Cape Town tree planting organisation Greenpop is creating real change, cultural exchange and making greening popular in Livingstone, Zambia.
Livingstone has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Historically built on the export of hard woods via rail, today it is a tourism capital with year-round attractions such as white- water rafting, microlight flights, gorge swings, game drives, sunset cruises and market visits.
Greenpop’s annual Zambia festival of action is making a significant contribution to the greening of the city.
Managing director, Lauren O’Donnell, said: “We can help to plant a seed, or light a spark, that will hopefully contribute in some way to solutions that come from Zambia itself.”
Now in its sixth edition, the Zambia festival of action brings volunteers and participants together from all over the world for a back to back school and public festival which has produced significant results, including over 15 000 trees planted, greening at 40 schools and a year-round food forest at the Sons of Thunder co-operative.
On planting the first tree to inaugurate the 2017 festival, the Livingstone district commissioner announced the donation of a permanent office to Greenpop’s Trees for Zambia chief executive, “Uncle” Benjamin Mibenge, a well-known environmental activist and fine artist. Mibenge said: “This is what inspires me and pushes me to do more. At 72 I have seen a lot and want my children to live in a world that has got fresh air. We have a big battle to fight but we have no choice but to win the battle.”
Greenpop is making greening popular by combining environmentalism with culture.
Festival experiences are a foundation for unleashing creative potential. Live music jams, talent shows, speaker evenings and dance parties under the stars give all festival participants the opportunity to express themselves.
In schools and orphanages, Greenpop has used green#art and a journey-based learning approach to paint 12 educational murals and transform the sandy play-grounds and rickety classrooms of Livingstone into bright, happy spaces, while adding excitement to learning.
Cape Town-based artist and designer Heath Nash has brought a change effect with the combination of fine arts and crafts.
Since joining the Zambia festival of action in 2016 Nash has upskilled local crafters with turning waste into artwork.
A group of well-established Livingstone crafters, including Mutinta Katunga and Mubanga Mulenga, have now become ambassadors for upcycling, producing an exciting range of colourful products made from wire, material off-cuts and post-consumer plastic.
The conservation conversation corners the interplay between the elements of the art and the environment.
By inviting participation and discussion around the relevant environmental issues, these are places where passers-by can be comfortable and intrigued, “and open their eyes and see things in different ways”, says Nash.
“Public art makes these issues more immediate and engaging,” says project manager Chavi Alheit.
The artists, together with facilitators, crafters and scholars, volunteers and participants from the Greenpop festival, are currently creating their first conservation conversation corner outside the Livingstone Tourism Board.
On conclusion, the artists will create other satellite projects in Livingstone such as the neglected wall alongside the popular Zambezi Café. A twin project will take place in the skate park of Maboneng, Johannesburg, during Art Week in September.
* To offset his carbon emissions, Struan Douglas planted 4 trees and 1 herb in Muboya village