Lizah Makombore, Ph.D. Student, Gund Graduate Fellow & L4E Fellow

In honor of the “Ubuntu” culture from Africa, Lizah has over 10 years of experience working in the NGO sector, development sector, public finance institutions and institutions of higher learning. The word Ubuntu means “I am because we are” and speaks to a community of practice that requires a shared domain, values and a practice of actions that promote sustainability and development of communities.  Lizah has worked in multiple roles starting off at the Central Bank of Zimbabwe where she started as an intern and ended up as an Investments Analyst responsible for appraising Foreign Direct Investments into Zimbabwe. From there Lizah moved to a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project called the South African International Business Linkages (SAIBL) where she took up multiple roles and played a critical role in implementing specific interventions for small to medium sized farmers and businesses to assist them for successful linkages with South African corporations and to the US markets. The role at SAIBL exposed Lizah to farmers from all the provinces in South Africa both commercial and subsistence farmers. From this role she moved to an NGO based in South Africa called the National Business Initiative, there she took up the Project Manager role. The NBI is a global network partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a partner of the CEO Water Mandate, We Mean Business (WMB) and of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). At the NBI Lizah contributed to multi-faceted projects at regional level and local level in the following sectors: climate change, water sustainability, regenerative agriculture, public private and partnerships, equity and justice and local economic development. After the NBI, Lizah ventured into academia, and has spent the last 6 years of her life being a research assistant, lecturer, curriculum developer and reviewer of assessments.

During her PhD program at UVM, she will explore how mechanisms for allocating resources under local control and national sovereignty that generate global public goods are optimally organized, allocated and utilized to leapfrog environmental solutions. She has questions around how value is created in different ecological ecosystems, hence her key research interest in ecological restoration of rainforest ecosystems, sustainable agriculture, valuation, and unconventional finance of restoring natural capital and public private partnerships in environmental solutions.

She will combine mixed approaches, including economic and climate modeling, with critical participatory action research methodologies to critically research the key research areas listed above.

During Lizah’s Master’s in Commerce undertaken at the University of Cape Town, where she specialized in Development Finance, Lizah managed to investigate the financing and governance mechanisms for a Cross-Sector Social Partnership involved in creating a sustainable water ecosystem. The findings there, as well as Lizah’s experience as illustrated above, have led her to UVM’s Ph.D. in Sustainable Development Policy, Economics and Governance. She envisions researching further and contributing significantly to the current body of knowledge. She would love to continue spreading the spirit and culture of “Ubuntu” even at UVM.

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Valuation and Finance of Natural Capital; Ecological Restoration of Rainforest Ecosystems; Sustainable Agriculture & Agroecology; Resilient Communities, Private Public Partnerships, and Social Impact Bonds; Justice and Equity for Sustainability; Water Sustainability


  • Master of Commerce (Development Finance), University of Cape Town, South Africa