Words: Greenpop Media Team
Greenpop is a tree-planting and urban-greening organization with its roots firmly established in Cape Town’s soil, but every year during June and July, our Zambia Festival of Action in Livingstone brings people together from around the globe to plant thousands of trees, learn, connect, give back, grow and get active.
Photo credit: Sarah Isaacs
Being a Cape Town based organisation, people often ask us, “Why go all the way to Zambia?” The answer to that question is multifaceted and it reaches way back to the very beginnings of Greenpop and its mission to (re)connect people with our planet and each other.
Greenpop’s connection to Zambia started with a large pile of chicken poo. Co-founders Lauren O’Donnell and Misha Teasedale had barely begun Greenpop’s urban-greening initiative in Cape Town, when they received a phone call in 2010. The man on the line had an uncle in Zambia, Arthur Sonnenberg, who was sitting on 15 000 bagged, good quality trees and no one to sell them to.
Arthur’s spectacular tree nursery, filled with indigenous and useful medicinal trees, began when he started piling the compost that his chicken farm, Zambezi Nkuku, was producing underneath a tree. The tree then dropped its seeds into that fertile compost and before he knew it, he had more seedlings than he knew what to do with. That’s what inspired him to start a tree nursery, and that tree nursery is what brought Lauren and Misha to Zambia to explore the possibilities of running a community project there.
What Lauren and Misha learned on arriving in Zambia, is that it has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. At the time it was in the global top 10, and while the situation has somewhat improved since, Zambia’s deforestation rate remains alarmingly high.
Through their research, they discovered a myriad of contributing factors including slash-and-burn farming and unsustainable tree felling to make charcoal, the only source of revenue for many unemployed Zambians, and the primary energy source for most.
3. Climate change
Lauren and Misha’s research led them to have many conversations with farmers, charcoal makers and local residents in the Livingstone area. They discovered that, while many still go to great lengths in the West to disprove or discredit the reality of climate change, there is no doubt in the mind of Zambians as to whether or not it’s real. Zambia’s majority rural population relies heavily on the rains, the sun and the soil to survive and that intense connection and dependence on nature means that they’re very much in tune with it. No one is more receptive to introducing green solutions than people who can feel how urgent it is to do so.
Greenpop’s annual Festivals of Action have nothing to do with “saving” Zambia. We don’t pretend to be able to magically solve any part of the complex system that has led to Zambia’s current environmental state. It’s about slowly starting a culture of replanting trees and starting eco-enterprises. We aim to inform, to empower and to create awareness around sustainable alternatives. Our method is to teach people through doing. If someone plants a Moringa tree and watches it grow, uses the powder, sells the powder and sees that money can be made from it, then they might decide to stop making charcoal for money and pursue this more sustainable source of income instead.
Over time, Greenpop has trained unemployed individuals to grow their own trees so that the following year we can buy from them. 80% of the trees we’ll buy this year will be from small-scale growers, and 20% will be from our longstanding compost provider, Arthur. There is such an abundance of inspiring individuals and a wealth of expertise in Zambia. We have collaborated with a subsistence farmers’ cooperative called The Sons of Thunder to plant trees on their land, create a food forest and begin practicing conservation farming by planting a special type of nitrate fixing tree in between maize fields to avoid slash and burn rotation.
5. Victoria Falls
While in many ways Greenpop’s connection to Livingstone has been the fruit of happenstance, celebrating our planet so close to the mighty Victoria Falls has a profoundly symbolic value. It’s the pumping heart of southern Africa. The sheer volume of water that pours over the falls travels all the way to the Indian Ocean, sustaining life across the continent. In that sense, our Zambia Festival of Action is also about bringing like-minded people together from all over the world, to a very important place in the world. We come together to share knowledge, inspiration and a shovel in the hopes that what we learn from each other can then have an impact on the rest of the world when we all disperse like the waters of the great Zambezi.
The months of June and July are just around the corner and we couldn’t be more excited for the next instalment of our Zambia Festival of Action. For the month of May we’ve launched our May Mania promotion! Book your place before the end of the month and get a 10% discount!
For booking information, prices and detailed brochures, visit http://www.greenpop.org/projects/trees-for-zambia/ or email .
Greenpop is on a mission to (re)connect people with our planet. They plant trees and have fun doing it. They plant trees in urban greening and reforestation projects and hosts green events, educational workshops and festivals of action to inspire people to get active about a sustainable future.
Trees for Zambia Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/861007590616160/
Twitter & Instagram: @GreenpopSA
Call: +27(0)21 461 9265