Lake Kariba


Since my last blog entry I have moved to the beautiful shores of Lake Kariba, about four hours east of Livingstone along the Zambezi river. It is a man-made lake created by damming the Zambezi in the 1950’s, causing the displacement of thousands of the Tonga people. It’s hard to imagine now that all the islands in the lake used to be the peaks of mountains and there are still some local people alive who remember their now submerged homes. At night, the lake sparkles with lights from the kapenta rigs where fishermen haul in the tiny fish by attracting them with bright bulbs, later drying them on long benches in the morning sun.
I am staying at the lakeside bush club where there are two resident goats, Pongo and Stevie who like to sit outside my little thatched cottage at night, raiding my toilet paper as a midnight snack! Zebras graze on the lawns and bush buck and impala bound through the trees at night.

Alongside the Kariba Bush Club is the Zongwe crocodile farm which has over 9,000 crocodiles, farmed mainly for hand bags and belts. This week I went on a tour of the farm to see some terrifying monsters up to 4 meters long and can weigh up to 5tonnes! Apparently crocs never stop growing their whole lives and they can live up to 150 years so no one knows just how big the largest one can be. Two albino crocodiles live in a fenced pond right outside the office where I am working and follow me around hungrily – I’m keeping my distance!

For two weeks I am working with the School Club Zambia on their budgeting and also with a small community school in the nearby Siansowa village. We went into Siansowa for a school committee meeting this week which was an amazing experience like nothing I have ever experienced before. The school is a thatched mud hut which doubles up as a church and is ran by the village Pastor. There are just a few rows of rough wooden benches and a blackboard at the front. About 20 people turned up for the meeting which was held in Tonga so Stanley (a SCZ employee and gardener) had to translate for us! We wore our Chitenges (long bright-coloured pieces of Africa fabric worn as a skirt) and I was complemented for tying mine perfectly! The meeting was to discuss the chickens that were getting into the school garden and eating all the cabbages, so people were debating the most effective fencing methods. We then moved onto talking about financing the school and explaining that the school needs the projects like the garden and a tannery in order to earn money and then re-invest that into resources.

I introduced myself and explained that I will be coming back next Wednesday to hold a meeting on basic financial control and recordkeeping. Because Siansowa is in the early stages of development and self-sufficiency the SCZ is keen to get their records in order from the start. I will be teaching basic examples such as recording sales of vegetables and purchasing seeds but because most people are either illiterate or have only completed primary school (and don’t speak English) it is going to be a real challenge. I am going to have to make my tutoring very visual.

This weekend a few other volunteers from Livingstone are visiting lake Kariba so we are all going out to one of the islands for some luxury camping (permanent tents with private bathrooms), a sunset cruise, BBQ and some lake fishing. I’m hoping to spot some hippo and elephant on the island and not to catch a crocodile!


One response »

  1. Hi Helen, I read your blog with great interest. It is great to get a view of someone who has not lived in Africa to understand the difficulties that lie within the communities. I look forward to your next blog, and hope that all your hard work pays off!

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