After an awesome start to Greenpop‘s Trees for Zambia reforestation and conservation education project, things only got better. Between planting trees, listening to cool talks, playing football and drinking beer, one forgets that work is actually being done.
“If you can walk, you can plant trees”. This is Kebby Kambulwe’s motto and it is one that he lives by, quite literally. In 2007 he walked from Livinsgtone to Lusaka and with the help of volunteers planted five thousand trees along the way.
Although Kebby’s home is in Lusaka, most Livingstone locals know who he is – the “tree guy”. That’s his thing. He plants trees and he plants a lot of them. Nine million to date with a plan to plant five million more across Zambia. Kebby is a soft-spoken chap, more a doer than a talker, so it was good to hear his passion vocalised in an after-dinner talk on evening four of the project.
Kebby’s address was preceded by a video presentation from Green Belt Movement director Wanjira Mathai, daughter of movement’s founder and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. Her heartfelt message struck a chord amongst volunteers, all huddled together around the log stage and surrounding fires.
Wanjira thanked us for being actively involved in fighting Zambia’s deforestation crisis, and went as far as anointing us activists. Voluntourism is often critisized for putting money into agency instead of community pockets, so her positive take was one we all appreciated. We may not be as politicised as our parents and grandparents but by planting a sapling and educating its caretakers to take care, we have created something that will be around long after we are gone. We have affected change.
David Youldon from the African Lion and Research Trust (ALERT) also spoke, as passionate about lions as Kebby is about trees. David is best known for his documentary series “Lion Country”, a show that broadcasts his work rehabilitating captive lions and preparing them for integration into the wild. His work has proved successful, silencing the many critics who didn’t believe that captive lions could become wild lions. Lion Encounters, who operate stage one of the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program (supported by ALERT) teamed up with Greenpop, offering volunteers a free lion encounter, an offer that most accepted, sold on the legitimacy of David’s work.
By the end of the evening’s presentation the group was shattered but happy, the spiritedness of which I found quite amazing. After planting two hundred trees into rock hard ground (wielding pick axes to dig the holes), Greenpoppers still found energy to laugh and chat…and share red wine around the dying embers of a sustainable-wood fire.
Attuned to the waning energy levels in the group, the Greenpop crew organised a chilled day at a great school with eager kids. Most of the students were present although it was an election day in Zambia and a public holiday. After a poem and dramatic enactment on the importance of trees (that had us all giggling and some sniffling) we split into groups. One group helped the kids to paint a wall mural while others made solar cookers from cardboard and discarded chip packets. Those who were left planted trees and completed educational worksheets with their group of kids. The day unfolded with pleasurable ease.
After a beer and cool drink refuelling at base camp we headed to a nearby golf club to play soccer and volleyball with Livingstone’s Sports Youth Development League. Greenpop, with the help of volunteer donations, gifted the league with soccer kit and once the formalities were over (Zambians love formalities) we got onto the field. After the game we danced and made merry, the kids showing us up with their slick dance moves. Fuelled by the day’s radness (and the odd beer) we spent the bus ride home singing, beat boxing and rapping, everyone bursting with wild joviality. A great end to a great day.