We help leading African conservation organizations to become even better





Our partners in 2018



Maliasili works on the front line of empowering African conservation organisations to reach their potential. Their results speak for themselves: an inspirational new generation of African organizations pioneering transformative approaches to conservation, grounded in local leadership, community empowerment and social entrepreneurship.
— Alasdair Harris, Executive Director and Co-founder, Blue Ventures


Director’s Letter

2018 marked a significant personal milestone: 20 years working in African conservation. The lessons from my early days in Tanzania have shaped everything I’ve tried to do since I first landed in the region back in 1998. As a conservation rookie fresh out of university it was my experiences with grassroots activists and organizations that helped me quickly understand that effective conservation must be led by local communities that live on the land and alongside wildlife. And key to this, are locally-rooted organizations that are a part and parcel of their communities and society.

I was fortunate to spend the first half of 2018 on an extended visit back in Africa, visiting both familiar landscapes in northern Tanzania, and new sites in northern Kenya, the Maasai Mara, and Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, where Maliasili partners are now doing trail-blazing conservation work on a rapidly growing scale.

UCRT plays a critical role in securing lands for indigenous groups like the Hadza, in northern Tanzania.

UCRT plays a critical role in securing lands for indigenous groups like the Hadza, in northern Tanzania.

Spending this time in the field with our partners was an irreplaceable opportunity to see how they are providing leadership and innovation across the region. It was gratifying to visit areas in Tanzania where I first worked and to see that, despite many changes and growing challenges from expanding human populations and infrastructure development, there are often more elephant, giraffe, and zebra on community lands in key sites than there were 20 years ago. I spent time in the bush with the Ujamaa Community Resource Team, one of Tanzania’s most accomplished grassroots organizations, who I first met in 1999 when they were a small team of activists with one barely-functional Land Rover. Today they work with over 80 communities across much of northern Tanzania, have helped communities secure legal rights to over 700,000 hectares of savannah rangelands and forests, and have an annual operating budget well north of $1 million. Maliasili has played a key role in helping UCRT become a stronger and more effective organization through our long-term support, ultimately helping to scale up UCRT’s work in this manner.

Wildlife Management Team at Enduimet, WMA

Wildlife Management Team at Enduimet, WMA

I also camped out near Mount Kilimanjaro with Damian Bell, the founder of Honeyguide, which is now Tanzania’s leader in supporting community-run Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and trying to make these conservation entities effective and sustainable. Communities in these areas are now earning more revenue from wildlife, poaching levels are very low (or zero, in the case of elephants), and local management capacity is increasing thanks to Honeyguide’s creative, community-oriented approaches. The areas where Honeyguide works are now models for other community conservation initiatives in Tanzania, where there is a huge need for effective, locally-led models such as this.

Over the past several years Maliasili has helped Honeyguide focus their strategy, re-organize internal staffing, build new partnerships, upgrade their external communications and fundraising approaches, and strengthen their leadership team. In 2018, we doubled down with our support to help Honeyguide manage a series of funding challenges and develop new partnerships; a few months after camping with Damian in northern Tanzania, we were fundraising together in California as a part of efforts to secure those critical resources.

The impacts we’re seeing on the ground from partners like these are what Maliasili exists to deliver: stronger local organizations that are able to become better at what they do, attract more resources, and ultimately take their work and impact to the next level. This is what we believe is needed across Africa as threats from land use change, illegal wildlife trade, and expanding human populations all put more pressure on wild, healthy landscapes. But by helping more outstanding local organizations strengthen and grow their impact, we believe we can turn the tide. This is what the growing Maliasili team seeks to do in all our work, and with the resources that our generous supporters invest in us.

Fred Nelson, Executive Director



More Grass for Grevy’s Zebra

By Jessie Davie, Portfolio Director

At Maliasili, we believe that an effective conservation model must have people at its core. Thus, we spend a lot of time with our partners thinking about ‘behavior change’ – identifying what people need to do (or stop doing) in order to achieve conservation impact. Often the change itself can be fairly obvious, such as getting people to stop killing elephants for their tusks or to start setting aside time and space to let fisheries recover. But what is usually less obvious is how to bring about those changes- what actions will help convince people to stop poaching or to fish more sustainably?

Recently I had the privilege of helping the Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) – the world’s only organization solely devoted to the conservation of the Grevy’s zebra, a unique species only found in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia – develop a new strategic plan. This was the first major piece of work we did with GZT as a new partner in 2018, and as with all our partners we wanted to focus on clarifying their overall strategic plan as a foundation for our work with them. From the outset of the process it was clear that degraded rangelands are the greatest threat to Grevy’s zebra, so getting local people to manage rangelands in a way that will benefit both livestock and wildlife is key. What was less clear, however, was how to actually make that happen across a vast and complicated landscape.

In working through GZT’s strategy, we drew on a framework developed by colleagues at the Mulago Foundation called the DIF (Design Iteration Form), which focuses on stripping down the core elements of an organization’s mission and model for achieving impact. To use this framework with GZT, we mapped out the interventions required to bring about the behavior changes they seek (e.g. communities improving rangelands condition). What is great about this process is that it encourages simplicity, eliminating a lot of the complexity that the conservation field so often gets bogged down in, and instead helps bring focus, clear solutions, and practical steps for getting there.

In GZT’s new strategy, they concluded that above all else, they must help communities find ways to improve the health of the rangelands where Grevy’s zebra live. While GZT has always seen rangelands management as key to Grevy’s zebra conservation, they haven’t made it a core strategy until now.  But after developing a simple set of methods (diagram below), GZT is now equipped with a model that they plan to test out in different places and contexts, working with communities and partners across northern Kenya. We hope this renewed focus on healthy rangelands will take GZT one step closer to their long-range mission to restore this unique species across its range and bring greater clarity across all their work.

The following represents GZT’s methodology for driving behavior change to deliver impact in their community rangelands management work. Key to this approach is GZT’s ability to adapt to the different context, cultures and locations where it works, but fundamentally these key steps to driving behavior change will be applied:




Strengthening Local Voices for the Kenyan Conservancy Movement 

By Joy Juma, Portfolio Manager, Kenya


Kenya’s conservancies movement is one of Africa’s most important conservation opportunities. Over the past decade, conservancies created by individual landowners or communities have roughly doubled the area under some level of conservation management. The Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) was created in 2013 to serve as the collective voice and advocate for this diverse grassroots conservation movement.

In 2018, KWCA recognized the need to better understand its constituents at regional level, in particular the structure, governance, and capacity of the regional associations that work with conservancies in different parts of the country. This led to a joint effort with Maliasili, with support from the BAND Foundation, to undertake a review that analyzed how conservancies are developing and being supported on a regional level. The findings will help inform KWCA’s strategic direction over the next several years as it works to build a stronger and more cohesive national community conservation movement.

The review revealed the diversity of the Regional Associations that have emerged around Kenya over the past decade as conservancies have formed in different settings. These Associations are independent entities working at ecosystem level. They provide a strong link between KWCA at national level and the conservancies on the ground. If these Associations are well established and connected to the conservancies, there is cohesion and improved coordination in the different regions around the country.

Some regional associations such as Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA), are relatively mature organizations running a suite of fairly sophisticated programs, focused on areas such as anti-poaching, enterprise development, and conservancy governance frameworks. These efforts are funded by diverse sources for sizeable organizational budgets of up to several million dollars annually.

Other regional conservancy bodies, such as the Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association (TTWCA) and the Baringo County Community Conservancies Association, are in a much earlier stage of development, just beginning to clarify their core goals and strategy and put in place human and financial resources to support their members. These groups represent the next phase of conservancy development in Kenya, as the movement spreads to these areas where conservation efforts have not yet taken root, but significant interest exists at the local level to improve conservation measures, develop tourism, and learn from other regions.

These findings highlight a range of key opportunities for KWCA in the next stage of its own development, including how best to address the needs of the different Regional Associations and develop a strategy that will ensure KWCA delivers on its mandate. This process will also provide an opportunity for KWCA to critically examine its capacity and define how this can be strengthened over time through strategic partnerships. In 2019, Maliasili will partner with KWCA in the development of its new strategic plan as well as explore joint plans for the growth of some of the younger, emerging Regional Associations. We are proud to be able to contribute to this pioneering movement in Kenya that seeks to transform conservation in Kenya by putting communities and landowners who live alongside wildlife at the center of policy and practice.

These [conservancies] are the kinds of locally rooted, entrepreneurial approaches that will be needed across Africa to turn the tide on declining wildlife populations. The Mara conservancies are a reminder that where wildlife can generate sufficient economic returns for local landowners, people’s relationship with wildlife can shift from persecution to conservation.
— Daniel Sopia, MMWCA Executive Director, and Fred Nelson, ‘Local conservancies create new hope for wildlife in Kenya’s Maasai Mara’, Mongabay, March 2018.


What Makes Maliasili Unique?

- Dickson Kaelo, CEO, Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA)



From Strategy to Implementation at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

By Elizabeth Singleton, Chief Operating Officer

I first visited Lewa Wildlife Conservancy as a tourist in 2000, and was impressed by the combination of their entrepreneurial engagement with surrounding communities and the stellar wildlife experience. Lewa is a unique place with an international reputation for excellence. Fast forward over 15 years, and it was an exciting challenge to be invited to help them refine their strategy in 2017, delving into the complexity and scope of an organization that has programs ranging from anti-poaching to microfinance to digital literacy—all in addition to providing secure habitat for 14% of Kenya’s rhinos.

A focus of the strategic planning process was clarifying how each of their programs contributes to delivering conservation outcomes.  In 2018, capitalizing on Lewa’s spirit of continuous improvement, we drove this focus into their annual work planning with the intent of:

  1. Clarifying how each program’s activities serve the strategy’s core goals;

  2. Creating clear annual targets for Lewa’s work; and

  3. Developing systems that would facilitate management across the organization.

In prior years, each program planned their own efforts, but the organization lacked an overarching framework that bridged different programs and eased the flow of information across the organization.

Lewa created a structure that allows each department head to have a clear view of annual targets and individual team member responsibilities. The annual work plan generates a dashboard view across the organization so the heads of departments and the executive team can easily track progress and focus management discussions on problem solving where work isn’t progressing as expected.  This view identified a clear gap in how communications could be better integrated with various departments from fundraising to community engagement, and Lewa has worked to create a dynamic relationship between the comms group and each programmatic department. This integrated planning approach has helped a high performing organization become even more effective- helping make sure they have the focus and the execution to play their role as one of Kenya’s leading conservation bodies.


A Transformed Organization

Dr. Tuqa Jirmo, COO, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

As the lead supervisor for all departments, I find the annual work plan has transformed how we work in our organization with clear objectives, activities, indicators and timeframes that have empowered our heads of department to work efficiently and effectively.
— Dr. Tuqa Jirmo, COO, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy


Building inspired leaders, creating resilient networks

By Anna Davis, Leadership Specialist

After a long journey from southern Africa, I arrived at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy weary, disoriented and a day late. Never a good start for a meeting facilitator, but the energy and excitement of the cohort of African leaders that greeted me upon arrival was overwhelming and instantly inspiring. After just a day together, the 17 men and women that comprised the second cohort of the African Conservation Leadership Network (ACLN) - together at Lewa for their first leadership development training session that week- had settled into a relaxed group.

Maliasili, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the International Land Coalition (ILC), has now run three leadership program cohorts since 2016, and I am convinced we have found a winning approach. After many years working with different organizations in southern Africa, I have found that conservation efforts are often confounded by the dearth of strong, local leaders who can bring expertise, experience and credibility to development work in Africa. In particular, the community conservation field has failed to grow and nurture sufficient young and mid-careers leaders, thinking that the right skills and capabilities would trickle down from larger organizations. But often this hasn’t happened.

A couple of key elements really sets Maliasili’s approach to leadership development apart. Firstly, we work with the actors that most need this support – African conservation organizations that have a proven track record and the potential to achieve even greater impact. Great care, intent and time is paid to assemble the right combination of participants in a given cohort. This includes a mix of position (we recruit senior leaders), passion and influence in their organizations. We have been able to work with a truly exciting group of leaders: 48 women and men from 23 organizations in total that work with communities to protect their land, natural resources and livelihoods. They have come from west, east and southern Africa.

Our approach is to work on leadership in a nested manner, beginning with understanding and leading one’s self, moving to leading teams and organizations, to finally, leading change within the systems within which our work occurs. The results and feedback from the participants has been clear. Being self-aware makes an important difference, being equipped with solid management tools and approaches is vital (we focus on team building and management, fundraising, strategic planning, board management) and planning and conducting our work with a systems view is key.

The leadership program’s two-fold purpose is to build leaders, help create a connection between them, and foster networks which we view as platforms that support ongoing communication, collaboration and friendships. A remarkable range of collaborations and joint action has sprung from the ACLN and participants have noted that the network delivers both a pool of expertise and wealth of knowledge, but also has the potential to build a stronger African voice that can influence conservation on the regional and even global scale.

ACLN was a unique experience. In those three weeks I was reinvented and what my organization has now is a man on a mission to ensure its success....Maliasili through the ACLN program has equipped TTWCA with the essentials to deliver its mandate. Conservation in the Taita Taveta – Tsavo landscape has a bright future.
— Alfred Mwanake, Coordinator, Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association (TTWCA)
Strengthening local civil society is critical to accelerating progress on land rights at this crucial time.
— Michael Taylor, Director, International Land Coalition, and Fred Nelson, ‘To strengthen land rights, invest in local organizations’ in PLACE, November 2018.

New African Leadership: Sam Shaba, Honeyguide




Finding the Right Formula for Fundraising Success

By Hugh Doulton, Technical Specialist

Fundraising is always one of the most difficult challenges for any conservation organization. African organizations are confronted with even more constraints when it comes to successful fundraising, such as developing convincing grant proposals in a second or even third language, or nurturing relationships with potential funders who are often based far away and come from very different cultures. Local organizations can struggle to out-compete larger, western organizations that employ dedicated fundraisers and have much easier access to funders.

Over the past 18 months I have been working to support a number of Maliasili’s partners to develop effective strategies to overcome these constraints and to develop more durable funding streams. I have been able to lean on my experience attracting partners and funders to work in the remote Comoro Islands in support of the NGO Dahari (‘sustainable’), which I created and led over the past decade. However, the past year of work with Maliasili was largely a learning process about the fundraising challenges our partners face, and figuring out how best to support them.

A key milestone was a fundraising workshop Maliasili held in Arusha in November that brought together senior staff from several Tanzanian partners to reflect together on how to develop and improve their funding strategies. Those organizations enjoyed being able to meet and learn from each other, sometimes for the first time, and we plan on using more of these group trainings to improve our support to partners.  

From all of this work with partners in both Kenya and Tanzania, I think there are four key behaviour changes that our partners and similar organizations could absorb to become more effective in their fundraising:

  1. Develop fundraising strategy based on an objective assessment of skillsets. The key skills for fundraising are proposal development and relationship development. Organizations will waste effort and risk complete failure if they target funders based on a misunderstanding of their skills and relative strengths. Many very successful African NGOs get around weaknesses in either or both of these areas through key fundraising partnerships, and developing those partnerships should be a priority.

  2. Concentrate first on current funders. In many cases these are one’s most likely next funders, and if they are not, will serve as key business cards for new funders. Evaluating what one can do to improve relationships with these funders, and negotiating with those that could increase the duration and amount of their grants, will pay dividends and save the heavy time investment needed to find new funders.

  3. Relationships are just as important as proposals. Whilst competitive funding bids will form the basis of many organizations’ fundraising, it’s easy to get stuck in a mentality and comfort zone of sitting in an office and writing proposals. Getting out there and developing targeted relationships is just as important in winning new grants.

  4. Don’t chase the money- be willing to say ‘no’! Too often organizations put their medium-term financial security at risk by taking on too many or inappropriate funders that divert them from their goals and/or absorb too much management time. It is critical to carefully evaluate which funders to approach based on assessing the expected returns (eg funding amount and length) and the likelihood of winning the grant, in relation to the expected costs.

Going forward, Maliasili will continue to work with all its partners to develop the most appropriate and effective fundraising strategy for each individual organization, and invest more resources in connecting funders and local organizations. Look for our forthcoming 2019 publication on Strategic Fundraising with many of the ideas, tips and examples derived from our work over the past several years with our partners.

In sharing fundraising experiences with other conservation organisations I realised that diversifying our income source was very important, and a lot of fundraising is really about personal relationships and building networks and contacts with key people. We’ll be developing our fundraising strategy in the coming year and I’ll be remembering these key points as we start to plan.
— Lorna Slade, Executive Director and co-founder, Mwambao Coastal Community Network, reflecting on the partner fundraising workshop held in November 2018
Download: Fundraising Summary

Download: Fundraising Summary

Download: Management Fundamentals

Download: Management Fundamentals





A Visual Story of a Complex Landscape

By Nikita L. Pakhare, Design and Content Strategist

The South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO) is a community-based organization working in Kenya’s Rift Valley, where wildlife and pastoralist communities live side by side. SORALO blends a unique set of capabilities in science, culture, and community-driven conservation approaches. After a decade of pioneering work, SORALO began working with Maliasili three years ago. A key part of our support has been helping SORALO capture their core organizational purpose and identity, including how they communicate and represent their work visually.  

In early 2018, we started off by reviewing their logo. The SORALO team came to the conclusion that it was time for a change; they wanted a logo that reflected their vision and story more accurately. There was a consensus that their current logo wasn’t capturing who they were-  it showed scorched land and embodied an aged and heavy look. It was also a low resolution, pixelated JPEG file.

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 10.56.16 PM.png

Through a branding workshop we identified key attributes that are core to SORALO’s values and approach:

  • People and wildlife are interconnected and there is a strong desire and commitment to support co-existence.

  • The landscape is diverse; it supports livelihoods, livestock and wildlife.

  • The organisation is made up of community members.

  • SORALO brings together landowners.

  • The landscape is the last place owned by Maasai in Kenya and is rich in the Maasai culture.

As a team, we undertook a logo design process that brought all these elements together. Below is the result of the new logo design and brand icons; launched in April 2018.


Now - with a unified, consistent brand - SORALO is better positioned for future growth and success. The strength of their new brand and visual story, which all stems from the updated logo, reinforces that a unified brand that tells a powerful story can continue to inspire a team even when challenges arise. In 2018 SORALO released a branded annual report, a new strategic plan, and an electronic newsletter, bringing their work and achievements to new audiences. The team celebrated this milestone - a new start with a fresh look; they have become brand ambassadors, taking on more opportunities to communicate their work.

Download SORALO’s publications:




2018 Revenue by Source (%)

Total 2018 Revenue: $2,795,159


Expenses 2014 - 2018



Full copies of the 2018 Audited Financials are available upon request



Institutional Partners

Acacia Conservation Fund

BAND Foundation

Dorobo Fund for Tanzania

International Land Coalition

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The Nature Conservancy

Maliasili has built an outstanding and well-deserved reputation through its work to support and develop high-impact African conservation organizations. Increasingly, Maliasili also serves as a vital portal connecting such organizations to foundations like ours that otherwise would have limited capacity to access these innovative, locally driven conservation solutions.
— Nick Lapham, President, BAND Foundation


*Individuals and organizations providing at least $500 in support of our work in 2018.

Not included are funders who wish to remain anonymous.

African Conservation Centre

Nikhil Balram

Katherine Courson

Charles Fritz III

Ben Gallant

Linden Trust for Conservation

Constance and Robert Loarie

Miranda Trust

Gib and Susan Myers

Martha Nelson

Jill Nelson

Robert H. Nelson

Sarah and Jed Nussdorf

Scott O’Connell

Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation

David E. Reese Family Foundation

Leslie Roach

Sall Family Foundation

Scribner Family Trust

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Carol and Ned Spieker Fund

Jane and Bill Stocklin

Wildlife Conservation Network

Jim and Sally Young

Maliasili also gratefully acknowledges in-kind contributions in support of our work from Coulson Harney LLP and Charlot and Dennis Singleton.


When you invest in Maliasili, you invest in our entire conservation portfolio.

Get in touch: we’re always looking for new connections.




Photo credits: Top banner: Jessie Davie | Our partners in 2018; Jessie Davie, Gregoire Dubois, Carlos Carrillo/UCRT, Mwambao, BioCarbon Partners, Martin Harvey/Lewa, Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association, Samantha Du Toit/SORALO | Stories from the field; Felipe Rodriguez, Jessie Davie, Gregoire Dubois, Jessie Davie, Felipe Rodriguez | Photo Collage; Guy Western, Roshni Lodhia, Felipe Rodriguez, Felipe Rodriguez, Tania Paschen, Tania Paschen, Gregoire Dubois, Gregoire Dubois | 2018 AR Contents; Guy Western, Felipe Rodriguez, Jessie Davie, KWCA, Martin Harvey/Lewa, Jessie Davie, Felipe Rodrigue, Guy Western, Felipe Rodriguez | Stories (in order of appearance); Felipe Rodriguez, Colleen Hogg/Honeyguide, Jessie Davie, KWCA, Martin Harvey/Lewa, Felipe Rodriguez, Felipe Rodriguez, Guy Western, Felipe Rodriguez

Videos by: Felipe Rodriguez (ferodriguezfoto@gmail.com)