Experiences and contradictions in southern Africa
A trip to Africa is always guaranteed to heighten the senses. In June 2017 Marlborough’s
and her family experienced first hand the contradictions of life in southern Africa and met a person doing her best to meet the challenges.
When you plan your trip to Africa, the animals and environment are expected to be the main attraction.
But, as it turned out, they were merely the vehicle by which we were able to experience what for me was most significant about southern Africa - the people.
The trip introduced poverty to my children.
At Victoria Falls, desperately skinny men constantly approached us trying to earn money to buy food for their families who lived in either mud or tin shelters.
In part due to political changes in Zimbabwe, the people faced 90 per cent unemployment. Adding to the problem is the fact conservational awareness has helped to outlaw poaching, otherwise known as hunting for food to survive.
The question that I kept asking was how were these people, who had lived off the land forever, meant to eat if they faced severe penalties for killing protected animals? At Victoria Falls they weren’t surviving well.
It was a relief to leave this town and settle into The Hide, a safari camp in the Hwange National Park. The Hide was a tranquil paradise about 20 metres from an active water hole.
The only noise came from the animals that surrounded us. Our sleeping quarters were luxury tents . Ifwe wanted to see more of the animals, we were offered safari excursions three times a day. During the course of our stay at ‘The Hide’, we met Christabelle, a Zimbabwean national.
An honours student with a BSc, she was the Community and Conservation Manager of the Safari Camp. She had such a passion for the work she was doing with the villages and people surrounding the National Park. She believed these people would only survive if they were educated towards this goal.
‘‘There is no point in building them a well, they need to build it themselves thereby having the tools to maintain and modify it,’’ she said. It was through Christabelle that I found the simplistic answer to my question on conservation and survival. She set up The Hide Community Trust which worked alongside the camp. Christabelle’s work for the Trust was voluntary, although she was well supported by the two directors of The Hide. Her primary goal was to ‘‘help those around the Hwange National Park that were in need of help, by ensuring that conservation and sustainable community development go hand in hand’’.
In the two-and-a-half years the Trust had been running, initiatives included recycling, tree planting, providing education materials, teaching children to grow their own food, installation of a solar-powered water pump and educational bursaries.
Her passions at present are installing beehive fencing to keep out the bee-wary elephants, bringing together groups of women for training in various income-generating initiatives and rebuilding the local school that is being slowly eaten by termites.
I soon came to realise that donations to the trust weren’t being sucked up by administrative costs, because the only administrator was a 25-yearold woman with a love for her country, animals and people and who devoted all her spare time to helping them.
If you wish to help Christabelle go to ‘‘wildlife conservation, Hwange National Park’ on the internet.
Fleur Hansby, with husband Nick Hansby and sons Luke, left, and Sam, at Victoria Falls in southern Africa.