Key Personnel

EcoAfrica was founded in 1988. The organisation consists of a multi-disciplinary team of professional consultants and project managers. They are supported by a group of full-time administrators, researchers, IT specialists and financial managers. The company also collaborates with an expanding network of long-time professional associates when necessary. The consultants have diverse skills in the natural, human, social, financial and economic environments that allow them to undertake a wide variety of work geared towards driving social, environmental and economic change through sustainable livelihood development, fostering co-responsibility for managing resources and providing support to communities, governments and the private sector.

Francois Odendaal

Francois Odendaal

CEO EA Group

Francois Odendaal (PhD, FRGS)completed his doctorate in ecological studies in 1981 in Australia and then joined Stanford University to do research in the Colorado Rockies and in tropical rainforests in Costa Rica. He subsequently joined Duke University as a research and teaching associate doing field work in the south-eastern USA. At Connecticut State University he taught a range of environmental courses for a decade to over 300 Masters students with over one hundred participating in field studies in Latin America, Africa and the USA. He returned to South Africa in the early 1990’s to become Principal Research Officer in the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies at the University of Cape Town. He specialises in tourism development, integrated coastal areas management, protected areas development, heritage preservation and policy formulation processes. He has published numerous scientific articles, and taught government officials and NGOs from more than twenty countries in environmental and development-related courses, and wrote several books.

Umaymah Jattiem

Umaymah Jattiem

Researcher and Office Manager of EACT

Umaymah Jattiem has a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Environmental and Geographical Science, Sociology, and Gender Studies, from the University of Cape Town. She also completed Masters Modules in Law of Conservation, Heritage Management and Development, as well as Conservation Disciplines and Practices at the University of Cape Town. Umaymah has 6 years' experience as a Researcher and more than 4 years in Project Coordination and Management. Her areas of research experience include, heritage and tourism development, disaster risk management, environmental assessments, stakeholder engagement, local development and land reform, protected areas, marine and coastal resources, and climate change. Umaymah has worked on developing Integrated Conservation Management Plans for Provincial and World Heritage Sites and developing environmental course materials for universities in both South Africa and Dubai. In addition, she has been involved in DLIST ASCLME and BCLME projects focusing on knowledge management and information sharing along the east and west coasts of Africa. Within EcoAfrica Umaymah is also responsible for business administration and as Office Manager of the Cape Town Office.

Violet Njambi Ogega

Violet Njambi Ogega

Researcher and Business Manager of EAEA

Violet Njambi has a Certificate Course in Environmental Journalism and Communication from Daystar University, Certificate Course in Environmental Engineering (Cape Peninsula University of Technology and a Diploma in Environmental Science from Mombasa Polytechnic University College. She has worked with marine institutions situated in Mombasa since 2003. She has been actively involved with schools, women and fisher groups on a range of issues. In 2009 she joined CORDIO East Africa, an NGO involved in coral reef management, fish monitoring and livelihood projects for communities that are mainly dependant on marine resources. While working with CORDIO she has successfully implemented training for women and has actively worked in the field of ICT at the local community level. She is experienced in stakeholder consultation processes, socio-economic studies and has been part of the DLIST ASCLME field team at the demonstration site located at the Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach, Mombasa. She manages the EcoAfrica office in Mombasa and is involved in marine and coastal projects that include several countries in East Africa. Currently Violet is involved in Project Coordination of the COAST project in Kenya and Tanzania

Olga van den Pol

Olga van den Pol

Senior Consultant

Olga van den Pol has a Masters in Tropical Nature Conservation and Ecology with a minor in Tourism. Her competency areas are tourism, natural resources management, biodiversity, climate change and cultural heritage projects.

Before joining EcoAfrica, Olga has worked as a consultant to design and develop climate change adaptation projects using Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in Africa and Latin America. She has also conducted feasibility studies on ecotourism development, sustainable livestock management and the private sector potential for enhancing national climate and weather information products and services in 11 African countries.

Olga has on-the-ground experience working in ecotourism development and protected area management in Cambodia and South Africa. Furthermore, she worked as a sustainable financing consultant for the IUCN in the Netherlands. Olga is particularly interested in using innovative approaches for biodiversity conservation and protected area management.

Jacques van der Merwe

Jacques van der Merwe

Senior Consultant

Jacques van der Merwe is a qualified Town and Regional Planner with 22 years of professional experience and academic qualifications in town and regional planning and the social sciences. Jacques has extensive experience in regional, metropolitan, city, town, village and urban and rural settlement planning and design, settlement-making and regeneration, community participation and consultation approaches, processes and facilitation, as well as protected areas planning and management.

Jacques obtained a Bachelor Degree in Town and Regional Planning (Cum Laude) from the University of Pretoria in 1993, and a Bachelor Degree in Social Sciences (Psychology and Sociology) from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (formerly known as the University of Port Elizabeth) in 1985. Other academic courses included Architecture, Civil and Transport Engineering, Economics, Anthropology, Philosophy, Political Science, and Statistics. Jacques lectured on a part-time basis at the Department of Town and Regional Planning of the University of Pretoria from 2002 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2009. As a Professional Town Planner, Jacques is affiliated to the South African Planning Institute (SAPI) (Corporate Member) and registered as a Town Planner (Candidate) at the South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN) (Registration Number: C/5404/1994).

Jacques has project managed, facilitated and compiled various integrated development plans, strategic planning and management frameworks, spatial development frameworks, settlement planning, development and design strategies, programmes, plans, layouts and projects, urban and rural settlement regeneration strategies, programmes and projects, central business district and precinct planning, development and revitalisation strategies, programmes and plans, as well as protected areas management plans in South Africa, Namibia and Mauritius. He is focused on providing innovative and appropriate urban and rural space, structure, form and management solutions to the developmental challenges faced by governments, communities, settlements and protected areas.

Phoebe Mzembe

Phoebe Mzembe

Financial Manager

Phoebe Mzembe has a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting degree and is currently completing her Postgraduate Degree in Applied Accounting Sciences with the University of South Africa. She has experience in auditing financial statements of numerous entities ranging from Insurance, Manufacturing, Film Production, Property Management which spans for over three (3) years. She recently completed her South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) training contract with BDO South Africa Inc. Her experience lies in over 12 years accounting experience ranging from accounting, taxation, financial management and statutory. Phoebe possesses good relationship management and negotiating skills in liaising with stakeholders. As a Financial Manager at EcoAfrica, she controls and manages all financial accounting activities of the company. She is responsible for preparing, analysing, verifying and disseminating critical monthly and yearly financial reports, coupled with budgeting and forecasting to ensure the stakeholders are aware of their financial position. In this position, she leads the development and implementation of effective financial accounting and reporting.

Luyanda Ntuli

Luyanda Ntuli

Intern

Luyanda Ntuli has a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Geography and Environmental Management with majors in Geography, Environmental Management and Anthropology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. During her time at EcoAfrica she has been involved in the Taung Skull World Heritage Site (WHS) project for the facilitation of heritage and conservation issues, research and documentation of history and some generic needs of the Taung Skull WHS on behalf of the Management Authority. The work involved stakeholder engagement, recording, report writing and documentation. She assists in administrative tasks which include communicating with clients and assisting other Environmental Consultants with tenders and proposals as well as various project related tasks. In addition, she has been involved in drafting a number of reports and management plans.

Zine Matshakeni

Zine Matshakeni

Intern

Zine Matshakeni completed her Masters in Integrated Water Resource Management at the University of Zimbabwe and her Bachelor of Science and Honours in Environmental and Water Science at the University of the Western Cape. Her Masters dissertation focused on effects of land use changes on water quality in Eerste River and her Honours mini-thesis focused on groundwater governance at the University of the Western Cape campus site. She is currently an Intern at EcoAfrica.

Melissa Boonzaaier

Melissa Boonzaaier

Intern

Melissa Kay Boonzaaier is a marine ecologist and specialist taxonomist with an MSc in Zoology from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Port Elizabeth. She has gained experience in marine field work from sea turtle (Caretta caretta and Dermochelys coriacea) monitoring in KwaZulu-Natal to surveying whales and dolphins in Algoa Bay to collecting marine spionid worms (Polychaeta: Spionidae) in the rocky shores. Melissa is passionate about science communication and, through various opportunities, has honed her science communication skills, and is particularly interested in targeting the youth. She has presented her scientific research, ranging from sea turtles to marine bryozoans (or “moss animals”), at local and international conferences and meetings. Melissa also gained experience in organising workshops, meetings and conferences through various organising committees. Her research interests include marine conservation planning, taxonomy, biodiversity and deep-sea research. Currently, Melissa is an intern at EcoAfrica, as well as assisting with projects for Francois Odendaal Productions. She has recently submitted her PhD thesis in Biodiversity & Conservation Biology – focussing on the taxonomy and distribution patterns of South African marine bryozoans – at the University of the Western Cape and currently awaiting her results.

Safia Mohamed Iddi

Safia Mohamed Iddi

Programme Officer

Safia Mohamed IDDI is an accomplished film producer and director for Zanzibar Television where she has worked for many years. She conceived the highly successful and long running Ardhi na Mazingira Yetu (‘Our Land and Environment’) television series and was part of the Public Awareness and Information Sharing (PAI&D) team for the Sustainable land and Environment (SMOLE) Programme in Zanzibar. She has made films on a wide range of environmental and social issues, participated in socio-economic surveys and public awareness raising activities for the GEF/World Bank-funded Marine and Coastal Environment Management Programme (MACEMP), and did a prolonged training course with Francois Odendaal Productions in Tanzania and South Africa.

Sipho Masimula

Sipho Masimula

Reception, hospitality and housekeeping

Sipho Masemola is employed by EcoAfrica's offices in Gauteng where he is an office assistant as well as caretaker looking after the maintenance of the premises. Sipho also drives for the company as a messenger and is ready to assist staff and visitors to the office where and when necessary, and does logistics for field trips.

Margaret Kuselo

Margaret Kuselo

Reception, hospitality and housekeeping

Margaret Kuselo is currently employed by EcoAfrica’s offices in Cape Town and takes care of the organization’s general housekeeping, management and hospitality. She is usually hard at work making sure that the offices are at all times tidy and presentable. Visitors and employees alike are always welcomed with warmth, kindness and a friendly smile.

EcoAfrica Associates

Our associates are tried and trusted service providers who share our values and with whom we have enjoyed lasting relationships. They are well-known for their expertise and often ideally positioned to help move along common agendas for environmental sustainability and social change. We often integrate associates into our project teams to add further value to processes and initiatives. To view our associates please click here.

Project teams

EcoAfrica represents a network far larger than its own operational staff. The reason is that the company has a strong ethic of mutual capacity building, both within the company itself and its clients. It believes in devolving responsibility and sharing opportunities by including other groups, organisations and individuals in its projects and programmes. In this manner larger networks are established at all levels of society. As an example, EcoAfrica has trained over thirty tour guides in several countries, more than fifty trainers in various fields and more than twenty development facilitators from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Over a thousand people have been directly employed on projects managed by EcoAfrica, and many of them have started their own organisations, businesses, NGOs, and other development entities. This policy of collective action has allowed the small, close-knit EcoAfrica team to substantially enlarge its footprint in the developing world.


EcoAfrica is intensely aware of the power of public opinion and collective thinking. Awareness raising at all levels is considered pivotal to providing a sound basis for policy processes, natural resource management and equipping teams to deal effectively with a range of environmental issues. Therefore every opportunity is taken to share information and improve access to appropriate training that include hands-on training, short tailor-made courses and innovative information sharing platforms and other ICT applications such as www.dlist.org. EcoAfrica is closely aligned with its sister company Francois Odendaal Productions (FOP) that looks after many of its own media needs and that of its clients.