I have been very busy over the last few weeks with a number of programs at the park. We hosted two workshops the end of May – one for former poachers and one about marketing and business skills. The former poachers’ workshop was aimed at helping these men with small businesses or income-generating activities to support them now that they no longer poach from the park and are in need of a new way to support themselves and their families. I didn’t work with them much since I spent most of the time with the business skills workshop. I led a couple of sessions on marketing, branding and value addition. The participants were chairmen and other officers from several co-operatives in the area.
Last week I went with the other members of the community relations team on a tour of some of the schools in the GMA. During this tour, we were joined by fifteen members of our drama troupe. We went to several schools to perform dramas on a couple of different topics including early marriage, poaching, and fishing. We wrote these dramas beforehand, and the troupe came to Mulaushi and practiced for two days before we left on the tour. The dramas were fun but it was also a bit frustrating since the same dramas were performed at the school and each drama was about an hour long and all in Bemba. Although the performances were in Bemba, I helped write them so I was able to follow along most of the time. The actors were all pretty great; very enthusiastic and energetic and the crowds loved the performances. Along with performing the dramas, we also planted trees at a number of schools. The trees we planted have been growing in a tree nursery for about a year. In the nursery we mostly used old shake-shake containers to plant the seeds. The trees we planted were a mix of sweet lemon, guava, and African Ebony (locally called mululu). The mululu trees are mostly used for wood production and are fast-growing, so they are great for schools to have as a possible source of future income. It was fun to get out in the various communities and work with the kids to plant the trees. We spent four days traveling around the area. We even went all the way up to the Tute Bridge, which is the border between Luapula and Central Provinces. This bridge spans across part of the Bangweulu Wetlands and is the longest bridge in Africa. It was a long four days however, since no one really talked to me in English the whole time and all we ate on the third and four days was nshima and dried fish, which is my least favorite meal. So I was definitely ready to be back home by the time it was over.
This week we are hosting a workshop on good governance. The participants are chief’s advisors, area councilors, and other community leaders. It should be interesting, and hopefully a chance to learn a little more about the inter-workings of politics in Zambia. I am looking forward to our bi-yearly provincial meeting in Serenje at the end of this month. Even though I am an extension volunteer I am still required to attend this meeting with all the other volunteers from Central Province. We just got eleven new volunteers in April, and I haven’t met most of them yet, so I am excited to meet some new people and catch up with everyone else from around the province.