Simalaha Community Conservancy

Simalaha Community Conservation - Mwandi

A Project with Climate Change problems and Third World issues

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Now this was a different experience from what we have ever been in. In the Philippines we have encountered the importance of certain traditions and official ways to do things. But I have never felt this nervous for a simple meeting than what I felt in Mwandi! But I guess this is only natural, as we set out to meet at the Royal palace with the royal family of Barotseland. Apparently, it is kind of like meeting with our Dutch king, King Willem-Alexander, and then with a lot of rules. For instance, I had to wear a chitenge, which is basically a sarong. And our shoulders had to be covered. Some kids that lived around the palace took us inside, one was holding my hand. We walked over to a lady sitting there, and the kids all kneeled before her. The kid who was holding my hand started pulling me down. Apparently, we had to kneel! Then the woman told us to sit down and face towards the building. A man came out and after we explained what we were doing here, he told us what to do when we would enter the Mwandi Bre Kuta (the building); before the entrance, kneel and clap your hands, then go in and do the same thing before you sit on your chair. Luckily, we had a wonderful guy with us, Mike Mwenda, honorable councillor for Mwandi ward. I’m pretty sure he is the youngest councillor in Zambia with his 23 years, and he is very passionate about his community and all the people in it.

The wildebeest that have been re-introduced to the Simalaha Conservancy area.

Anyway, we entered the building, feeling quite uncomfortable doing all these rituals. Five old men were watching us, lined up against the wall, and we were seated opposite them. These men are called Induna and are part of the Barotse Royal Establishment. Mike was with us to translate and we were bombarded with questions. As we went here with the idea that we would be the ones asking the questions, this was a bit of an adjustment! But we realized they were trying to find out if we could be of any help to them. You see, we went to visit this area because this is a one-of-kind Community Conservation project in Zambia where the initiators of the conservation are the actual people of the community. The King and one of the induna we spoke to, were the ones who had set up the Simalaha Conservancy with the help of Peace Parks and Kaza. They are now five years into the project and are ready to take on tourism, but there is no lodge yet. They wanted to know if we were interested in setting up a lodge! Wauw.. that was something to consider...

But first we laid out our plan to them and we wanted to know more about the conservancy. The manager of the conservancy was called and we could meet with him the following afternoon. In the meantime, councillor Mike showed us around. We visited Sikuzu Village, the village directly on the border of the conservancy, and its community school. This school was only set up a few years ago and still had several issues, especially concerning water. There was no water and due to climate change, several of the wells in the vicinity were dried up. The kids have to walk for 2 km’s to haul water! And then you have us, we just take all of this for granted in the Western world…. A similar problem had occurred with a garden community project. A very successful garden was planted and maintained by the community; they even gave free vegetables and money to the very poor. However, the pump next to the garden broke down/dried up a few months ago and hauling water from the river for this many plants is impossible. We saw that all the vegetables were drying out and only a few red tomatoes were left on the plants. So even though we had expected an area that had it all figured out, the major issues of Third World African countries remain. And as we found out here, climate change is increasing these problems. We can safely assume these problems will become even worse over time!

After this sad story, Mike took us to the Mabale fishing camp where his father and family live during the dry season. This is right on the edge of the conservancy. He told us there are still people living inside the conservancy where they fish and have cattle. We saw these cattle mix with the wildlife! At the fishing camp we met his father and family, and he showed the simple, one-year houses from grass where they live in. On the way back we squeezed in three young woman with their baby’s in our car, so they didn’t have to walk to the village (took us 15 minutes by car, can you imagine how long by foot!). And once we were back we were told we could camp at the lodge next to the Royal palace. Only later did we realize we were staying in the backyard of the prince!!! The next day we were to have another meeting at two ‘o clock, I’m already feeling anxious around one, imagining a similar meeting to the day before. Only this time without our translator!? But surprisingly enough they were an hour early. While we were having lunch, we saw one of the induna, the elderly one who helped set up the conservancy, walk up to us together with the manager! That was a bit awkward, but then they went and waited for us at the deck. Here we finally realized that the guy who was walking around the terrain in kind of shabby clothes, was actually the prince... Holy shit, that was weird, as we just assumed it was one of the guys maintaining the terrain. Nevertheless, this meeting was a lot more casual and we were able to get answers to our many questions. The prince was very helpful and the manager had some guys come over so they could take us into the conservancy after the meeting. During this meeting, they seemed to realize we were not the ones to set up a lodge as we had come to Africa with other intentions. This had been our conclusion as well, especially as we feel that this Simalaha project is already heading in the right direction in both community development and nature conservation. With the guidance of the king of Barotse and the help of the Peace Parks, there is enough people invested in this area to make it successful. However, if you know anyone, or are that person that wants to set up a lodge in Africa, here is your chance!!

The guys that showed us around in the conservancy after the meeting, pointed out the places they have reserved for a lodge, and they are pretty amazing! And so is the vision of the conservancy. There is a large floodplain that will have a very high carrying capacity for grazers and a lot of mopane forest for browsers. They are in the process of restocking with zebras, impalas, wildebeest and giraffes, coming from Botswana and Namibia and even Kafue NP. At the moment, the area is still fenced, but in the future, it will become a crossing area for wildlife between Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Angola. A initiative called Kaza that has the aim of connecting the different wildlife areas in these countries, thereby becoming the largest wildlife area in Africa (read more about it here).

As Simalaha is right on the border, between Chobe NP and Kafue NP it is the crossing they need. Plus it is actually a good place for tourism because it is located along the Zambesi river. Going in the north-western direction there is the beautiful Ngonye falls we have visited. And in the south-eastern direction there is Victoria falls. However, if they ever want tourism to develop, one of the things they will have to improve is the road to Livingstone (Victoria falls). We have never in our lives seen such a bad road. A trip that should take about one and a half hour now took four! The road has more potholes than road! But that didn’t take anything from the impressive experience we had in Simalaha and we are happy to have visited this inspiring place.  Read more about it here...

Posted by bylifeconnected in Geen categorie, Projects, 2 comments

The Cheshire Orphanage and Farm Development Project

The Cheshire Orphanage and Farm Development Project

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From Kafue National Park our next destination was Kaoma where we would visit an orphanage. We didn’t know however, that on that particular day it was Zambians Independence Day (from the British, as usual). As in every country, people go into town to drink, dance and ignore as much rules as they can! Luckily though, Africans are really careful around cars (probably for a good reason) so most of the time they were already out of our way when we passed. Cows and goats should learn something from that. Even though we were a little bit delayed, it was a lot of fun to see how the Zambians party!

We arrived at the Cheshire Orphanage Guesthouse around dark (which is around 18.30). The profits of this guesthouse are invested in the orphanage, a good way to spend your money! For the first time in a long time we slept in an actual bed, but I can tell you that I missed the rooftop tent. This had little to do with the awesomeness of our rooftop tent and more with the quality of the bed (it felt like sleeping in a bathtub, Kellie and me rolling towards each other all night, nice and cosy).

The wonderful ladies running this orphanage, explaining us how everything works here.

The next morning we would become very inspired. We were guided to the orphanage where we met with Sister Mary, an Irish immigrant. This  wonderful lady left Ireland about 39 years ago to set up the Cheshire Orphanage and provide orphaned children with a family. 39 years!! I think most people reading this, weren’t even close to being born (as Mary emphasized when we asked her when she came here!). Most of the children had lost their parents because of an HIV/AIDS epidemic or other diseases. Mary told us that there used to be no orphans in Zambia because everyone is family. However, after an epidemic, not all orphaned children can be adopted by their closest relatives. One family has always at least two children and most of the time more. As relatives are preoccupied with sustaining their own children, a whole new family is too much. This makes an orphanage, like the Cheshire Orphanage, a crucial facility in any region of Zambia or Africa.

Sister Mary (from Ireland) and Ruth (from Zambia). They have invested their lives in helping these children.

The original strategy of the orphanage was to take in the babies, who couldn’t take care of themselves, and provide for them until they are old enough to walk around on their own. Then they would be able to go back to their family, because family is the most important thing in Zambia. However, their family would not return to adopt the orphans. They spent a lot of time finding the families of as many orphans as possible. However, some children remained with them and now regard the orphanage as their home. After this story, we weren’t that surprised when Mary told us that the Orphanage, that at times provided a home for up to 60 babies, isn’t taking in anymore children. The reason, as almost always, seems to be the lack of funds. Ruth, the woman who has taken over charge from sister Mary, and has worked there for over 25 years, she told us that right now they only have about 40% of the income they need. Here’s what they need it for: The 23 children that live there, are currently at an age where they go to school/college and as any parent hopes to provide for its children, the Orphanage pays their tuition in full. Eight of the children go to college to learn traits such as nursing, mechanics, environmental engineering or school teacher, the remaining children go to a primary or secondary school.

A very happy picture of the children from the orphanage. As we were not allowed to take pictures due to privacy reasons, they gave us this picture!

The tuition costs in Zambia are very high. Primary school is basically only payment of the uniforms, books, etc. However, for secondary school you pay about €300 a year tuition fee and for college around €1000 a year. And this does not include costs for books, clothes, food or extras. What it means is that if you want highly educated children in Zambia, parents have to pay a  fortune. Especially if you have a lot of children, like most have. The orphanage funds it all though. They have chosen for a strategy that sustains the children until they can provide in their own livelihood.

Another big part of the orphanage is the farm. It is the vision of the orphanage to be fully self-sufficient. This is their aim, so they won’t have to depend on the irregularity of funds, because it can put the education of the children at risk. As a result, the orphanage started the Farm Development Project. By making nshima (corn meal or pap), peanut butter, farming Moringa trees and potatoes, and having chickens, pigs and ducks, the farm contributes as much as possible to the funds for the orphanage. In addition, this project learns the kids to be self-sufficient.

Do you want to know more about this project? Contact us, or visit the website; click here.

The bags prepared to take in the seeds of the Moringa trees. After some time investment, these will provide a lot of profits for the orphans.

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Vision Zambia

Vision Zambia

Support of several projects in the Linda Open Community

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Vision Zambia is an NGO that supports three projects in Zambia: Linda Open Community School, Light of Hope Health Care Centre and Mother of Mercy Hospice. In combining these projects Vision Zambia focuses on improving the empowerment of woman, the physical well-being (through health care, clean drinking water and sports) and education of people living in the Linda community (about 50.000 people), located within the Lusaka region (location). We met with Sue and Jeff, two of the visionaries behind this beautiful charity. They are wonderful people and were very happy to help us. An absolute inspiration to us!

Linda Open Community School

We had a warm welcome at Linda Open Community School. Leah, the secretary of the school, awaited us and showed where we could find the Head Teachers office. Doreen, the Head Teacher, welcomed us and we could immediately feel that this was a confident and strong woman that has that natural aura of authority, which any Head Teacher should have. We had a good talk about what the school’s relationship is with Vision Zambia, what encompasses her vision for the school, what changes she implemented at the school and what impact this has had on the children. After the meeting we had the privilege to be shown around the school yard by Doreen. With pride she showed us the well-designed courtyard with a corner “just for reading”, the vegetable garden and some of the buildings that either function as classroom, laboratory or computer lab. Now and then she stopped with the tour and addressed one of the students to pick up some litter from the ground. She then told us that the specific mindset she wants the children to have, takes time and is a continuous effort. It was refreshing for us to see a woman in Africa with a long term vision, instead of having to focus on the short term struggle for survival that is so common in Africa. Money and opportunities, via the aid of Vision Zambia, can do that if given to the right person. This gives us the confidence that our plans for the future are definitely possible and excites us for what is still to come.

With Linda Open Community School, Vision Zambia supports about 1600 children in Linda Community. When Vision Zambia began working with the community the standard of education at the school lagged well behind government schools. There were not enough classrooms, no running water, toilets or electricity and the teachers did not receive wages.

One of the kids found a cool spot in the shade to study.

With assigning the current headteacher, Doreen, to the school things started to change dramatically. During our visit at the school, we could see and feel it had become a school with a vision. Doreen emphasized that you have to involve everyone, from the children, to the parents, to the teachers, in your vision until they all share it. And then you become a success. She and the other teachers want the school to be a center for educational excellence in its own right. And they are well on their way of achieving this as there are ablution blocks, clean drinking water, 4 extra classrooms have been built, computers and desks have been supplied, teachers receive wages and, above all, students enter examinations. As Doreen stated: ‘this school now meets university standards’.

Light of Hope Health Care Center

The sign above the little building John uses as his Health Care Centre in the middle of the Linda Community.

The story of John Shawa is inspirational. He felt the urge to help his community out and made it his life goal of providing his neighbours in Linda with a health care centre, which was lacking at that time. Now the Light of Hope Health Care Centre provides the most vulnerable and poor in the community with basic health care and food supplements from, for example, Moringa trees which he grows in his backyard. In addition, he looks after the Light of Hope Football Association where boys and girls can channel their energies positively, instead of falling prey to drugs, criminality and alcohol or become isolated because of AIDS/HIV.

After meeting with John at the Light of Hope Health Care Centre we really admire that he can do so much for the community with the limited resources he has. The health care centre consists of one building and lacks most of the facilities that hospitals have. During our visit, he showed us that there is always a way to help the community out. For example, he helped in building an ambulance (a bicycle with a kart behind it) for the sick that are unable to get to the health care centre. Currently, he is also in the process of building a lodge next to the health care centre. He showed us around and told us that 30% of the profits will go back to Light of Hope to improve the quality and reach of his health care. True dedication.

Here John shows us his Moringa trees. He himself also uses it as supplements to his food.

It was inspiring for us to witness that everything related to physical health (health care, nutritional support and exercise) can be managed from one organization. This is a clever way of keeping updated on the health of the community, which is essential in combating, alleviating and preventing HIV/AIDS and other sicknesses in Linda.

Mother of Mercy Hospice

The entrance to the Mother of Mercy Hospice. A Hospice set up by a Dutch woman a very long time ago in support of aids and HIV patients.

At the Mother of Mercy Hospice we witnessed, for the first time, what HIV/AIDS does with a human-being. Undernourished women and men were lying in bed, probably also affected by other sicknesses like TBC or pneumonia. The Mother of Mercy Hospice offers these patients free palliative care in the form of medicines, a healthy diet and some well-deserved TLC. Locally, there are only a few alternatives, so the hospice fills an important void for men, woman and children that can’t afford health care.

The Mother of Mercy is a hospice because it is not recognized by the Zambian government as hospital. As a hospice it doesn’t receive funding from the government and therefore it is dependent on funding from Vision Zambia and other organizations to function.


Are you as inspired as us about these projects? Do you want to help? Find the donate button via VisionZambia website (click here). Or contact us if you want to give some money to one of the projects specifically.

Posted by bylifeconnected in Projects, 1 comment