By Haidee Kinter- Interim Events and Outreach Specialist. Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust
Photos: Mjose Photography
Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust’s (CWET) 2023 Environmental Campaign, “Mitengo Ndi Moyo” meaning ‘Trees are Life’, came alive in Mfuwe on Saturday, July 15th, enveloping the area with the sounds of poetry, performances, and inspiring songs. The event was a culmination of a month-long community campaign with lessons in 40 schools branching out to multiple community events aimed at engaging a wider audience.
Mfuwe town, located in Mambwe district in the Eastern province, is positioned within Lupande Game Management Area (GMA) and is the entry point to the world-renowned South Luangwa National Park. However, Lupande, like many other protected areas in Zambia, is under serious threat from deforestation caused by agricultural expansion, charcoal production, and commercial wood harvesting. It is vital for the community to be actively involved in conservation initiatives, especially in GMAs where people and wildlife coexist. For the past 25 years, CWET has engaged the community in pro-conservation behaviours and informed decision-making within the community encouraging the next generation of conservation leaders. The annual environmental campaign event is one of the impactful ways in which CWETS actively involves the community members in addressing pressing issues affecting them.
In the weeks preceding the main event, Chipembele’s Community Conservation Educators actively engaged with students and community members. These activities focused on the benefits trees offer, including an exercise of matching significant trees in the Luangwa Valley to their seed pods to understand seed distribution and tree regeneration timelines. Satellite campaigns were organised in the farther regions: Mnkhanya, Kakumbi, Nsefu and Jumbe chiefdoms to ensure an expanded reach and impact, engaging approximately 1600 students and community members. This extension also provided an opportunity to identify talented conservation club students, whose performances were showcased during the main event.
This year CWET decided to embark on an exciting mural project at the office, to coincide with the environmental campaign, a creative element aimed at broadening community participation, bringing in a genre of audience. Chipembele board member Emma Still, and Australian native flora and fauna artist Dana Kinter generously donated their time and skills. A local artist, Paddy Chilwa, helped to produce the mural and involved local school students to add their creative flair to make it a truly inspiring collaboration.
Following the theme of this year’s campaign, the mural was designed to raise awareness by displaying six significant trees, outlining the benefits they bring to the environment, animals and the community. While using descriptive words to convey how participants feel about them. A blank canvas was transformed into a bright, informative art installation that will be used to capture the attention of members of the community: drawing them to explore each vibrant scene and absorb the emotive words. It was a delight to watch the community following the mural’s progress; CWET hopes to reinvent the space each year based on the different themes.
A significant component of the campaign was the song contest, featuring local artists. To enter the competition, they were required to craft songs that highlighted the theme “Mitengo Ndi Moyo” and were given a chance to perform in front of a panel of judges at the CWET office. Five artists were selected and were given the opportunity to record their songs. The top three recorded songs were put to a public vote on Facebook, leading to a last-minute surge in votes and a resounding victory for local artists Tomato Na Onion with their enthusiastic song “Conserve Nature.” All top three artists were subsequently invited to perform at the main event, receiving a delighted response from the audience.
On the day of the event, held at Yosefe Primary School, conservation club students and community members walked while singing praises for the vital role trees play in our lives. The lively parade proceeded down the main street to the centre of Mfuwe town, where an enthusiastic crowd awaited their arrival. The event offered a vibrant blend of entertainment, featuring energetic songs by local artists, captivating plays by the talented local drama group SEKA, and traditional dance by Katemo Primary School. Conservation club students also took to the stage with their poems, while the event welcomed special appearances by local artists who have benefited from the Chipembele programmes.
His Royal Highness Chief Kakumbi with his subjects attended the event reinforcing the theme expressing that trees must be protected. The day saw an enthusiastic gathering of around 700 community members, coming together to acknowledge the contributions of trees to our community and ecosystems. The event’s success and its potential to drive behavioural change were attributed to the commitment and passion of CWET staff, Aspiring Conservation Leaders, Conservation Club students, donors, and esteemed guests. The campaign successfully highlighted the significance of preserving and protecting trees, setting a promising course toward a more sustainable and harmonious future.