A Life in Travel

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Part 2: A Closer Look at Elephants & People in Zimbabwe

Conservation trips in Zimbabwe

In the second part of this Closer Look a Zimbabwe I'd like to share our conservation efforts that are an integral part of our new Water for Hwange Safari departing June 2019 and how you can be a part of it. (Check out Part 1 if you haven't already read it)

Our Water for Hwange Safari is a special opportunity to be immersed into a symbiosis of incredible wildlife viewing, village life, community development, and hands-on conservation efforts working alongside rangers and scientists on the front lines of wildlife protection. Designed for travelers to venture beyond game drives and photo shoots of the big five, you'll begin to understand the opportunities of safeguarding wildlife to secure better lives for local people who used to struggle with elephants that ate their crops and lions that killed their livestock. In addition, we've added a committment of giving back as part of this conservation safari and are planning to raise $24,000 for four new water pumps in and around Hwange National Park for wildife and drinking water for local villages. The price of this safari includes a $600 tax-deductible donation to our non-profit Travelers Conservation Trust that is dedicated 100% to support the communities you visit. So, just by coming on this trip you are already supporting conservation of Hwange Nationl Park.

Water for Elephants Safari

First timers to Hwange invariably hear a diesel pump near a waterhole and ask "What's that sound in the bush?" - That is Hwange's beating heart.

Hwange National Park is unique amongst "Africa's Great Parks" in that it has no major rivers. Eighty years ago Ted Davison, the first Warden in the park was faced with a growing number of human-elephant conflicts.  He decided with the very best intentions to establish windmills that would pump water during the dry season so the increasing elephant herds wouldn't have to migrate outside the park in search of water and so come into harm's way in village communities. The wildlife of Hwange flourished under his legacy of protection and year-round supplies of water within the park.

Over the years, pump attendants were hired and deployed to monitor the waterholes. These unsung heroes of Hwange live in tin-roof huts from the start of the dry season until the rains begin to fall 6 months later. Today, the windmills have mostly failed so they make their daily pump runs, switching off the disel engine pumps, checking their performance, topping up the oil, and filling up diesel. When the elephants hear the pumps stop and start again, they come running for fresh water and maybe getting hosed down! At around sundown the pump attendants prepare dinner of sadza, beans, and kapenta, and lock themselves into their tin huts away from prowling lion.

Today, for better or for worse, these pump engines are the heartbeat of Hwange without which there would be very little wildlife, very few visitors, and Hwange would not be Zimbabwe's flagship National Park. 

Nearly all of Hwange's wildlife, including some 46,000 elephants, are dependent on pumping water up from underground. Together with our safari partners we are helping support pumps to maintain 15 waterholes with the capacity of over 750,000 litres of water a day, looking after approximately 20- 25% of the waterholes that sustain Hwange's wildlife. 

Additonal pumps also serve several communities bordering the Park for their domestic water supplies requiring drilling new holes and servicing a large number of boreholes on Tsholotsho communal lands. Just like wildlife, people are dependent on underground water so our water project extends to the frontline communities around the park who are helping to protect the wildlife that draws tourists to the area. All this would not be possible without the generous giving of our travelers and other donors who share out committment protecting Hwange National park, its wildlife and surrounding communities.

That is the context of our Water for Hwange Safari. We've set a goal of raising $24,000 to fund 4 pumps that will provide water to 3 villages and one new waterhole for the elephants. And, we want the new pumps to be more sustainable by using solar energy instead of running on diseal fuel. You can donate by visiting our GoFundMe page.

Water Projects Proposal
Mtshayeli School: The school is located 15 km east of Ndodana gate on the south Eastern side of Hwange National Park. It services 9 villages with an enrolment of 450 pupils, 10 teachers with their families. Through the national Campfire program the school managed to drill a borehole in early 2017 that is still not equipped with a pump. Currently the school gets water from the nearby Mtshayeli clinic which is 400m.The control gate valve is at the clinic and limits volume to be used by the school. Pupils must carry water with them to school for their personal consumption.

Emanaleni Village: This village is 5 km south of Makona ranger station in Hwange National Park. The borehole services cattle, a nearby water pan for wildlife, and a village population of 600. Occasionally the existing diesel pump breaks down and the cost of repairs and fuel are beyond the community's capacity. The plan is to install a solar powered pump to revive the existing borehole.  

Makheni Village: This village is also 5 km from the park boundary. It has one manual hand pumped borehole servicing approximately 100 households with a population of nearly 800 people. The pumped water capacity in these villages is dire at present.

Mbazu Pan: Located inside Hwange National Park, bordering the Tsholotsho community, this pan is an important water source for the animals surrounding it. During the dry season the pan dries up thus the animals have no water. By providing a solarised pump we will be able to pump water for the animals all year round.

 Benefits of Completing the Project

  • 450 pupils and 10 plus teachers will have access to adequate clean water as well as for their cattle and crops, helping improve the livelihoods of the communities who rely on subsistence farming.
  • School hygiene will vastly improve, cleaning toilets and washing hands. This has a very positive impact on community health.
  • Restoring two community boreholes will support up to 1,500 people living on the frontline of the park acting as its protectors.
  • Providing much-needed water for critical habitat around Mbazu Pan for wildlife inside the national park.

This trip has so much to offer. I invite you to take a look at the full itinerary for our Water for Hwange Safari. Young adults interested in environment, wildlife management, conservation and community development are especially invited to engage in real conservation development field work.

For more information, check out Part 1 of my Closer Look at Elephants & People in Zimbabwe.

Keeping it wild,

Kurt Kutay
Wildland President​

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