United Colours of Africa
Greenpop ... Real change at the Zambia Festival of Action : Livingstone
do it yourself

 

 

Interview Uncle Ben Mbinge
CEO of Zambia Trees, Press Club

Ben Mbinge is a hero of conservation. From a village in the North of Zambia, he came to Livingstone in 1985 to work for National Heritage. After retiring in 2002 he set up a rural homestead passed Ngwenya township where he has a hut, livestock and vegetables. In 2012 he joined the Greenpop Zambia Festival as Action as the permanent CEO of their Tree's programme.

In 2017 he said:

Livingstone has always been green from the time Greenpop came, six years ago, we have made a lot of improvement because for 6 years we have planted more than 15 000 trees in town. The town is green and everyone who comes can see that. We are trying to make it even better. We have also planted outside of Livingstone because planting trees you have to push people to do, because trees are life. For example, if I come to somebody's house and ask for salt – you may give me or you may not give me, but do we ask for oxygen from trees? No, that is how generous trees are and this is why we need to respect trees for what they do. Tree gives us medicine, homes, water, it gives us almost everything we need, even the clothes you put on and the shoes you make from the animals. We are here in Livingstone to see that our children understand the importance of growing trees.

Our district commissioner praised me so much and said I am here to look after the trees. This is what inspires me and pushes me to do more. At 72 I have seen a lot and want my children to live in a word that has got fresh air.

I have always been planting trees even long before Greenpop came. I always talked about the forest and things like that. But I seemed to be the only voice. I was really inspired when Greenpop came and they were saying exactly the same thing I used to say. Because of the hard work we have been doing, the District Commissioner offered us an office and we applied and within the coming weeks we will have an office. It is very important because you need a base where people can come and find you, get information and learn something about what you do. District Commissioner is part of government machinery so that is a recommendation from government that what we are doing is a noble work and we hope to continue.

I am an artist, a graphic designer by profession. I used to draw a tree the way it grows but I thought I did not give it a lot of meaning so I have changed my style to draw a tree but with a lot of things inside, rain, water, coffin and thing like that so it gives it some meaning. My drawings always relate to the environment. If I am drawing an animal I always refer to the environment, For example our ancestors believe that the elephant is composed of different carcasses. You find a dog, chameleon; any animal you can think of. Because of that the elephant was protected and nobody wanted to make a mistake and get any chunk of meat because you would be eating a dog or a snake. Of course if there was a very big ceremony in the village, the chief would order a hunter to go and kill an elephant and when it was killed, it was only eaten by people like me, an old person who doesn't care what they eat.

When Greenpop goes I try to find space where we can do the murals and I have been part of the actual drawing - that is my profession. The murals are here to continue. Each time the student looks at them they think about the environment. When people are building schools they normally remove the trees. But that is not good for the children because you are telling them the best environment is to clear. And that is the attitude we want to change. People should construct buildings and leave the trees. This seems to be working now.

Livingstone has about 30 clubs, world conservation related and we go to schools talk you them take them to the parks, show them the animals and tell them the relationship between the animals and the plants because you can't look at the animals without telling them about their habitat. So it is normally important to look first of all at the habitat before you can look at the animals.

The murals are working very well because each time we go to a school children are excited to join and paint.

People need to realise that volunteering is very important to our life. We spend time doing things that don't make a contribution to the world. To pick up a shovel and join the people that are planting - planting a tree - is like having a baby. You see the tree grow and it gives you fruit one day. And you see the child grow. Greenpop are doing well.

We need far much more exchange. Our relationship with South Africa goes way back. We should cement it and do much more. We learn what South Africans know and when they come they also learn what Zambians know and this is the only way we can share. We have so much in common we are one person and we should all work together. There is no difference between us human beings. We are the same. My heart and your heart and the green heart we are the same, we share the same blood. Differences are artificial. We must think from the bottom of our hearts and work together.

This is one problem we must solve because if you look at our curios, 90% of them are of hard wood which takes so many years to grow. People are collecting hard wood many kilometres from Livingstone which tells a story that we are finishing our trees. We hope that government can find a way of changing that and doing recycled curios. Livingstone is not a farming community, curios seem to be the main business around, so it will take a bit of time for people to change but eventually we must change.

People of Livingstone are very welcoming, everywhere you go you will be greeted by everybody. Everybody waves and that is a very good sign of welcoming. Whoever comes to Livingstone will enjoy. We will receive you with all our hands and you will be welcomed all the time.

We pray that the programme continues as it changes so much. Greenpop discourages people from getting to many plastics from the shops and to buy their own bags because we are running out of space for plastics and they mess up our ozone layer and so on. That is one programme that Greeenpop has been doing and we hope it continues. Each time Greenpop comes into town people are happy because of what the contributions are and when they go we work very hard we continue the work of monitoring and plant with many different groups - police, armies, schools. Each time somebody wants to plant they come to me and say Uncle Ben we are planting is this the right tree are we planting in the right place? This tells the story that people are realising that it is important to plant trees. Trees are very good neighbours and we must be looking at them and respect them just as we respect each other.

Coming here for 3 weeks one month is not enough. We must have a continuous programme, organise ourselves. There are a lot of people like MPs and councillors, and we must be able to take our locals to the Miomba forest to understand their forest because once they understand it they will appreciate it. We have a big battle to fight but we have no choice but to win the battle.

In 2016 he said:

From the time we started in 2012 to date there is a lot of benefit. Greenpop is coming because the response from the communities is very positive. We have this relationship with the Livingstone City Council which is really appreciative of what we do. The examples are each time there is a tree planting exercise, that they want to do, they will ask me on behalf of Greenpop and the other NGO's we work with. We have planted a lot of trees in schools, communities, in farms and individual houses. There are a lot of examples. We can go to any school. For the public we have seen a lot of changes in a lot of people. Earlier on when we started before Greenpop, we were doing similar things but people did not take us seriously. They took us more seriously when these Muzungu's came and they were speaking the same language. They said these people are speaking the same language people speak world over and that on its own is very good for success. Now people are asking for trees to plant. One of the things that Greenpop brought was solar cooking demonstrations. We started in schools making solar cooking ovens with cardboard and paper folds. The idea was to tell the people that from the sun you can heat your water and so on. It was not very serious that time. But it is more serious now that we have been having load shedding. Government has gone into alternatives and solar. What is started from our angle is something that people never took seriously before: and now government has actually taken it very seriously. You can go around the country and what they have now is they have solar panels to generate machines to use for maize and so on.

What changes have you experienced in Livingstone?

You can go anywhere and people will be talking about planting trees. We have planted trees in certain schools where you can go and harvest lemons and fruits. If you go along the main streets there are trees planted with communities and everyone was talking about them. The mentality of the people is catching up.

How does local arts and culture integrate?

We started two years ago when they started collecting garbage and creating something out of it. That is something we did not do so much of, helping to see if trash can be used for something useful. For many of us, we are trying to run away from wood for curios for example because the wood that they use is very hard and eventually it is disappearing. It is high time that we change and use plastic wires for example. We have been using wood for many years and our forests are disappearing. These innovations should see us through because we cannot afford to lose so much forest.

What is the success of the schools project?

Really tremendous: We planted trees that are bearing fruit and trees that people are harvesting such as Moringa that people are using for food and so on. When you teach a child they will normally go back to their homes and tell the parents what they are doing. Once they grow they will be far better than us. The people say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but if you teach the children, our future is certainly better. There are a lot of young children that have gone into the exercise of planting trees. We have young ones raising nurseries in their own homes. The teachers have been doing very well. The students are coping too.

Anything else?

It is very important that the people on top join us. Leadership comes in so many ways. Like I have always been talking about the people in churches the priests and pastors and so on because the majority of us, when a pastor says something, it is easy to follow. The Bible talks about creation and creation was the forest, the animals and things like that and then God created Adam and said Adam look after this. We can use the priest in the churches to preach about what God created. Once they do that it will be very easy for us in the conservation to push people ahead. Politically also it is very important because our leadership from top to bottom says this thing - and it is easy for us to follow. We had this minister of tourism, he was very good and each time Greenpop was in town he said let them plant trees and so on. Leadership like that really helps.

Cape Town based organisation, Greenpop is planting trees in indigenous forests and undergreened areas in a network of festivals and initiatives.

Misha Teasdale, Lauren O Donnel, Jeremy “Loops” Hewitt and Rowan Pybus, started the Greenpop mission in Arbor month 2010 with the planting of 1000 trees in under-greened areas of Cape Town, and with the long-term vision of (re)connecting people with our planet, and with each other.

 

Interview Misha Teasdale

South Africa is an interesting space from a volunteering perspective given that we are such a pioneering nation, people are innovators, entrepreneurial and they are inherently go-getters. But the volunteering space has not been as well developed. One thing I have found really exciting though is with the birth of initiatives like Mandela Day, women's day, world environment day. This type of thinking and momentum has become a lot more accepted and parts of popular culture. What I am particularly excited about is that in my experience people are starting to see purpose and value and fun in things that are more tangible in terms of the authenticity that comes with connecting with South Africans through volunteering. It is easy to look at consumption, entertainment as a way to connect, but when you connect through adding value to someone else's world or to the environmental space, the type of happiness that comes out of that is beautiful. I am excited about the momentum on the volunteering and hands on interactive space.

We have Arbor month, Arbor week and Arbor Day. September is the month of trees which we do celebrate and we have all sorts of engaging campaigns that we do during that time. But really we are so connected to trees, everything that we do in some way shape or form has an element of wood or oxygen or material value that has come out of trees. It is important that we feel gratitude toward nature for the consistently giving us this gift of trees.

If you want to get involved with Greenpop you are welcome to volunteer and you are also welcome to hop onto our website and gift a tree to someone you love or just because you want to.

South Africa has a very small natural forested area and that forest area has seen decline over the last 300 years. It is imperative that we look to out riverine and coastal areas where there is existing forests to see what we can do to rehabilitate these areas. We are experiencing huge amounts of diversity loss, water shortages. There has been a massive lack of rain occurring for the last few years. In order to alleviate this, removal of alien vegetation and reforesting massive sots of the East Coast of Southern Africa is a critical way of rehabilitating those areas and allowing for the biodiversity to thrive again and bringing back the natural micro-climates that very often bring the rain. And it is a beautiful way of reconnecting. We annually host various reforestation type events and festivals and the opportunity to get your hands in the ground and get people motivated and get momentum behind a large crowd of people putting trees into the ground and feeling the soil underneath your fingers it is such a beautiful thing. So if you want to come and connect with us and plant some trees you are welcome to do so. We are hosting our next reforestation event in Hogsback. We have planted almost 15000 trees since we started planting there. It has been a really beautiful journey for us.

What are the origins of Greenpop?

I am the pinnacle person that started Greenpop and I brought along a group of people as the initial campaign, Jeremy Hewitt, Lauren O Donnel and Rowan Pybus.

Travel?

Having run an organisation that plants trees for the last six years I have had the amazing gift and opportunity to spend a great deal of time to travel around Southern Africa. Whilst tree planting is definitely one of my favourite things to do, travel is a firm second. Southern Africa is a gem at the bottom of Africa and I have gone to so many beautiful natural wonders and experienced an incredible country while getting so much good work done in collaboration with so many amazing individuals and organisations. So If I can encourage you to do anything, go and spend some time in nature, it will revitalise you and your soul and get you excited to do your little bit for the planet.

From their nursery in Mountain Road, Woodstock, Greenpop are planting trees at community projects, old age homes, edu-care centres, hospitals and underprivileged schools in need of greening. On a weekly basis, volunteers from all over the world help with the planting whilst community leaders maintain the trees after they're planted.


Interview Lauren O Donnel

My husband Misha was travelling around the world filming a documentary for Volkswagen. He was a cameraman. They travelled to 12 countries in 4 months and on the way back on the aeroplane they had a conversation amongst their team about what they could do about all the carbon emissions on their flights. They wanted to take action. We all have environmental footprints, whether it be from living in the cities, buying packaged foods, driving in vehicles. And the idea came up to plant 1000 trees in one month in September 2010, Arbour month. I was a freelance journalist at the time so my role was to attract attention to the campaign. We did that we planted 1000 trees and it spiralled from there. We wrote a business plan, we realised that there was a gap in the market. We saw the need to create continuous on-going education. It kind of all happened organically.

Zambia came into our lives early on. We were at the music festival called Rocking the Daisies, doing a small green activation. Misha received a phone-call from somebody's uncle who was a chicken farmer and the by-product of chicken farming is a lot of good nutritious manure which is great for compost and this man had started planting a few indigenous trees and had thousands of indigenous trees. He saw what we were doing in Cape Town and wanted to get us to Livingstone Zambia to see if we could plant some of the trees that he was growing in the communities. We came up to Zambia to do a research project and found out that Zambia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world and there are many different drivers for it. We decided to start a campaign. We did not know what we could do in the bigger scheme of things to solve problems but what we had been doing in South Africa was planting trees, so we designed an event trees for Zambia in June July and people joined us from all around the world ad we planted trees in Zambia and that was the catalyst of the programme. It is now morphed into the festival of action which is not just about trees but about sustainability in general and sustainable lifestyles, upcycling, recycling, natural building, food forests and trees and art and creativity and personal development and family based learning.

What impacts?

In brief we have planted over 13 000 trees in Livingstone Zambia. We have connected with over 40 schools, some of them repeatedly so it is a deeper education. It is not only the event that happens in June July but on-going projects on a much smaller scale that happen in between. We have planted one food forest that has been extended over three years and is now producing quite a lot of food. This year we are extending and doing 6 smaller food forests for individual farmers. We have made partnerships with the Departments of Agriculture and Forestry and Tourism and Natural Heritage to see if we can collaborate as much as possible. We have done 12 educational wall murals at different schools with a journey based learning approach to doing the wall mural. We have built 9 benches with eco-bricks. On this project we are doing another one and a cob oven as well.

Any other activities ideas?

We have a small project in Tanzania that we met up with. It is an existing project in the Izingwe forest. We partnered with the University of York who are a doing research project on deforestation. It is next to the sugar cane fields which was the reason for the deforestation. We are helping support one employee there. It is the beginning of that relationship. We work in Zambia and South Africa. In South Africa we work mostly on our over-greening programme in Cape Town. We also have our re-forestation programme in the Overberg region in the Western Cape and Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. It is important for us at the Zambia festival of action to grow it into a conference of action. We want to grow it to a place where people from around Africa can come and join us and share ideas and knowledge about sustainability in the African context.

It is important for us to get as many different people from African countries and the world as possible. This year we have improved. We have got UNICEF climate ambassadors from Zambia. We have a small group of students from the Izingwe area, the Eastern arc mountains of Tanzania who are part of the Eastern Arc conservation project with the African Rainforest Conservancy. We hope to grow our reach and attract more people from Southern Africa and perhaps the whole of Africa. I think the situations, challenges and solutions need to come from on the ground. And a conference like this is place to share them. We have got lost of students from South Africa and from Zambia.

How many volunteers?

It is difficult say, but it is definitely over 100 000 if you count the school kids who volunteer to help and plant trees and people who have come and done various things with us.

We have had volunteers that have come from overseas, from America, UK, Europe, all over. People have come and volunteered with us in the office, an internship where people come from between 2 – 6 months. We have had amazing people who have joined us from all over. We usually have between 5 and 8 people in our office helping out at any given time.

And then we have volunteers who help us at planting days who are corporate groups that come out on planting days with us to do a corporate engaging day and then they engage with the schoolchildren to do a planting day together and then we also have people who come to our events and pay for tickets to come to our events, so they are sort of like volunteers, but they are also getting an event experience and they are also helping us with planting trees and painting murals and building benches and various different sustainability activities.

Over 400 schools, schools, community centres, old age home and educare centres, hospitals all around the Cape Town, Cape Flats area.

What do the volunteers experience?

People take different things away and it depends on what they are coming with. Some people want to get their hands dirty and work at our nursery or plant trees and it is a really nice connecting activity, giving back and connecting with the planet earth. Other people want to volunteer and use their specific skills, marketing, web development or finance. And they come into our office and help us using their specific skills with a back-end enrol. It depends what people want and people get lots of different things out of it. We keep getting requests for more and more volunteers, so it is something that is growing and people want to get involved with us and various other causes whether it be an internship in the office helping us with a specific skill way or just getting their hands dirty.

Where is the nursery?

The nursery is in Woodstock on Mountain Road and it is the eco education hub. In terms of the urban greening programme it is the place where we keep our trees until they are ready to plant. We buy trees in bulk and then we will plant trees 20 or 30 at a school every week. It is a storage nursery and a place where we can grow the trees a bit bigger and look after the trees once they are planted. And we also have lots of vegetables there and we are trying to turn it into an eco-education hub which is a place where we can in the future run workshops and bring people together and learn about urban farming and urban agriculture.

What was the first festival you did?

We started with Arbor day 2010 and our urban greening programme planting trees on the Cape Flats and our first festival we did was called the Platbos Reforest Fest in 2011 and that was in Platbos forest and that was bringing a whole lot of people together to reforest the Southern most indigenous forest in Africa. There is two weekends. One weekend is a family fest with about 300 people and one weekend is a friends fest with about 500 people.

In the beginning of Greenpop we got a call from a man who wanted to give us advice. He was Francois Krige who invited us to visit Platbos. Misha and I went up to Platbos for a night away and we saw the forest and met Francoise and Melissa who are the custodians of the forest and we brain stormed with them that we could help them plant trees. They already had a tree planting project there but we had connections to more people so we thought we could create a festival. And that is how we started.

What about Hogsback?

We have known Shane who runs Terra Khaya for a long time. He used to have a catoring company that donated sandwhiches to all our volunteers every day. We have known him for a long time. And when he closed his catering company and moved to Hogsback to build an eco-lodge, we always had an idea to partner up and plant trees there because we knew about the yellowood Cape Parrot challenges there. When his eco lodge was up and running we set up the partnership to plant trees there. We started in 2014.

Terra Khaya runs the event and Greenpop the tree planting. It is a weekend where everyone stays or camps at Terra Khaya. There is music and the whole day on Saturday we plant approximately 2000 trees in an incredible setting and we have a music festival in the evening. And the Sunday is similar to Platbos and is a day of activities and activations. Things like sustainability related things. The capacity is about 300. It is not something that can grow to big because of the space and the control of the planting of the trees. It is growing slightly.

Shane lives there and has various volunteers who work there and they continue slowly with a little bit of planting in the right season and they also do tree maintenance and checking and monitoring and a little bit of planting depending on where it is needed.

We plant in a nature reserve near Terra Khaya on the hill with a view of the Hogsback Mountains. The waterfall is further down the valley. It is very close and very beautiful. Hogsback is a very special place, it is kind of enchanted.

Planting by the waterfall in Zambia?

We don't plant a lot of trees in Vic falls national park anymore. We have planted quite a few trees there already. Some of them have done really well and some of them haven't. We do still plant trees there but fewer because it is manageable. It is a maintained national park, but it does seem to be a tricky place, one reason is because of the baboons. So if we do plant trees there we plant them with cages on top of them so the baboons can't dig them up and eat them. We do plant trees there but it is more of a ceremonial thing. We have got to plant them in a very specific area where there is access to the water and all of that. It is an unbeilavable experience to plant a tree at the falls, you can't really match that. It is necessary to plant more trees there just to keep the biodiversity up and keep the national park in order. It is a big national park area and in one of the areas there was a tricky situation with access to a water point but mainly the problem is the baboons; which has now been solved with the good caging and planting trees where there is clear access to a water plant.

Tanzania …

We set up a partnership with the Udzungwe Forest Reserve and they are managed by the University of York in the UK. The University has a small-scale reforestation project where there are local people on the ground who are planting trees and growing trees in the nursery, and when we were there we realised we could support this project, so we have paid the salary of a nursery manager for a year so we can support the planting of the trees in Tanzania. We have yet to get any results. We were meant to get more reporting from them, but it is very new.

Future projects?

We have got ideas to grow, it depends on a few different things. We would like to continue planting trees in our current programmes, there is still lots of need and space for planting in the Platbos area. There is still a need for urban greening. There is still lots of need for environmental education. We get approached weekly by other reforestation and tree planting projects around Southern Africa that want to partner with us and get support. The goal is to be able to support smaller scale grassroots projects because we have a central city hub where we can fund raise from and we can outsource the fund raising to smaller grassroots planting projects. And we wouldn't be able to do it all ourselves with good vetting and good monitoring and good educational support. We are keeping a database of projects for now. We want to focus on what we are doing currently right and streamlined and then we will see if we can support any other projects.

Music festivals ?

If we can go to a music festival it ticks a few boxes. We can create a small green part to the festival, like at Rocking the Daisies we do the green village where people can come and learn about the greening elements of how festivals could go green. I think it is a big challenge to get a whole festival to go green and one day we would like to get there, but I feel that our role is an educational role at these festivals. There is lots of people there that we can reach through a small touch point in education. We can also create awareness for the other work that we do. And it is not only us at these festivals, we bring in many other partner NGO's and green organisations and showcase what is going on in the area. It is a showcase of what people can get involved in and brings greening into the popular space, so it is not seen as a fringe environmental movement but rather as a normal popular thing that everyone sees everywhere. It is an important awareness tactic.

Interview Meg Coates Palgraves

A legendary participant in the festival is Bob Rutherford Memorial Award winner for her invaluable contribution to the conservation of indigenous woodlands, 80 year old Meg Coates Palgrave, the co-author of the Dictionary of the Trees of Africa reference book and author of more than 25 “research keys” for various regions in Southern Africa, including her book “ Key to Some Trees of Victoria Falls and Livingstone”. 
At the Zambia festival of Action, she runs an annual tree identification course which is fun and participatory and engages participants on the exciting and rewarding jigsaw puzzle of tree identification.
She is pioneering a programme called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR).

Can conservation and forestry industry work hand in hand?

Yes I have seen it working. In Mozambique I am associated with a timber concession and they are felling timbre for reward for profit. That is where they earn their money but they are doing it in a sustainable manner. The whole thing is carefully worked out. The guys go round and mark the trees before they start. They are all GPS'd. They always cut a small wedge and then cut at the other side so the tree falls exactly where planned to do minimum damage. Logs are then moved by tractors. They have ordinary farm tractors and trailers. I am fascinated by the way they pull the log onto the trailers because they have got little hooks and they role the log up and then they have a log slanting on the trailer and the tractor gores the other side and pulls the log up onto the tractor. There is no huge machinery. The tractors make their way through the forest. They are not so big that they can't avoid trees and usually the logs are dragged to the ramp and then they load it into the trailer. And then they are taken into the saw-mill on site. No round log is sent off the site. It is all put through the saw-mill. The log that they cut is cut to specific orders that they have. There is no wastage there. From the off cuts they make beehives as they have a big bee keeping industry there and train bee keepers. They also make wooden log cabins. There is very little wastage. There is always some wastage which the locals can come and take for firewood. They also have a thriving ornaments and turning section. And there they are bringing in the community and teaching the community how to turn bowls and vases and to do carpentry. They make their own tools. They have a little forge with a little fire on the ground. From an old log lying in the forest - there is a lot of old log from Portuguese colonial times. There are very strict rules in Mozambique about the smallest size you can take out of the forest. It is actually very wasteful. They cut of all the branch wood and stack it and then once a year they get someone in and get permission to take that back into the saw mill. It is not wasted.

They drag the log through the forest and go back with guys with hoes. They hoe it and then they take a harrow and drag that over it and then they chuck seed in them. They grow something like 5 or 10 000 seedlings a year. And they plant those out as well. But the most exciting thing is they go back and manage the regrowth. And this is my big thing and this is what we are doing here this time – showing people how to manage the regrowth. They cut it to where there are two or three shoots left. And then they come back each year and manage that regrowth so they are left with one two straight logs. The trees there grow very quickly and that does help, but they reckon and we haven't proved it yet that they will have cuttable log in 60 years and that is amazing. I actually come back to the Zambezi teak, the Plurijuga.

I have been told by forestry people that it doesn't compost. It does, did you see the other day, there was a big log that they had cut for the kiln. The kiln had stopped burning. They hadn't emptied it and yet it was composting and that was in no more than 6 weeks and probably more like 4. Just amazing. I was very excited. Panga Panga is their main one and that composts very quickly and very profusely. The other two trees that they cut are the Cordyla which they call the Mutondo and Pod Mahogany Afzelia. Those don't compost so quickly. They have about a 40% rate of composting. I am sure those belong to the same family as Zambezi teak. And I am sure it is because they are cutting right down at the bottom, not cutting at the height. These guys when they are cutting they are not going to get down there, they just cut at convenient axe height. That is how the whole thing has evolved. There is that much bark growth etc. to get them to compost. They do compost and they manage that as well. Because they have GPS'd them, because they have got the drag lights, it is easy to go back and find the trees that have been cut again and fix them. And then of course they have got the whole concession cut into 30 blocks and they do a block each year. They have fire breaks which are part of the road system. And they have these drag lights which also contributes so there is minimum damage being done in the forest, so it is possible. Of course there is a tremendous amount of illegal logging going on. It is horrendous to see the round log that is being exported. It very often has China shipping on the outside of those containers. It is not being managed. If our teak had been managed we would have log now to cut. 100 years ago they did not believe they could do it. They did not even know. In fact I gave a talk in Zimbabwe. I was awarded the Bob Rutherford Memorial award for conservation because I am teaching people about indigenous trees. There is a huge lack of knowledge about it. I gave this talk regeneration in Miombo Woodland: the myth of the seed and common recommendation periodically and that is what we are doing here. They call it FMNR which is Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration. It is scratching the surface. The tiny little scratch but it is something. Maybe if those 30 people practice it, then other people will see the benefits. You have to be an optimist. I think it is possible for the commercial exploitation of timbre and natural timbre to coexist provided you manage the regeneration and the rehabilitation.

What are your thoughts on plantations?

There was once an article, ‘Are all forests green?' Never the less one has to be pragmatic. The problem is not too few trees but to many people. The plantations do provide wood, timbre, we have to have paper sadly, and all those good things. It is always very sad that they take over - even a grassland. When they cut down a woodland to plant a forest, I think it is almost criminal. But indigenous trees don't do well in a mono-culture. If you are going to plant a woodland, you have got to plant different species. They tried. They tried with the teak to plant it as a plantation. It didn't work. I suppose that the natural pests etc. you have got them all concentrated in one area but when you have a whole lot of different trees they tend to be not so bad.

What is your greatest long term wish for your work to fulfil?

If a tree has a name it has an identity. If it has an identity, it means something. Once it means something people will take it more seriously and be more keen on conserving and preserving it. In being able to do these tree courses hopefully people will learn the names of some trees and then they will mean something. I did trees as individuals and then as time went on I realised they are actually in families and you can very often put them into their families or into their groups. The trees are just like people they don't like being put in different boxes. I realised you can identify trees from the leaves. My first key I had all the figs together under one roof and it didn't work. They needed to be split some more and other genres are totally different you couldn't even put them into the same category. That is when I started doing keys and of course I enjoy trees and it adds to my enjoyment to know their names. And I am not quite sure that everyone else wants to know their names as badly as I do. I would like to be able to spread the word wider and better and of course I do make some money from doing it sometimes. I am very keen that this business of managing the regrowth in our indigenous woodlands comes back and gets impetus. I am sure that this applies in South Africa as well. The climate is so harsh, to think of a seed first of all being able to germinate. If anybody has grown tree from seed, they sclarify them, soak them down, pat them, give them water every day etc etc. And when it is germinated you make a nice little hole, you pat that down, you put mulch around it and all those good things. There is not a lot of regeneration from seed. Forests are perhaps different. Forests as far as Mozambique are concerned because that is deciduous dry sand forest, so there are no ferns and moss and anything like that. And if you go down in November especially this year after the poor rains it is amazing, there are no leaves on the trees at all. It is a very harsh. A lot of our regeneration is from coppicing growth and from root shoots. That is what I would like to see. I would really like to see wide spread management of the natural regeneration. It has worked. In Niger there has been a lot of work done. They show you a bit of dry ground and five years later they have little trees like this, because they are there under the ground. On one occasion when I first started realising all this, I took the tree society out to a farm where they had been growing tobacco on that land 22 years previously. There were trees in that. They had stopped. They had realised it was not tobacco country and they had just left it. For tobacco you only plough a small distance. Those roots were still underground and that is why they came. It is amazing. I think that there is a huge future for that and I know that Greenpop have come here each year and the have planted trees and it has been a big thing. But that is what we need to be concentrating on it is natural regeneration.

What is your greatest enjoyment?

Teaching people how to identify trees, because I try and make the course fun and participatory: They are not just listening to me. Last night it was only an hour and a half. It was not nearly long enough. I was going to speak to them to say make it at least two and half hours. They were just getting into it, a bit like a jigsaw puzzle or paper trail. The delight when they give the name of the tree correctly!

What are the highlights of your contribution to conservation?

I have done an article on the forests of Mozambique. I did do a paper for the forestry and agriculture department in South Africa in Richards Bay. I am emphasising natural regeneration. And that went down quite well. They wrote and asked me to come and do another one.

The Botanical society very kindly awarded me the Marloth medal which I think is quite a big honour.

I am very thrilled to have been invited to join the flora of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana website. I am very happy to have my name as an author there. I did get a huge kick from seeing trees of Southern Africa come out. But this is boasting.

Any other ideas?

My biggest thing is natural regeneration. I am also very anti aliens. I was talking to someone who was saying that Moringa will be the saviour of Africa, but we still don't know what its credibility will be - whether it is going to escape and take over. Lukima was going to be the last one that was supposed to be the saviour of Africa. Fortunately that didn't really take off because it doesn't get away in dry climates. Look at the Port Jackson Willow in the East London area and I rest my case. That was introduced for all the right reasons but hasn't actually achieved what it is supposed to achieve. Now they are letting people cut it. They have introduced beetle that is eating the flowers, so at least it is not seeding. They cut it and let it compost, and that is fine. I was impressed when we were in Richards Bay for that conference. We were taking to see the rehabilitation they are doing on the dunes. I was very impressed. It is possible but again you don't know if you are going to get the full recovery of all the species but certainly you get pioneers first and others are starting to come through. This is after 20 years we were looking at one section. The more mature and permanent trees were starting to come through naturally.

Keep going, keep hoping and keep trying.

Greenpop is making greening popular by combining environmentalism with culture. Festival experiences are a foundation for unleashing creative potential. Live music jams, talent shows, speaker evenings and dance parties under the stars give all festival participants the opportunity to express themselves.

In local schools and orphanages, Greenpop has used green-art and a journey based learning approach to paint 12 educational wall murals and transform the sandy play-grounds and rickety classrooms of Livingstone into bright, happy spaces, whilst adding excitement to learning.

Interview Zenzele Chulu

I am a visual artist, I am a painter. Through my work I have somehow developed a stature of being both an artist and an activist and an arts organiser. And this is all to do with my self-motivation. I am not trained in all these areas. I do my own arts administration which for me comes naturally. I don't panic or stress out but do it organically. It has positioned me in many situations, getting involved in programmes, running exhibitions, workshops and specifically and in terms of workshops I am involved with Insaka International artists Trust since 2003 to date. I have really enjoyed the experience and it is something that has opened so many doors for me to travel and interact with different artists, organisations, professionals.

Fine-art exists in this country since the ancient times. I look at the rock art as the genesis. We have traditional societies or communities that were so much into craft and also the European settler community were instrumental in setting up art galleries and movements. After independence this thing started shaping up. We have names like Henry Tayali and Akwila Simpasa who were more like the driving force of Zambian contemporary art and inspired a lot more other generations to come into the arts. We are the third generation since the time of the Henry Tayali's. We are trying to carry forward and then today as I am speaking there are a whole range of practices going on in the arts industry. For the visual arts in particular, the Zambian National Visual Arts Council has been very instrumental in acting as an entry point for talent development. These talents eventually grow out into other establishments. They get adopted by contemporary galleries and other movements and the community keeps on growing.

The Evelyn Horn collage of applied arts has seen contemporary art in Zambia grow. This is where art teachers are trained to teach arts in schools. Most of the people that come up from schools want to take up art as a career. Education also becomes a flashpoint development of art can start from. The government has introduced a two tier system which is academic and vocational. On vocational side of things you have expressive arts. The art in schools is examinable but at the same time it lacks the literature which is locally focused. Much of the literature is foreign it is not well prepared to shape the youngsters or young learners to know who Henry Tayali or Akwila Simpasa was. Not too much has been written on that and we don't have text on that. The Visual Arts Council and I was part of the group that produced the first book on art in Zambia called Art in Zambia. I was in the documentation department and we went round the whole country collecting information which was deposited in the documentation office which now for the researchers and writers and all the contributors to use to produce that book. And that book is now accessible to schools and schools have been buying it. The book is not like an academic book but just talks about the visual arts development before independence during independence and after independence.

The Insaka International Artists workshop began as Mbile. There was a period 93 to 99. Mbile was part of the concept of Triangle international network of artists which began in New York with two colleagues, Sheena Balkwill and Allesio Antoniolli . They came up with the concept to have a two week workshop where professional artists can come together and work together, collaborate and celebrate the process. Workshops are a laboratory space where artists can come and experiment and we ran through exchange with other artists. That was the primary focus and these workshops started growing. In these workshops David Koloane from South Africa participated in the NY won and he set up Thupelo in South Africa.

It started growing and inviting other Africa artists who went out to set up Mbile in Zambia, Thapong in Botswana, Sansa in Ghana, Kuona Trust in Kenya, Abro in Ethiopia and 32 ° East in Uganda.

All these satellite movements happening and they were all artist driven. These workshops actually changed somehow the face of African art. Previously if you are from Congo the next thing you want to get exposed is going to Belgium because there is a colonial umbilical chord. If you are from Zambia, ZIm you go to London, Mozambique Lisbon because there are those colonial connections. The triangle workshops started breaking that cycle which was a good thing because we started knowing each other. We would invite artists from Angola, Seychelles Comores and other French speaking countries and use art as a basis of communication. We have language barriers but not artistic barriers. Art has been growing in that direction. I have been part of the Insaka movement since 2003 coordinating the same workshops with the same format. We have consistently done these workshops.

Our point of meeting used to be in Siyavonga, We moved to Lusaka and now we are in Livingstone. There is a plan for next year's workshop which will be the 8 th edition of the Insaka workshop. And we want to focus on sculpture workshop and that covers the issue of eco art.

If we come in to add something like that to Livingstone we can create that big picture to make Livingstone the artistic hub that it is supposed to be. When you think about art, Livingstone should pop in to your mind. The tourist industry and it is a converging point of 4 countries, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola in the same area. It could be a nice meeting point for these regional places to meet in Livingstone and make it an important meeting place in the art industry. It all goes with what sort of commitment we can build this momentum. The Visual Arts Council has got a big national art gallery now in Livingstone. Livingstone museum has played a crucial role in hosting artists and nurturing some talents and also using as a meeting place. It is a place we can use as a hub. The accommodation is the camping atmosphere which we so much love as Insaka.

Tourism can also be multi-facetted. People may just come from wild-life, others for souvenirs, others want to do some cultural exploration. Visual arts can also play its own role by bringing its own type of audience in the same fold.

Livingstone is a curio centre. There is a thin line that separates fine arts and crafts. Some of the most famous pieces of art that have been created in terms of installation, they incorporate craft materials. Crafts are not a separate entity. There could be an interplay of so many elements within the same space so much as visual artists we have an open-door policy that the crafts people can also be very much instrumental in shaping up certain things within the fine arts industry.

It is brilliant what Heath is doing. Just yesterday there was a light and Heath thought of putting up a chandelier with some cut up plastic bottle and all of a sudden it was like where insects get attracted to light and instead all these people they were having an informed meeting around that chandelier. It brought everybody together with curiosity.

Through projects like these, Greenpop, Zambia forestry, the department joining hands. To green Livingstone such as Ngwenya compound the houses are built but there are no trees. It is so bare. I cherish trees because I listen to the birds in the morning, the insects. That is the connection with nature. Ngwenya it is just a concrete jungle. It could be one of those long-term projects which greenpop should look at to engage the local community in Ngwenya to say we need to have tree planting culture working with Zambia forestry department or any other entity so much directed to forestry and localise the aspect of forestry by bringing traditional proverbs that are connected to forestry. For instance “imitikula mpanga,” which simple means “this small little bush you see today will be the forest of tomorrow.” Coming from that perspective you can grow a grassroot based movement which can buy into the growing of trees and greening Livingstone one again. The Ngwenya area used to have a forest which went through a lot of deforestation.

When you look at some of the paintings done by the guys who accompanied David Livingstone the whole area was a tropical rain forest with lots of animals. But now because of the encroachment of people, business, hotels etc. certain things have been driven out of that space that is why there is a conflict. The elephants have tried to maintain their roots but because of development they get disturbed and their compass is disturbed.

In the absence of energy alternatives people resort to cutting down trees and burning charcoal like Lloyd was once doing. There is that struggle of trying to balance survival and at the same time sustainability with nature. It brings in those challenging issues. And we are the ones that should prepare the future.

What was driving us to do these workshops was culture, nature and environment. If these are laboratory spaces why not work with nature and create artworks with nature and leave it there. It blends with eco art where you don't have to bring in some foreign stuff, use what you have found and then just leave it there and let nature take its course. That is the concept. Even when we are talking about the sculpture workshop we want to do next year the theme still stays the same and the relationships we are forming have to do with environment and nature. We are not resting on that. We feel that it is very important that we create that focus and make the community where we are operating relate our practice, the environment and also the beauty. In the end we would want to create something beautiful but also something that is related to the environment around.

It is nice to bring in all these eco artistic ideas. There is one guy from Austria who did a nice piece in 2013. He is a sculptor and when he came to Insaka he used grass and created rolling balls and tying with fibre and leave it in the bush to interact with elephants and stuff like that which was a brilliant concept.

Coming from that we want to build more pieces that will translate that kind of message not leaving out the community because it is the communities that can create these negative impacts on the environment because if they don't have access to other energy they will resort to burning charcoal.

Artists usually are more action orientated because art is not about talking, it is visual. You have to visualise and see things. Talking is part and parcel of the process. Art is action orientated. I try o use that point in our workshops because everybody should feel the impact of what artists are doing. Something it could be a challenge. There is a laissez - faire, sometimes that comes from certain quarters of other contemporary practitioners, Instead of them becoming physical in terms of producing art they keep talking. To express that action artists need to engage in expressing those projects into real results that are visible, feasible and at the same time interactive with the community because it would be futile for us to have a nice explanation but without action. The action comes into the art product itself. As much as we would want to explain the meaning of that product, the product itself should also transmit certain messages when people look at something they should relate and think that this is what we need. People ask how can art be relevant when people are struggling to put food on the table? It is a very interesting challenge to make art practical.

"I think dancing brings joy. It loosens us up and connects us with our bodies and our friends. These connections bring joy and it is meaningful joy that can change the world. I think that conscious dancing is a powerful tool for connecting with ourselves and others - and reconnection is very powerful. "Lauren O'Donnel Greenpop

Interview Jamie Beron

Secret Sunrise are currently operating in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, PE and Stellenbosch. We run a 2 events a month in each city and the attendance ranges between 150 and 700 people depending on the event and city. We are launching this project in several international cities this year but are unable to disclose information on these locations just yet.

There are several different styles and types of dance meditations (sober dance parties) happening around the world and these practices have been taking place for a very long time. There is however a new trend emerging around these gatherings and a few event organisers have developed unique and very popular events of this nature as global entities   

We pride ourselves on making our events as accessible possible. There is no age limitation to this. We have had a 3 year old and a 93 year old at the same event. It requires no special skills or dance experience. We are working to build a community of inclusion. No matter what race, economic or cultural background you are welcome at a Secret Sunrise 

We have found that our events are most popular with women between the ages of 25 and 50. We have been doing these events regularly corporate team building experiences. There is a big shift towards corporate wellness events at the moment and Secret Sunrise offers a fun and accessible solution for large scale corporate events of this nature. 

Our events started off as before work gatherings, as a way of kickstarting the day and combating the daily grind. These events are still very popular and continue to have a positive impact on peoples lives. 

We have however also started to include Sunset dance events as well as day events on the weekend to make the events more accessible to people who don't like early mornings and clients with children and busy schedules 

I think in general the dancing before dawn trend is growing in popularity as the communities around these movements are growing exponentially and new members are constantly being awakened to  the amazing benefits of these liberating sessions.

 

 

 

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