“At first I didn’t really understand the full benefits of planting more trees, but Greenpop explained it to me & it is really going to help. Speaking for the whole community, we have cut down many trees for fuel. We are grateful to Greenpop for bringing us so many trees. & we hope to spread the message to our friends & neighbours. It was a very exciting day!” Gilbert Nyambe, Linda Farm School, Livingstone, Zambia where 40 trees were planted during Trees for Zambia 2014.
“The fun we’ve had, the difference we’ve made, and the connections we’ve made with both people & the earth are something that will live far beyond Trees for Zambia.” Daniel Cameron Becker, volunteer team member from South Africa.
Between 15 June and 6 July 2014, Greenpop hosted the Trees for Zambia Festival of Action in Livingstone. This festival brings people together to boost the ongoing environmental project that runs in Livingstone throughout the year, directed by Benjamin Mibenge, Greenpop’s Director of Trees in Zambia.
Greenpop, a social enterprise that aims to promote sustainable lifestyle choices through tree planting and other eco-activations, has come to Livingstone for three years running to plant trees, promote alternative energy solutions, facilitate environmental education, and facilitate the generation of locally driven solutions to the country’s deforestation problem.
Zambia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, an issue that encompasses many stakeholders and various factors. However, says Greenpop Director Lauren O’Donnell:
“We’re not trying to save Zambia at all. The issue of deforestation in Zambia is incredibly complex and we do not intend to solve it with this project. Instead, we hope to plant a seed with the people we reach that will inspire them to get active about a sustainable future for ourselves and our planet. People who come to the Trees for Zambia Festival of Action are here to share, give back and learn a lot themselves to take back to their countries and inspire sustainable changes all over the world.”
Benjamin Mibenge, who prefers to be called Uncle Ben, has been directing activities in Livingstone for Greenpop for three years but has been an environmental activist all his life. Says Uncle Ben, “What was special for me about the project this year was the learners – the school groups who joined Trees for Zambia from St Stithians school, Herzlia high school and a group of learners from Washington DC. Some of them were crying at the end of the trip because they had learned and experienced so much and met so many new friends from Zambia. They went to the forest and learnt about the issues there and the animals and it really opened their eyes.
When we planted the Mandela tree at Earth Fest with 400 people was really special and touching for me too – it felt like lots of people got connected from all over the world and Zambia and that there was a strong feeling of togetherness.
Also to see almost the whole world come together was special. We had Zambians, Chinese, Spanish, South Africans, Botswanans, Zimbabweans, Americans, Croatians, Germans and lots of others. It was something that we must do again because this is the only way that we can change people’s minds.
For many of us as Zambians, it was an honour for us to have so many people gather in Livingstone. It gave me a warm feeling inside to host these visitors because they mentioned often how peaceful Zambia is and how welcome they felt. We must be able to receive each other as human beings no matter where we come from. I think we all learnt a lot from each other and that was very important. I kept on telling a lot of people that we have a proverb in our language: ‘If there is a son or daughter who does not travel to another house, they will always think that their mother is the best cook. Not until they travel to another house and try another’s food do they see how different food can taste and who is the best cook.’ So you see, it is only by meeting different people from different places that we expand our horizons and improve our understanding of life and our planet – our shared home.”
The largest planting day of 2014 was the final day of the project where 1000 trees were planted with local partners, LivingFalls Biogas. The 1000 banana trees that Greenpop planted at this site a year ago have flourished and are already fruiting and thus the site has become a flagship project for Greenpop. The local biogas plant will soon sell these bananas to supplement the income for the workers at this local social enterprise while they get their biogas project off the ground.
- 3683 trees planted in total
- 1050 indigenous, 2633 fruit
Greenpop purchased 85% of these trees from local micro-growers that they have been working with over the past three years, to promote small eco enterprise in Livingstone.
One of Greenpop’s main tree suppliers is Lloyd Maanyina, ex-charcoal burner and now tree nursery owner who is featured in the Makhulu short film, Amazing Grace:
And in the Trees for Zambia film from the first project in 2012:
137 volunteers from around the globe joined over 100 local volunteers to make the eco-action happen.
For the first time in the history of Trees for Zambia, Greenpop accepted formal applications for their new Participation Project Programme, which encouraged all with interest or expertise related to fields of sustainability or development to run projects parallel to the core tree-planting programme. Ranging in content from art and creativity to permaculture and upcycling, the six projects provided immeasurable value to the project at large, and Greenpop looks forward to exploring the programme in future years.
Colour Ikamva aims to instill a new sense of pride & possibility in students & educators through a series of artistic workshops that coincide with the transformation of the school. Over the three weeks of Trees for Zambia, Ricky Lee Gordon & Megan King designed & implemented a curriculum of artistic & creative development at Libala Basic School with a group of Grade 8 learners. Over this period, the team ran workshops related to personal development through creative expression, as well as facilitating the design & construction of five beautiful murals around the school.
Using earth & eco bricks (plastic bottles stuffed with non-recyclable materials), the Trash to Treasure Eco-Brick project aims to demonstrate how to utilize waste & traditional cob methods to create much needed structures. Over three weeks, Candice Mostert organized teams of Trees for Zambia volunteers & led them in the construction of two eco-brick benches: one at Linda Community Farm & one at Sons of Thunder. Recognising the potential for exploring the scope of the project in Livingstone, Candice will be remaining in Livingstone indefinitely to continue her project & share it with other beneficiaries in the country.
The Ilizwi Photo Club equips local youth with cameras and trains them with skills that enable them to tell stories around issues that matter most to them. Meghan Daniels and her team including 3 Ilizwi students from Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa came to Livingstone to share the skills they had learned with thirteen Zambian participants. After providing the participants with cameras, Ilizwi ran group storytelling sessions & skills-training workshops in photography & photo editing, facilitating each participant to tell a story of their choosing through photojournalism. On the final Friday of the project, Ilizwi hosted an exhibition at the Livingstone Guest Farm to display & sell the photographs, which covered topics ranging from the natural world to drug abuse, from family life & poverty to waste management.
Permaculture Adventure & Food Forest both aimed to foster a sustainable system of living & gardening, making gardening a way of life. Over the course of Trees for Zambia, the two projects collaborated (run by Marshal Rinquest and Sean Spender) to run educational workshops on permaculture techniques & continued work on a food forest at Sons of Thunder, which had been initiated at Trees for Zambia the previous year by Sean Spender and is growing abundantly and already providing food for the cooperative farmers who maintain it. Greenpop and Sean Spender were excited with the amazing success of the planting technique from a year ago and are very grateful to the farmers for taking the project on board and maintaining the edible garden so well.
Waste Not is a project designed to encourage us to rethink the way we view our so-called “waste” through education & art and is facilitated by Sorina Lyne. At Trees for Zambia, the project ran several sessions at the schools at which Greenpop planted, as well as constructing four upcycled sculptures at Greenpop’s campsite at the Livingstone Guest Farm.
On Friday & Saturday 27-28 June, Greenpop hosted Earth Fest at the Livingstone Guest Farm. Aiming to prove that you can have a good time at no detriment to our natural environment, Earth Fest hosted some of the finest live acts & DJs from all across southern Africa – including Yes Rasta, The Treevolution Band, Chikenbus Band, Grassy Spark, Jeremy Loops, DJ Claudous ft Black Pepper, DJ Lemonella, DJ Danger Disko & more. In addition, the festival hosted workshops on sustainability & eco-enterprise, a selection of stalls & vendors, & art pieces by Colour Ikamva & Waste Not.
Over 400 people attended the festival in support of Greenpop’s tree-planting projects, & the event was an incredible success! As Greenpop’s mission is “making green popular,” Greenpop is excited to work with festivals like Earth Fest that promote sustainability & spread awareness about environmental projects through festival greening.
- All photos by Sarah Isaacs.