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The Power of Storytelling in Conservation: Highlighting the ‘Wild Zambezi’ Documentary Series

By Salima Mvula

Storytelling and visual expression hold immense power in the realm of conservation, serving as vital tools to communicate the pressing challenges our planet faces. By creating compelling and relatable narratives, storytellers can evoke deep emotional responses from their audiences, fostering a sense of urgency and personal connection to environmental issues.

Greater Good Productions is at the forefront of driving change through its storytelling. Using powerful stories and visual techniques, they explore the challenges facing the world today. Their mission is to create and distribute compelling cinema, television, and digital media that empower and inspire people to improve their own lives and the communities in which they live.

To further push this narrative, Greater Good embarked on a journey to highlight the Lower Zambezi National Park and its most recent threat: the proposed Kangaluwi Copper Mine by Mwembeshi Resources Ltd. Through the creation of a documentary series entitled ‘Wild Zambezi: The battle for our world’s last stronghold has begun, they are providing insight into the acts that caused an uproar amongst conservationists’ across Zambia following the mines license approval.  

‘Wild Zambezi’ is a four-part documentary series narrated by Dr. John Kani that chronicles the fight to save the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. This pristine wilderness is home to hundreds of thriving birds, fish, and wildlife species. However, it faced its greatest threat when Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) approved an open-cast copper mine in 2011, and later underwent further scrutiny through an environmental and social impact assessment, leading to a subsequent rejection and cancellation of the license in 2023.

The events depicted follow ecologist David Ngwenyama on his ten-year mission to save the Lower Zambezi National Park. Ngwenyama has been working tirelessly to raise awareness about the importance of the park and the dangers of engaging in unsustainable practices such as mining within these protected areas. The documentary showcases his efforts and contributions to the cancellation of the proposed mine, highlighting his commitment to preserving our precious natural resources.

The series also highlights the conservation efforts in the Lower Zambezi National Park and its surrounding game management areas. It focuses on the positive impact of education, training, and sustainable livelihood projects on local communities, supported by Conservation Lower Zambezi, Bio-Carbon Partners REDD+ Project, and other organisations.

The proposed Kangaluwi Copper Mine posed a serious threat not only to the park and its conservation efforts but also to the Mpashye wildlife corridor and wildlife across Africa. The destruction of which could disrupt the interconnected ecosystem, leading to a domino effect of environmental degradation.

The ecosystem and its components, including humans, are interconnected. The destruction of one element will have far-reaching consequences. The “Wild Zambezi” series aims to emotionally engage international audiences, encouraging them to fall in love with our natural resources and understand the need to protect them. As the future of all African national parks hangs in the balance, this series is a crucial call to action.

Similar efforts have been made through different avenues, such as the Save Zambezi, Safe Zambezi (SZSZ) coalition of organisations, which includes Wildlife Crime Prevention (WCP) Zambia, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Zambia, Conservation Advocates Zambia (CAZ), and Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ). These organisations have worked tirelessly for years to highlight the negative impacts the copper mine will have on the park and surrounding areas. They appealed to the Zambian government to rescind all licenses given to Mwembeshi Resources and other companies that may seek to exploit the region—efforts that contributed to the successful revocation of the mining license.

In 2021, the initially rejected impact assessment was approved by ZEMA, much to the dismay of conservationists. However, in August 2023, ZEMA cancelled its permission to mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park after Mwembeshi Resources Ltd failed to comply with a range of conditions outlined in a decision letter issued in May 2021.

The mining company then appealed to the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment’s office, which rejected the appeal. In a statement given last year, Minister of Green Economy and Environment Collins Nzovu told the Zambian parliament that he found that “ZEMA was on firm ground to cancel Mwembeshi Resources Ltd decision letter,” stating that he was guided by the precautionary principle to support measures to prevent environmental degradation.

“Wild Zambezi” serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving natural habitats and the complex battles that conservationists face in protecting these vital areas. Through compelling storytelling and visual expression, the documentary series aims to inspire action and foster a global community dedicated to safeguarding our planet’s last strongholds.

The first episode of “Wild Zambezi” will air on Sunday, June 9, 2024, at Ster Kinekor cinemas in Lusaka, and will also be showcased in South African cinemas at Rosebank, V&A Waterfront, Somerset Mall, Tygervalley, I’lnga, Brooklyn, and Maerua Mall. Subsequent episodes will air on Sundays and Tuesdays thereafter.

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