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Youth Africa Experience Youth Africa Experience

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Helping wildlife in Zambia

Kasaka Lodge

Alan’s visit to the Lower Zambezi National Park was nothing if not eventful! If you are thinking of planning an African adventure, or want to make contact with a cutting edge African conservation project, this section should provide you with a brief introduction.

Along with his friends Dave and Cath – long time residents living near Zambia’s capital Lusaka – Alan stayed at Kasaka Lodge very close to the actual boundary of the park. Forget your average UK park immediately and imagine a vast expanse of mostly thick vegetation and trees covering 4,100 square kilometres, including 120 kilometres of river bank. Even as the group of friends arrived at Kasaka Lodge and were having lunch, the realities of living in close proximity with African wildlife became all too apparent.

The short wave radio crackled:Crocodile in Zambia

‘Calling Kasaka Lodge, urgent, over.’
‘OK, Kasaka receiving, copy.’
‘Your guide’s father
(couldn’t hear the name) has been taken by a croc from his canoe while fishing, over.’

Everyone at the Lodge – and there were 16 staff plus the managers, Hugo and Esther – went, literally, a deathly quiet. Then there arose a loud human wailing as the Zambian guide received the news of his father’s death at the back of kitchen area.

The Lower Zambezi Valley is situated in the south-east corner of Zambia, divided from neighbouringInside the 4-wheel drive Zimbabwe by the mighty Zambezi river. Getting there is certainly part of the adventure. You absolutely require a tough 4-wheel drive vehicle and the know-how to drive it. The 150 kilometre stretch of dirt tracks from the Kariba dam to the Lower Zambezi Valley take hours to traverse. In fact during our stay one visiting couple missed their lunch time arrival by five hours! Staying at a lodge near an African National Park in itself an experience which kindles mixed emotions.

 

Alan recalls: ‘Part of the magic of Africa is the personal experience of
witnessing wildlife and landscapes that are still truly ‘wild’ in every sense of the word. Kasaka was our fourth lodge stop. We’d already stayed at three lodges around the Zambezi National Park, in the Livingstone/Victoria Falls area. I found it very difficult to justify the expense – approximately £35-£100 per night each, usually to sleep in an elaborately crafted hut or tent structure. These tend to be equipped with a shower and toilet, limited electric power and often a mosquito net – pretty necessary in this malarial area. The problem, though, is the contrast between our spending power and being waited upon by Zambian staff who are perhaps only earning a couple of pounds a day.

This is often made worse by their long working days from about 5 a.m. until 10 or 11 at night, frequently being ordered around and being ticked off by arrogant white bosses (and some guests), many who seem to relish adopting an almost apartheidstyle approach to being white residents in Africa.’

However, Kasaka is one of the better organised lodges for tourists. The food is quite imaginative and the activities each day include fishing for the likes of tiger fish, bream and barbell; canoeing (a survival course in trying to avoid the submerged hippos and crocodiles), and day and night-time game drives (we saw a whole variety of birds and animals and most notably got close up to a lion and a leopard). These trips are
guaranteed to keep the nerves tingling.

On one drive Alan’s group were charged by two elephants at sundown – ‘Like us, they’re too hot and grumpy at this time of year’, Jodie, our guide of the day informed us. He was also none too amused when his Zambian assistant tried to make a run for it away from the jeep!

Elephants in yerr face

Hugo informed us that the lodge had been having a little bit of an elephant problem as we arrived. In point of fact, the little ‘problem’ was definitely elephantine in proportions, and ‘times two’. In fact, for the past few days two bull elephants had been amusing themselves munching on the trees, and uprooting them in the grounds
of the lodge.

‘How close do you get to elephants?’, Alan asked Hugo, the camp boss.
Hugo replied, ‘It depends on their mood……

But this meant that each short trip from the main lodge building to and from the frame tent sleeping quarters involved a rather dangerous game of ‘elephant dodge’, or worse still, ‘meet the ellie’! As guests, it is difficult to assess the level of danger, but Esther the joint-manager was small and jittery and chirping shrilly like a bird for much of our stay. Hugo and his colleague Jodie meanwhile played the big white bwanas, chasing the elephants around the pond, the pool and the previously immaculate lawns, yelling something in Afrikaans that sounded like ‘Come on’, but presumably meant the opposite. (photos of the elephants by Hugo, Kasaka Lodge)

Elephants fighting

The day time antics of the two bulls was pretty ‘in yerr face’. This was a serious case of elephant anti-social behaviour, coupled with a full-on territorial neighbour-dispute. They charged each other, tore up anything in their mutual and independent paths and trumpeted aggressively at any of the humans who confronted them. Just like the street pub brawlers back home in the UK, after each extended skirmish the ellies liked to have a drink from the swimming pool or pond, and prepare for round two.

Elephant poolside

One night, Alan even had the ultimate elephant experience. He recalls:

‘We’d been stuck at the dinner table long after the end of our meal at about 8.30 p.m. when the bar had officially closed. No problem though, since our white wine was being replenished. We can hear the two male elephants crunching and crashing about in the trees by our tents. Some time passes while we play spot the snake – in this case a long green model with a white underbelly, coiled around a branch immediately above our heads!

Hugo returns from elephant spotting. He yells out to us:
“There’s a window of opportunity, get your things together and follow me.”
We picked up our white wine glasses, bags, etcetera and followed him, accompanied by a black guide, using a couple of torches to find our way in the near pitch-black darkness. Over the rickety bridge above the pond, across the lawned area to Dave and Cath’s tent. Then Hugo leads me to my tent. It is only then that we spot the two bull elephants wedged between my tent and some trees. They are literally three feet from the foot of my bed.

“Better get in – zip up – and stay in until the morning”, urges Hugo.

I don’t even turn the light on. I can see the legs of both elephants moving past the mosquito netting windows of my tent. I can smell them, strong and pungent in the night air. I find myself thinking, ‘Am I frightened?’ and strangely think, ‘No, it’s actually exciting and even exhilarating.’ I’m in bed and I can hear every breath they make, the munching noises, interspersed by the occasional bellow and trumpet, a bit reminiscent of the giants of the deep – the whales.

I drifted off to sleep and in the morning the elephants are still close by and causing more tree damage mayhem. Being able to see them, I crept around the back of my tent and circumnavigated my way to a 5.30 a.m. breakfast.’

Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ)

In Africa, poverty and survival are among the ingredients of everyday life. Alan’s friend Dave explained how the Zambian population mostly view wildlife. He said: ‘If a Tonga or Bemba tribesman or child sees an elephant or rhino or lion, they use one word for it. Depending on their local language that can be, ‘Nyama’ or ‘Wema’. Nyama, pronounced Yama means ‘meat’.’

With black market game selling in the local street markets for less than legal meat, poaching represents an illegal but very active economy. In the Lower Zambezi Valley, Conservation Lower Zambezi was established in 1995 to try and work through prevention and education to eradicate poaching. The organisation was established by a highly committed group of safari tour operators working closely with local Chiawa community and the Zambian government’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). But their task is a daunting and challenging one.

Leanne Edwards, originally from New Zealand and Ian Stevenson, out of the USA and Australia, are two of the key figures co-ordinating the efforts of CLZ and provided Alan with information and a guided tour of the project headquarters. Ian told Alan: ‘Poaching has been stemmed to some extent, but is still a serious threat.’ Leanne added, ‘We see the education of the children from the villages throughout this part of Zambia, and it’s a huge area, as being absolutely vital.’

Alan’s visit coincided with the near completion of a $200,000 building programme. The new CLZ compound is being geared up to provide ongoing educational programmes for 20 local children at a time, who will stay for three days at a time, together with two teachers and two parents in specially provided dormitories and bedrooms. Ernest Chingaipe has recently been appointed as the co-ordinator for the education project. The centre also boasts a workshop area, 4-wheeled people transporters, indoor and open classroom areas, a conference centre and a space designed to house an interpretative display showing indigenous African wildlife using computers and visual aids.

Conservation Lower Zambezi compound

 

At the time of Alan’s visit, United Nations Development staff (see photo on right) were being shown around the centre and together with Alan watched a stomach-churning, emotion-shocking slide show of poachers killing local animals, including ‘Big Boy’ a legendary local bull elephant, gunned down for his ivory.

 

For the children visiting the centre there will be also plenty of hands-on experiences of living with and around wild animals. Trips on the Zambezi river and field trips in the Lower Zambezi National Park will be core elements of taking pupils into a ‘natural classroom.’ Linked to this is Leanne’s very practical care work with injured wildlife. Leanne hopes that the centre can provide the necessary support and care for a range of wildlife, leading where possible for animals and birds to be released back into the wild.

During Alan’s visit, Leanne had two ‘guests’.

Leanne with Eddie the eagle

First, there was the magnificent Eddie the Eagle, who has suffered from a severely broken wing. Then there was Joey, a tiny infant duiker with a broken leg. Both are getting used to human attention and Leanne anticipates that they and others like them will help the young visitors to the CLZ centre to form a personal bond with the animals.

Alan with Joey the duiker Leanne with Eddie the eagle and Alan with Joey the duiker

Essentially, the CLZ initiative through education provision has to change the culture of the next generation of Zambians. Abundant and sustainable wildlife has to become seen as an essential component of a flourishing society, with an economy increasingly based on eco-tourism. Locals who have found tourist-related employment in and near the Zambian National Parks are already perceiving animals as a part of their new livelihood, but this is far from the universal attitude.

Along with the new education work, the CLZ has proved itself to be committed in offering active support to the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), the successors to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of Zambia. Their work is intended to strengthen anti-poaching measures, but ZAWA are working with only two vehicles to cover an enormous geographic area covering Ciawa, Luano and Rufunsa, an area roughly equivalent to the counties of Devon and Dorset.

CLZ describes the Zambian National Park rangers as, ‘…dedicated men and women on the front lines of preservation and conservation of wildlife. However, to be successful NPWS staff need adequate training, equipment and supplies. Currently, anti-poaching patrols are ill-equipped for effective deterrence. Vehicles, communication equipment, rations, uniforms and fundamental support are either lacking or non-existent.’

In fact the situation with regard to funding for their partners the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) is in a critical state with ZAWA having been ‘…downsized to approximately half the number of employees as the former NPWS…therefore there is a growing dependence upon CLZ’s resources.’

The challenges are immense, given the enormity of the problems faced in an area which has seen the populations of many animals decimated. For example, Zambia’s elephants have declined drastically from 67,000 in the early 1970s to 6,000 now. Even worse is the fate of the black and white rhino. There are now only three white rhino left, protected around the clock by six rangers in the Zambezi National park, near Livingstone and Victoria Falls. Sadly, the price for rhino horns has lured many professional poachers into Zambia’s national parks.

One of the last rhino in Zambia

One of the last rhino in Zambia

Despite this worrying scenario, CLZ is effectively mobilising local and international supporters and donations for the provision of their new education initiative and antipoaching patrols in the National Park. Many individuals and organisations have provided sponsorship for the CLZ and the Danish authorities have been especially generous in their funding for the new education premises and facilities.

Quite close the CLZ is a backpackers’ style campsite called Chia, which might be able to host visiting youth groups at a reasonably modest cost. If your youth group or school is interested in getting involved with Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) first visit their web site at:

www.conservationlowerzambezi.com.zm

You can also contact them by e-mail at:

chiacamp@zamnet.zm

And their postal address is:

Conservation Lower Zambezi
PO Box 320197
Lusaka
Zambia

Working with children

Working with children and young people is a major part of CLZ’s work. Those young people, especially those of African origin, will be taught the CLZ credo which is summed up in the following statement:

‘CREATURES OF THE WILD.... In a world far older than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.’

Street games

group of girls at the Zambian Nyamphande Orphanage and Community School

Alan was privileged to meet a group of girls at the Zambian Nyamphande Orphanage and Community School who showed him some of the games that they play amongst themselves on a regular basis. Like many other forms of ‘play’, many of the African street games seem to be segregated by gender and the games that are illustrated here are primarily girls’ and young boys’ games in Africa.

The games were mostly accompanied by singing and chanting which tell simple stories or even recite the alphabet. Sadly, Alan wasn’t able to master the Tonga, Bemba and Nysenga languages enough to copy out the words, so we have included them here to indicate the types of games that are common to African street culture, together with just about enough rules to enable you to use them or adapt them for use with younger youth groups.

Chiyenga gameChiyenga

Chiyenga is the Tonga word for ‘playing with stones’. The game appears to be a simple one with the players taking it in turns to toss one stone from the palm of their hand and catch them on the back of that hand. At the same time, with their other hand they attempt to grab one stone at a time out of the circle of stones. Their turn ends when they drop the stone that they are tossing or fail to grab a stone from the circle. After a number of turns, the winner is the player who amasses the greatest number of stones from out of the circle at the point when there are no more stones left in the circle itself.

Kambushi-kalilala

This Bemba game is literally called, ‘The goat is crying: maaa – I will give it to you’.

A circle was drawn on the ground and all the girls started a chant with all the participants moving around in a crouched position a bit like a bull-frog, making one leap sideways in an anti-clockwise with each line of the chant. One player is chosen to move out of the circle and does so holding an old shirt or other article of clothing. As the other players move around within their circle, backs facing outwards, the rhythm gets faster and the outsider throws the shirt trying to hit one of her friends inside the circle. If successful, she joins the circle, and the person who has been hit moves outside of the circle and repeats the sequence. If they fail to hit anyone, the thrower picks up the shirt and makes another attempt, although it appeared that you cannot make a throw until a certain point in the chant.

Kambushi-kalilala gameAlthough probably not African in origin, a typical rhyming chant to sing to accompany this games would be:

Brown as a coffee-berry, red as a bean
That’s the prettiest colour I ever seen.
Yellow as a daisy, black as ink
That’s the prettiest colour I do think.
Orange as a pumpkin, green as the grass
Keep on dancing as long as you last.

Pada gamePada

This means ‘throw the stone’ in Nysenga. It is a form of hopscotch not too different from the varieties played still by some UK children.

Hopscotch has as many variations as there are players, but is reputed to be one of the oldest games on the planet. All the girls at Nyamphande needed to create their game was a stick to mark out the lines on the sand and a stone.Pada game

 

The particular version of pada they were playing appeared to be what we know as Moon hopscotch. The rules are quite simple. The first player throws the stone into the square marked number 1. She then hops from the start area, trying to avoid landing on any lines between the squares in sequence. On squares with minus signs she hops on one foot and on squares with plus signs she hops using both feet. To start, she hops into square one then kicks the stone into square 2, and so on around the sequence. Neither the player nor the stone must enter the square marked with the moon in the top right hand corner.

Youth Africa Experience Youth Africa Experience

Alan Dearling with Denis Kigongo

146 pages

ISBN 1-903855-84-5

£15.95 plus £1.50 p&p

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