Early this week Zephaniah Maseko Phiri, a 79 year old Zimbabwean peasant farmer made news worldwide by being the first African to win the prestigious National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.
Sadly, Maseko’s great achievement has not been reported in the local Zimbabwean media. The farmer is one of the many dedicated Zimbabweans who have put this country onto the international map but have received little recognition for their hard work at home.
Maseko who jointly won the award with Nicaraguan environmentalist Jaime Incer will receive a cash prize of US$25,000.
According to the National Geographic Society, Maseko founded the Zvishavane Water Project in 1986. It is said to have been one of Zimbabwe’s first indigenous NGOs.
The water project’s objectives are to educate others about water harvesting and conservation, promote sustainable farming and increase farm income.
In their citation, The Geographic Society stated:
This year’s awardees are being recognized and honored for their outstanding leadership and their vital role in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions. They are inspirational conservation advocates, who serve as role models and mentors in their communities
Maseko has been farming for more than 50 years but has received little support from the government. He told the VOA’s Studio 7 News programme that the government was not forthcoming with funds to assist him in sharing his knowledge with the rest of Zimbabwean farmers.
Keep up the good work, Zephaniah Maseko Phiri.