The Technical Team
The core team presently comprises three individuals with approximately 35 years combined experience of working on natural resource and development issues in East Africa at both local and policy levels. The team is highly committed, personally and professionally, to advancing effective solutions to natural resource issues in Africa and to developing Maliasili Initiatives as a leading organization in this field.
Fred Nelson, Executive Director
Fred is the founder and Executive Director, with responsibility for overall management and leadership of the organization. He has worked on natural resource management and sustainable development in East Africa since 1998, with eleven years spent living and working on the ground in Tanzania. He’s served as both director and board member of leading conservation organizations in Tanzania, and has worked with a wide range of local and international groups to design and facilitate community-based conservation initiatives with local communities in northern Tanzania. His work has been published in journals such as Development and Change, Conservation Biology, Oryx, and Biodiversity & Conservation, and he is the editor of the volume Community Rights, Conservation and Contested Land: The Politics of Natural Resource Governance in Africa (Earthscan, 2010).
Jessie Davie, Head of Communications/Regional Coordinator
Jessie directs communications for Maliasili Initiatives and provides strategic planning, development, and communications support to its partners. She is also the Regional Coordinator, responsible for overseeing Maliasili’s service provision team and supporting with our organizational development in the region. She has more than seven years of experience in the natural resource sector in Africa, having served as the former head of communications for the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum among other posts. Previously, she served as a sustainability coordinator at a large American university, directing communications, conducting a large-scale greenhouse gas audit, securing institutional funding, and facilitating student-led environmental initiatives. Jessie began her career working for a grassroots climate change campaign in the United States aimed at influencing national climate dialogue and policies.
Samantha Button, Portfolio Manager
As one of Maliasili Initiatives’ organizational strengthening specialists, Samantha provides organizational service delivery to a portfolio of NGO and social enterprise partners in East Africa. Born and raised in Sub-Saharan Africa, Samantha began her career as an environmental and safety risk management consultant, at the global sustainability consulting firm Environmental Resources Management. After earning her Master’s degree in Development Studies, Samantha returned to ERM to support corporate clients in managing community and social issues. Samantha also has experience working in education and gender related fields (in the government, private and foundation/CSR sectors). She lives in Arusha and, prior to joining Maliasili, worked in impact investment with small entrepreneurs and enterprises in agriculture, and in business development training for renewable energy entrepreneurs.
Njenga Kahiro, Portfolio Manager
Njenga has 17 years of experience in community based natural resource management, project management and leadership. He began his career as a volunteer with the Rehabilitation of Subukia Water Catchment project in Nakuru, Kenya before venturing into business. He then worked for Laikipia Elephant Project tackling issues of human wildlife conflict and sustainable livelihoods. After earning a master’s degree in conservation and tourism, he joined the Zeitz Foundation where he worked his way up to being the Kenya Program Director prior to joining Maliasili.
Cara Scott, Portfolio Manager
Cara provides support to Maliasili’s portfolio of NGO partners that are working in the rangelands of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. Originally from London, Cara has more than 15 years of experience working with nonprofits. She has lived in Tanzania for over 7 years and, prior to joining Maliasili, served consecutively as Programme Manager for two of Maliasili’s Tanzanian partners, the Pastoral Women’s Council and the Ujamaa Community Resource Team. Previously, she has worked as a Refugee Services Coordinator for the British Red Cross in London. She also has experience working in rural education in South Africa and in the health field in the UK supporting parents and health professionals.
Stephanie Sheldon-Watrous, Director of Finance and Administration
Stephanie is responsible for the financial management, human resource and administrative functions of the organization including reporting, budgeting, payroll, internal procedures and compliance. She has more than 20 years of accounting experience, mainly with international nonprofits. She graduated from the College of St. Joseph with a BS in Accounting and Business Management. Stephanie has previously served as Finance Manager at the BOMA Project and U.S. Finance Director & Associate CFO at the Salzburg Global Seminar.
The Governance Team
As a young organization, Maliasili Initiatives has a small but very active and engaged board of directors, which meets quarterly and oversees all aspects of the organization’s strategy, performance and development. In addition to Fred Nelson, the board comprises the following individuals, who bring a strong and diverse set of skills and experiences to contribute to our operations.
Elizabeth Singleton, Member of board/Maliasili Senior Advisor
Elizabeth is an independent consultant with experience in strategic planning, corporate sustainability, and nonprofit management. Previously, Elizabeth served as a Strategy Officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California, where she facilitated the development of the foundation’s next ten-year strategic plan for its environmental conservation program. She has worked for the Dow Chemical Company on sustainability, energy, and policy issues. Elizabeth spent her early career working on rights based conservation in Tanzania where was the first coordinator of the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum. She has a bachelor’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Kipp Baratoff, President of the board
Kipp has charted a career at the intersection of finance and sustainability for almost 15 years. Previously a partner at Equilibrium Capital Group and President of Gerding Edlen Sustainable Solutions in Portland, Oregon, he is now the co-founder and COO of Fishpeople Inc, which provides gourmet sustainable seafood ready-to-eat meals. Prior to that, Kipp was an Economic Development Fellow with Meyer Memorial Trust in Oregon, where he designed and piloted the implementation of a statewide economic development investment strategy that incorporates the use of grants, program-related investments, and the endowment corpus for a foundation with $650 million in assets. Kipp believes that integrating human and natural systems is not only critical to delivering superior risk adjusted financial return, but also to delivering food, water, shelter and energy to communities across the globe.
Scott O’Connell, Treasurer of the board
Scott works as a stock analyst at Ruane, Cunniff and Goldfarb, where he also helps guide the strategy and management of the philanthropic Acacia Conservation Fund, overseeing its annual Conservation Trust Fund Survey. Prior to that, he worked for nineteen years at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, where he was Director of Planned Giving.