Zanele Furusa spearheads hands-on resource management at Africa University

Marcie Smeck
April 9, 2015

Zanele Furusa
Zanele Furusa, lecturer in natural resources management in the faculty of humanities and the faculty of agriculture, Africa University. Photo credit: Marcie Smeck.

On the day before the inauguration of Professor Munashe Furusa as Africa University’s fourth vice chancellor, what was his wife, Zanele Furusa doing? She joined students on the side of the highway that leads to AU to pick up trash.

Zanele is a lecturer in natural resources management in the faculty of humanities and the faculty of agriculture at AU and advocates the students’ role in resource management in their community. She leads by example and believes trash by the highway is not good for the university’s image, nor for the soil and vegetation resources.

“That is community-based resource management!” Zanele said.

In September 2014, she launched a three-part plan involving students, faculty and staff to clean up three stretches of highway around the university.

“We need to practice what we say, change behaviors, and stop littering,” she said.

Zanele teaches three classes at AU and is a doctoral student in Geography and Environmental Management at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban. She holds a master’s degree in Geography and Environmental Management from the same university and a BS from Zimbabwe Open University. She specializes in environmental management, gender and policy development, as well as climate change and its impact on marginalized communities.

“We need young people engaging in environmental issues and coming up with solutions for Africa,” Zanele said. 

Zanele and Munashe Kurehwatira, another lecturer in the Agriculture and Natural Resources, engaged 10 AU students by taking the group to the thirty-ninth annual meeting of the National Council for Black Studies in Los Angeles, Calif., in mid-March.

“I love research. It is key for students to do actual activities and learn to stand before people to share their findings,” she said.  

Last fall, Zanele challenged those 10 students, who were in her Community Resource Management class, to develop a community-based resource project and share their findings at the March meeting in Los Angeles. Each student chose a community to research and worked to raise the money to attend the conference. The bulk of funding came from parents and sponsors; additional money was contributed by faculty and staff at AU.

Her students spent months doing fieldwork and finding a conceptual framework for the results of their research. At the conference, the students were able to hear others’ presentations and talk to scholars in the field. They chaired panels and presented papers.

Beitbridge Soneni Moyo, a senior at AU, researched ways that beekeepers in a small community could work with fruit farmers to increase the fruit yield, improve local environments and produce nutritious honey for the community.

“[Moyo’s research is] an example of how grassroots research can result in workable community-based solutions, rather than waiting on government to solve community problems,” Zanele said.

Zanele is currently helping Moyo apply to schools in the United States to study environmental law. She hopes to take another group of students to next year’s conference in Charlotte, N.C. 

Regionally, Zanele plans to take another group of students to Malawi in October to participate in an environmental project just outside of Lilongwe, where AU students will experience work in a different context. She aims to train students to become world leaders in natural resources management.

At the Vice Chancellor’s Inauguration, Zanele said that she is “excited about the campus, feels settled and grateful for the warm welcome. I love the spirit of avid students here. I enjoy them all.”

Zanele taught high school geography and environmental studies for 20 years before teaching on a college campus. The Furusa family spent 15 years in California—where Munashe Furusa was most recently dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at California State University, Dominquez Hills—before returning to Zimbabwe eight months ago when he was named vice chancellor at AU.

Three of their four children are adults living in California, and their youngest, 10 years old, returned to Zimbabwe with them.

Founded by The United Methodist Church in 1992, Africa University enrolls students from 28 African nations and beyond, providing quality education within the Pan-African context. It is located near Mutare, Zimbabwe. Learn more or donate at

Smeck is former interim director, Office of Communications, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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