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Kufadza: Inspiring Change

3 min read

Updated 01 March 2022

Picture of Chris McIntyre

By Chris McIntyre

Managing Director

*A version of this article originally appeared in the March 2022 Bush Telegraph newsletter. You can read our recent newsletters and sign-up to receive these in your inbox on our Bush Telegraph newsletter page.

This is Kufadza: Zambia’s first all-female, anti-poaching community scout unit. Kufadza means ‘inspire’ in the local Goba language, and these women of the Lower Zambezi region certainly do that. They are strong, brave and dedicated, working tirelessly in a dangerous field, making a positive impact for wildlife conservation, and serving as powerful role models for other women and girls in their rural communities.

With funding from the EU, USAID and the CITES MIKE programme (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants), the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) together with Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) were determined to provide a space for women in the field of wildlife protection. Kufadza was established to encourage more women to become Community Scouts and to offer a conservation career path to women from local communities that was previously impossible.

To join the unit, CLZ and DNPW ran a rigorous selection process, testing physical and mental resilience. Of the 98 women who applied, only ten made it to the intensive training camp in Kafue National Park, where strenuous exercise, weapons training, wildlife understanding and tracking were all taught. They graduated in 2021 and immediately hit the ground running, conducting intense 10-day patrols to de-snare, seek out poachers and monitor the park’s wildlife. Three of the women have already been promoted to join CLZ’s specialised law enforcement units: the Marine Unit, the Rapid Deployment Team and the K9 Tracking Unit.

Each of the Kufadza women have a different story about how they came to join the unit. Financial constraints meant Lisa Siamustantu had to drop out of university and was selling produce in the markets when she saw the advert for female Community Scouts. Molly Grace Ngulube was working at a local radio station but wanted to fulfil her calling to be a ranger because she loves wildlife. Phyllis Makina wanted to be a strong female role model for her young daughter. While all were passionate about conservation and interested in this work, none of them was aware that women could even be rangers. This dedicated female recruitment drive was transformative.

All-female units are increasing across Africa, including Akashinga in Zimbabwe, and the well-known Black Mamba unit in South Africa. While these teams vary in their approaches and methods, all of them have broken barriers and pre-conceptions in their communities. Through Women in Conservation and World Female Ranger Day they have also had the opportunity to support and learn from each other, building a network of camaraderie that will continue to grow.

Check out the beautiful area protected by Kufadza and the dedicated safari operators in Lower Zambezi National Park. The Zambezi River and its escarpment backdrop offer the most wonderful game-viewing.

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