upgrades for healthcare, education, and clean water are vital for community-led conservation having impact at scale.
"The women of Akashinga have proven this and I am excited to be supporting them as they expand their work in Africa," said Nielson.