Our Team

Brent’s Story

After a stint of safari-guiding in Hwange in the late nineties Brent found himself in the UK and away from his home in Zimbabwe. He drifted around jobs for a couple of years until eventually deciding he needed to get back to Africa. He wrote a 5- year plan that on his 25th birthday which included being back in Zimbabwe and following his heart by the time he was 30!! He enrolled in a degree course and studied “Wildlife management” in Hampshire and he was on his path to getting home. He got a 2:1 in his degree but didn’t even wait for the graduation….he was gone!!

Shortly before getting on the plane to Zimbabwe he googled his 2 favorite things in life, Lions and Hwange national park, and up popped the Hwange lion research project. He wrote them many emails and wouldn’t take no for an answer until eventually, having just landed in Zim and about to go guiding again he received the call that changed his life. The lion project needed a field researcher and would he like the job. Brent worked for the next decade on that project doing the field work and catching lions for collaring etc.

Thousands of hours spent with lions before he started specializing in the mitigation of the conflict between lions and livestock owners on the park’s edge. After setting up some very successful interventions that drastically reduced the conflict losses to lions and the subsequent retaliatory killing of lions he broke away from the project and together with his soul-mate and wife Laurie, they set up their own trust…the Soft foot alliance.

Laurie’s Story

Art has been a passion from an early age, I loved the ability to communicate visually outside of verbal language. Art can be a means of communication for the voiceless, for myself, for marginalized people, for wildlife and for the earth herself.

My passion for wildlife is nature not nurture and so living in Hwange National Park since 2007 was a dream come true to live alongside the diverse animals here was a treasure, yet there is a sense of disconnection in this context, we are not one with nature as our truest way of being is, how can we reimagine and remember what this means as humanity? This question and exploration is what fuels the work for me, truly creating an alternative.

I left my life in Europe in 2007 and followed my heart to Zimbabwe, I felt a sense of arriving home which I never expected. I became more immersed in this beautiful country, and both Brent and I decided we wanted to live with the people who ‘live’ with wildlife to understand what that truly entails and to challenge ourselves to really ‘walk the talk’. We approached our chief who is the traditional leader of this area and asked if we could live in the communal area as part of the community. We were so humbled and excited to be accepted by him and the community members. To honour their support, we know we had to throw ourselves in to this opportunity and give it 100%.

So I threw myself into building our home using natural materials, learning about living off grid and practicing permaculture. All of this heightened our understanding of how destructive modern life is for the natural world. From reading, learning by doing, short courses and mistakes along the way, the conditions for our new life, as a family and all our future fur babies was created. In 2014 we moved into the home I built and really started living with nature and wildlife, and we have never looked back. I am truly happy when my hands and feet are in the soil, from earth building to growing food. To raise Oliver where he can run free and be deeply connected to the land and culture makes our hearts sing, we are deeply grateful to our community for the welcome and for all the creatures we share our lives with, from the smallest to the biggest.

The soft foot alliance grew out of Brent and I’s experience over the years and how we knew something else was possible. My role has brought together my creativity and permaculture to design and implement our work. I hold a vision in my heart of a world I know is possible, it led me to do this for our own lives and I know it is possible to do this across landscapes. That through regeneration on all levels, abundance is there and so too is coexistence.

Oly’s Story

Hi, I’m Oliver ‘Siyathaba’ [we are happy] Stapelkamp. I live with my mom and dad on the edge of Hwange National park in Zimbabwe.

I was born in France, 2008. When I was about 5 weeks old we moved back to Zim, and I’ve lived here ever since. I first lived at main camp, then we moved to Hwange safari lodge and live there for 5yrs. Now we live in a sun dried brick house that my mom built with her own bare hands, my mom and dad have a house made of rammed earth, so I live by myself [and my dog]. I love animals, the wild. I take wildlife photos [you can see then on my INSTAGRAM @olystapelkamp].

MP3’s Story

My role is to manage herding programs and herding facilitation of soil building through holistic planned grazing. This is an important journey of healthy people, animals and fertile soil which will produce enough food for people and both domestic animals and wildlife and this will also reduce the conflicts among people and nature for today and the future regeneration.

Samu’s Story

My role is to support groups in regenerative core area and beyond bringing indigenous knowledge together and recording this, what is most important is to unite people as community building in all ward and connect women in other villages to share knowledge on permaculture and regeneration and develop programs as soft foot alliance.

Msungwe Sithole’s Story

My role is to support the community perma _culture garden ,train Sobajimba members to be regenerative and inspiring through perma-culture principles and ethics. To lead the community examplery through implimenting all i share to people at my home to inspire them to believe from what they see and experience .Working with them at their homes Masikili (2) and Ndajila (2)al and accomodating knolledge sharing at ward level in respect of the S.F.A policy.

Rufaro’s Story

I am working on creating self-sustaining homes, at two different home set ups. One home is located in the Mkoba high residential area and the other is a plot in Rayland, and both of them are in Gweru. What is common in both places is the growing rate of chronic inter-generational poverty, and the limited opportunities to have an average quality lifestyle.

The focus is on

  1. Increasing the ability to utilise the abundant local resources
  2. Coming up with long term agricultural solutions that secure a resilient and productive future, with most inputs being generated from the homes
  3. Creating an environment that encourages deligence, responsibility, ability to hold ourselves accountable for the success or failure of projects and the use of information to cope up with dynamic changes.

The hope is to practically prove that we do have enough resources to meet our basic needs. I believe that a family is a basic building block of a community. Creating a stable family, means increasing the capabilities of a communities.

Where did all this come from? I remember the day l got an offer letter for my first job so vividly. We had been told that we were more than 500 people who had responded to an advert by this company and l had gotten the job. The unemployment rate was above 90% and l was now one of the 10% lucky ones.

My parents had given up so much to share with their siblings and children, a tool they believed would make life easier, that is, education. I gave education 101% effort doing everything by the book the best way I could. Getting this job was a great opportunity to prove to my parents that they did not make a mistake.
In the work place, it seemed like the education we had, had limited application and it felt like we were taking more from the system than we were giving and it was not sustainable. I would interact with some of my peers who were not employed and they would tell of vain efforts they were putting to get employment and I realised there was nothing special about me, l was just fortunate.I have always been a reflective person, this time, l really began to question everything. Questions that crossed my mind were, ‘Where are we going?’, ‘where are we coming from?’ and ‘where are we?’ as a community and as individuals. I looked deeper into my own life and of those around me. I was shaken by how instead of progressing we are stagnant or even backsliding.

The goal of living a more convenient, abundant and satisfying life, which led people from especially my parents’ time to move into urban areas was short lived. Back then, it was easier to feed a family, provide shelter and access water without using a lot of physical effort, in urban areas than in rural areas. It only required an investment in education and afterwards getting a job and it was guaranteed that a good life followed. It worked for sometime, but by the time my generation got to be in the working class, the model was highly selective and only worked for a minority, because there were hardly any jobs to talk about. Nowadays, towns have so little to offer, people walk for long distances to get firewood, electricity is occasionally available… salaries can barely cover food and accommodation costs.

There is still so much hope in education bringing a good life, the thing that has shifted though, is where the good life is. For a few it is still within the country, but it is in a different and better neighborhood. For the majority, especially the educated ones, a good life is only found outside the country. We are back to square one, right where my parents started, ‘running’. Moving to a different place where a good life already exists.

What gives us the guarantee that, unlike the temporary good life in urban areas, the countries we are running to, will always offer a good life for everyone? Already things have changed in the benefits that used to come with moving out of the country. The support that a person in the diaspora could give to people back home has reduced, getting jobs in these countries is becoming more and more difficult and even the reception of foreigners in such countries has changed for the bad, an example is xenophobia incidences in SA or in general the effects that are coming as a result of increased immigration.

Its highly likely that, whichever new place we will find, that offers a good life, will only have room, for just a short while. This leaves one solution, of creating a good life right where we are. Using all the acquired knowledge, formally or informally learnt, to extract the benefits that are offered by resources surrounding us, while at the same time protecting these resources, for the sake of the future generation, so that they never have to ‘run’.

This realisation made me want to know more about how l can benefit from things available to me already. In my search, l discovered that there are alternatives to a conventional lifestyle and amongst the new things l learnt, there was permaculture and regenerative agriculture. I was also privileged to witness a family, choose to live a rural life, and strive to create a good life not just for themselves, but inclusive of others. I saw practically, how it was possible to create a good life. It was even easier because l became a part of soft Alliance and I did not have to be isolated when l decided to try out an alternative way of life.

Just as I had predicted, my contract ended 5 years after l has gotten the job, because the company I worked for could not afford to keep us. Some colleagues left for greener pastures in other countries, and those that could not, waited to be called back, as there were very limited opportunities in other companies. As for me, l decided it was time to stop running and went back to where l grew up, to try and make things work there.

Already l have seen a transition from losing money in attempts to carry out multiple projects that are meant to bring in money, to an increased resilience to both changing climate and an unstable economic environment through increased utilisation of internal/ readily available resources. There is so much more potential to stabilize economy wise at a larger level through simple family level grassroots solutions.

Charles Nyoni’s Story

Building came to be of interest after assisting a professional builder for 4 years (1987-91) the following three decades I did brickwork on my own. Skills changed in 2020 when I was introduced to rammed earth by the soft foot alliance. Presently my skills and techniques are deepening on this affordable, natural type of building and I’m witnessing its fruit. Spreading this unique skill and know how to others is my present ambition. This will bring about a naturally healthy, un-polluted environment.