Blog Post

Empowering Akashinga: The Brave Ones with Solar+Storage

For World Ranger Day 2021, we are celebrating the inspiring Akashinga Rangers of Zimbabwe (“The Brave Ones”) who are on the frontlines of wildlife and habitat conservation.

The Akashinga risk their own lives to combat animal poaching and climate change and are Africa’s first armed, plant-based, all-women anti-poaching rangers, revolutionizing the way that animals and habitat are protected – arresting poachers without firing a single shot.

SimpliPhi Power, alongside IDEA donors, partners at the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), and Empowered by Light, recently announced completion of a donated resilient renewable energy system to power the Akashinga facilities and operations.

The off-grid system, comprised of 10-kilowatts of solar panels and 45 kilowatt-hours of PHI energy storage, provides reliable, uninterruptable power to the IAPF’s training facilities in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley with five indoor classrooms, a lecture theater, an industrial kitchen, dining area, laundry room and water well, to support the Akashinga rangers.

Damien Mander — a former Australian special forces soldier and founder of IAPF — has fought against poaching for years and launched the Akashinga program to help transform lives and communities in Zimbabwe. As the rangers’ train and learn how to protect local wildlife, they become stewards of the animals and their habitat while developing personal and financial security that empowers their local communities.

Damien recently visited SimpliPhi Power’s headquarters to share updates about the Akashinga rangers and their continued effectiveness in combating poaching and habitat loss.

The IAPF embraces an innovative, effective approach to conservation that empowers women and communities while protecting wildlife and habitats. “We believe change happens when it’s community-led and who better to lead change within a community than the women that have protected it for all this time,” said Damien during his visit to SimpliPhi’s headquarters.

Working in remote locations, the addition of resilient renewable power generation combined with energy storage to displace diesel generators is a game changer for the ranger force, drastically lowering operational costs from diesel usage while eliminating the pollution and emissions of generators. Climate change is a significant threat to natural habitats and wildlife populations, so avoiding noxious emissions not only improves the health of the rangers at the camp, but – along with their all-plant diet – they are reducing their carbon footprint as well.

“Having solar and storage technology support our facilities and programs gives us the capacity to operate independently and more effectively on the front lines of the fight to protect wildlife and preserve natural habitats,” said Damien.

Some additional construction is ongoing, and when completed the IAPF’s state-of-the-art training facility in the Phundundu Wildlife Area will help revolutionize the future of conservation in the region. With many of Africa’s key species, including elephants, reaching levels near extinction, Akashinga is a radical, new and highly effective weapon against poaching

The IAPF’s approach to conservation calls for community buy-in rather than a full-on armed response to poachers: If a community understands the multitude of benefits of preserving animals and their habitat, then it can more readily eliminate poaching without the need for armed standoffs.

The lives and stories of the rangers are chronicled in the documentary, Akashinga: The Brave Ones, directed by Maria Wilehm and produced by three-time Academy Award winner, James Cameron. The rangers currently patrol more than 1.1 million acres of wilderness and have achieved significant results, including a 90 percent reduction in elephant poaching since 2016 when the program was initiated.

SimpliPhi’s partner in this initiative is Empowered by Light, a mission-driven nonprofit empowering vulnerable communities who are on the frontlines of climate change, loss of wildlife and environmental devastation – a perfect fit for supporting the Akashinga.

“Climate change disproportionately affects the poorest, most vulnerable communities around the world. Whether it’s helping preserve healthy ecosystems, improving learning conditions or powering economic development, access to renewable, reliable energy builds healthier, more resilient and sustainable communities and can literally save lives,” said Moira Hanes, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Empowered by Light.

“These women are truly courageous, many coming from abusive homes and marginalized communities to join the Akashinga Program and confront armed and dangerous poachers at the intersection of extreme poverty, gender inequity and climate change. They are revolutionizing the way animals and habitat are protected and how local communities can coexist sustainably and equitably within diverse ecosystems that are essential to the future of the planet,” said Catherine Von Burg, CEO and President of SimpliPhi Power.

You can learn more about the IAPF and the Akashinga program here:

Learn more about the IDEA: Deliver Energy Access and the many innovative communities we support here: