My idea of a sustainable African village came to me when l visited Victoria Falls for the first time in 2017. I was born in rural Wedza to the east of the country about 1 000 km away from Victoria Falls. Due to financial circumstances, it was never possible to visit your country’s premier destination. l have settled in Lubabwe Village and created my own village known as Lanyula Sustainable Village. l really enjoy living close to Victoria Falls, l can be able to do most activities like water rafting, canoeing, game drives etc. As a local like to drive around the rural areas surrounding Victoria falls to find out how people are living. l am shocked to this day, with the poverty in the communities in comparison to the amount of money flowing in Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park. The poverty was unbearable considering there was an option to establish tourism-related activities in the rural areas.
My ideas were born out of the following issues
a) how can ordinary people around the country afford travelling to resorts in their country?
b) the abundance of natural resources like the Zambezi river nearby the baobab trees, the wildlife and tourism in Victoria Falls and Hwange, why are local people benefitting?. I noticed a lot of poverty around Victoria falls rural communities, they were not included in the tourism and economy of Victoria Falls and Hwange. I carried a small survey (asking the villagers in Lubangwe Village) of the village l wanted to settle in.
The findings were that
a) 98% of my villagers have never been in Hwange National Park 40km away from them.
b) they were not benefiting at all from the wildlife and tourism in the area.
c) The villagers are expected to be custodians of wildlife, but they are not part of the tourism around them
The outcry from the village was the land is not productive in rural Hwange, and that human-wildlife conflict was so prevalent and unbareable for them. This is where my thinking and narrative begins. Communities could use natural resources around them to create sustainable villages which could generate income for them. Villagers could create art centres that could attract buyers and also be art learning centres for the next generation of artists.
The African Village is going to be unique in so many and can be a model for other villages in Zimbabwe.
1) The village should be able to sustain itself, vegetables, water, electricity, fish farming should all be on site
2) The use of solar and wind energy should be the drivers of the village
3) Transfer of technology to villagers – the village model becomes a hub for technology. As diasporas, we have acquired skills that we can share with others villagers
4) The village will have a heritage centre- where we are showcasing different designs of African architecture in the form of different hut designs found in Zimbabwe.
5) The village becomes a cultural hug, where villagers can perform dances or poems to visitors.
6) The village aims to create a platform for talented artists to display their artefacts to the outside world.
7) The village will become part of the world village connected online
8) The village will become a smart village
9) The village is built by local men and women, using local products, materials, local designs hence the local community is economically lifted.
10) The village will drive the need for villagers to directly benefit from the tourism industry around them, and to make them custodians of the wildlife around them.
The Zimbabwean economic situation has not been helpful, the odds are against me all the time. For example l bought rocks from Binga, it took me 4 months of pick and drop up to Matetsi and when they reached their final destination they were half load. The cost of transportation, solar energy, cement, plumbing materials is so high to attract investment in rural areas. The covid-19 dealt a major blow to our construction plan, hardware shops and banks were usually closed due to trading hours restrictions. Finally, l can only say, trying is better than doing nothing, even if odds are against me.
Background story written by Taku Mutepfa
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