Northern Ireland native Neville Isdell and his future wife Pamela both relocated to Zambia in 1954 with their respective parents. They met and married in Zambia, and Neville went to work at a local Coca-Cola bottling plant. That job launched a 43-year career that would take the couple all over the world and take Neville to the top of the company during his tenure as chairman and CEO.
The Isdells, who have supported conservation in Africa for over three decades, announced a new leadership gift this May that demonstrates the depth of their commitment to give back to the land that gave them their start. Their donation of $3 million to The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund will support wildlife conservation and community livelihoods in Zambia and across the border into Namibia.
For the Isdells, the gift means making a statement and setting an example for other philanthropists. But it’s also about making a difference in a country that remains close to the couple’s hearts.
“It is a very emotional statement of what Zambia means to us,” said Neville. “This gift reflects our determination to help the people and wildlife together to live in harmony for the benefit of all of Zambia.”
“We are pleased that our involvement can be part of this transformational time in Zambia,” added Pamela. “I hope our giving will inspire others to support a country that has meant so much to us.”
The Isdells’ announcement highlighted an event hosted by Zambia Vice President Guy Scott in Lusaka. The event also featured the launch of the Zambian Parliamentary Conservation Caucus, which is intended to spearhead policy reforms benefiting wildlife conservation.
The Isdells are both long-term, active supporters of WWF’s and the Conservancy’s worldwide conservation work. Neville currently chairs the board for WWF-US, while Pamela is a Conservancy trustee on the Africa Council and in Georgia, where she co-chairs the Georgia for Generations campaign.
The WWF portion of the new gift will support conservation and tourism initiatives throughout the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), with the greatest focus on Zambia.
The Conservancy’s share will support complementary initiatives in western Zambia’s Kafue ecosystem and nationwide natural-resource policy reform. The Conservancy works with ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority) and local communities to provide essential infrastructure and enhance wildlife security in Kafue National Park and surrounding game management areas.
The Conservancy also works with communities in the adjacent Mulobezi Game Management Area to improve their livelihoods. On these communal lands, the overarching goal is to reduce threats to the natural environment by increasing the benefits and opportunities that conservation provides to people.
“This gift will have a profound, far-reaching impact in Zambia,” said Matt Brown, the Conservancy’s conservation director in Africa. “It helps catalyze collaboration and renew focus on the benefits that preserving nature brings to local communities.”May 21, 2013