President Mnangagwa has made a statement regarding his commitment to the future conservation of the country’s environment. “In light of the recent export of elephants from Zimbabwe, the government is reviewing conservation decisions of the previous dispensation and formulating a policy to move forward,” said Christopher Mutsvangwa the Chief Advisor to the President.
The President conducted meetings with two organizations operating innovative conservation projects and highlighted his commitment to preserving the nation’s wildlife and natural resources, both for the Zimbabwean people and for international visitors to appreciate and contribute to the economy through tourism. The President welcomed representatives of the Tikki Hywood Foundation to learn about its work with partners in Government: Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Ministry of Justice, National Prosecution Authority, ZRP – Minerals & Border Control Unit, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authorities and conservation organizations, that has led to Zimbabwe being recognised as an African leader in Pangolin conservation.
Pangolin is the most highly trafficked mammal in the world, and, through effective strategy and partnership across these organizations, Zimbabwe now has the highest conviction rate for pangolin related crimes within Africa and is a leading voice in the global movement for its protection. It is a longstanding custom in Zimbabwe that Chiefs are gifted with a pangolin as a sign of respect from their people and a symbol of good fortune. In this tradition, President Mnangagwa was introduced to a pangolin received by the Tikki Hywood Foundation, which will be released back into the wild following its rehabilitation. President Mnangagwa also endorsed a new project, Akashinga (‘the brave ones’), a unique program, founded by the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), which empowers previously disadvantaged Zimbabwean women by employing them to protect wilderness areas as an alternative to trophy hunting.
The hunting industry is rapidly declining, leaving these wilderness areas and communities without sufficient income to motivate conservation. Unless an alternative source of income is provided these areas will be lost, along with their rich biodiversity. Akashinga educates and trains local women to be rangers and managers, protecting the large landscapes previously reserved for and financed by trophy hunting. The President’s daughter, Tariro Mnangagwa, recently joined the IAPF on the ground to see the work of the Akashinga program. During her deployment with the group she conducted training, active duty patrols and engaged in rural community project planning sessions.
Female empowerment through skills development and sustainable employment in these rural communities will deliver many direct benefits including increased life expectancy through better access to healthcare, more children able to participate in education, support for local businesses and the wider economy. Through employment, goods and services, over 70% of the operational costs of the Akashinga model go directly back into the local community, turning a security need into a community project. Images of Zimbabwean pangolin and the men who care for them have travelled the world as part of an acclaimed photographic series, “Pangolin Men”, by Africa based photographer Adrian Steirn, who is also filming a documentary about the Akashinga project.
The President also took the opportunity to make a statement about tourism, and to assure the world that Zimbabwe is open, and ready to welcome visitors to experience one of the most beautiful countries in Africa. President Mnangagwa said: “As we enter into this historic new era for Zimbabwe we are proud to share our heritage and the beauty of our nation with the world. On behalf of all Zimbabweans, I would like to invite people to visit our great country, for you will be welcomed with open arms.
This is a very significant moment in Zimbabwe’s history and we understand that we have a lot of work to do in ensuring the protection of our natural resources. Global support and greater understanding of the new Zimbabwe will go a long way towards communicating the change that we are committed to seeing here in our country. I am delighted to have had the privilege to see our revered and mythical pangolin up close, and to shine a light on the positive results that we are seeing here in Zimbabwe in the conservation of the species. I am also proud to recognise the women rangers of the Akashinga project, who my daughter Tariro late last year.
Women will play a vital role in the rebuilding of Zimbabwe. Through this program, women are being empowered to make a positive contribution to their communities and to protect our precious wildlife. We salute their bravery and commitment. Conservation and tourism go hand in hand and my government is committed to ensuring the safety of visitors and to working with partners to increase our conservation efforts to protect our natural world. We undertake this commitment not just for the people of Zimbabwe but to allow people around the world to experience one of the most beautiful countries in Africa.”