Introducing Songo: More Land, More Rangers, More Wildlife


Introducing Songo: More Land, More Rangers, More Wildlife

The solution to ending wildlife trafficking is much bigger than just fighting poaching in the wilderness of Africa.

September 22, 2020

The solution requires fresh innovation in conservation.  For IAPF, we wanted to create a holistic strategy built on a tried and tested community-driven model that works with local communities and governments - a model that invests back into the local community, creates jobs, builds trust and works towards long-term nature conservation.

The solution is our Akashinga conservation model.

A bit of history:

In 2017, the IAPF started a trial in Zimbabwe, a small landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa. This was the beginning of a new and more successful way to approach wildlife conservation for IAPF. This was the beginning of Akashinga, the Brave Ones. You can learn more about how this became the most effective form of community development while making our core business of conservation more successful than ever here.

Local communities the IAPF supports

Our core objective

Expanding the footprint of our Akashinga model into land where nature and wildlife needs the most help is IAPF’s core objective. This is why we focus on ecosystems, eco-regions and corridors of land - not national parks or wildlife reserves in isolation. One of our strategies is to protect the corridors around parks and nature reserves to act as a protective barrier - limiting poachers and illegal syndicates from entering reserves in the first place.

With this strategy in mind, we are proud to have secured an additional 273,000 acres of wilderness in partnership with local communities and government in the Lower Zambezi Valley.  The Songo Conservancy (on beautiful Lake Kariba) is the fifth area IAPF has taken on as part of our management portfolio in the Zambezi Valley.  We are honored to be able to support women, communities and wildlife by implementing our Akashinga conservation model here.

Why the Songo Conservancy?

Sunset over Songo

Songo has seen minimal conservation resources available for almost two decades, giving poachers freedom to establish effective, harmful and illegal wildlife trafficking syndicates.

75% of elephants in the Sebungwe region of the Zambezi Valley have been lost to poaching over the last 20 years. It needs our help now.

The Songo Conservancy is abandoned trophy-hunting land, in need of rehabilitation. Creating an environment where wildlife return to areas of wilderness that previously were unsafe, is a crucial part of saving the natural world.

Lake Kariba – an easy-access corridor for illegal wildlife trafficking syndicates
View from the plane of Songo

Lake Kariba plays a significant role in the rich and diverse ecosystem of the Lower Zambezi Valley. Along with providing an abundance of marine wildlife, Lake Kariba influences rainwater, drinking water, food and electricity for the region.

Akashinga’s expansion into this area will provide additional law enforcement along the Lake Kariba frontage, providing protection for borders into Zimbabwe and Zambia to help ensure their eco-regions also remain safe and abundant.

Helping wildlife

Songo is located in a region that has suffered some of the worst poaching in Africa. IAPF has already started working hand in hand with the five surrounding communities and local government to resurrect this region which was once home to large populations of plains game, elephant and rhino. Songo also has some of the largest flood plains in Zimbabwe with its extensive Lake Kariba frontage. Poachers and wildlife traffickers have illegally used these flood plains to pass through undetected, to kill wildlife. It’s time to put a stop to this.

Helping communities

The communities around Songo experience high levels of unemployment, limited access to healthcare, fresh water and poor education outcomes, especially for women. This is not unique to this area alone and is an opportunity for the Akashinga conservation model to support more employment, education and sustainability within these communities.

Community Collaboration is Key

Our work not only involves on the ground conservation efforts, it’s vital that we also work in partnership with individuals, indigenous and community groups, business and government to make lasting changes that matter for people and wildlife in Africa.

Three interlocking cornerstones of the Akashinga model focus on personal development, community development and conservation. Empowering women is one of the most effective ways to build more collaborative communities. The more we empower and collaborate, the easier it becomes for the people who live in these areas to be equipped and trained to protect their sovereign lands.

Taking Back Trophy Hunting Land

The trophy hunting debate is a complex and contentious one. The hunting industry is rapidly declining for three main reasons: reduced wildlife populations, shifting policy and regulations and activism around the world.  

Trophy hunting areas across Africa take up one-sixth of all landmass across participating countries - an expanse collectively greater than all of Texas. However, as with anything, there is always a cause and effect. Where hunting has been used as an economic model to support communities, it is no longer viable in many areas. Many rural communities are left without sufficient income to incentivise conservation efforts and unless an alternative income source is provided, these areas of wilderness will be lost to human settlement and agricultural use. This may force some communities to turn to wildlife consumption and poaching as a result of losing their livelihoods.

The good news is, local communities within the Songo Conservancy will now become economically empowered to play a crucial role in conserving their sovereign lands, benefiting not only themselves, but humanity and wildlife too.

The Akashinga model puts the equivalent amount of money into local communities every 34 days as what trophy hunting did per annum.  We will help resurrect, rehabilitate and protect these areas that may have otherwise been lost to human settlement, trophy hunting, timber harvesting, agriculture or mining.

We need your support

We won't stop until the future for wildlife and these Songo communities is secured.  

Your gift is vital now as we commence rehabilitation of the land and start the selection process of 100 women, living in the local communities surrounding the Songo Conservancy. 30 of these will go on to become a professional and cohesive team of Akashinga rangers protecting the natural heritage of the area. We can’t wait to share their journey with you.

As we expand Akashinga across the Zambezi Valley, we need your help to raise $1 million. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar up to $500,000 by 18th December - so each dollar you give will do twice the good.

Your gift, no matter how small, powers the expansion of our Akashinga model and ensures the protection of wildlife and empowerment of women and communities that need it most.