Sponsors of the 2010 Toyota Enviro Outreach

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I’m back sooner than you think

Photo 1: Leaving Gonarezhou

Photo 2: Group Photo in the Limpopo River

Photo 3: Traveled nearly 7000km on the Outreach, with accurate tracking and navigation from Garmin.

Back as in back in South Africa and back on the blog. C'mon admit it, you've missed me. Ol' Buddy missed you too. I want to talk to you one more time (on the 2009 Toyota Outreach that is, as there will be lots of new events coming up soon).

This time I'm going to be very dogmatic and quote statistics about the Outreach. But it's amazing stuff. It's somewhere around here... If only I can find that dog-eared notebook of my. It's doggone...

Ah, got it. Look at this. And we'll be back soon. Greetings from the whole team too. Look at us having a last lunch in the Limpopo River.

Boa Viagem...

Download GPS Tracks for the total outreach.: Google Earth Format & GPX Format & Mapsource Format

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Arrived at SAWC

It’s with great delight and excitement that the Toyota Enviro Outreach concluded here at the Southern Africa Wildlife College after a long day’s travel.

The outreach has been a huge success. Full reports will be made available soon, but in the mean time here are a few words from the Outreach Delegates.

Theresa Sowry – Executive Training Director SAWC

Over the last 3 weeks, a total of 35 SAWC students have been located in the 6 outreach contact sites. These 35 past students come from an astonishing 28 different protected areas across Malawi & Zimbabwe. The outreach has therefore truly had an impact on conservation areas within these 2 countries.

Bryan Havemann – Director of Conservation WESSA:

Wessa’s involvement with the Toyota Enviro Outreach has proactively helped us to fulfil our mission of People Caring for the Earth. The Outreach has made it possible for us to engage with communities in very remote areas and highlight the importance intact healthy eco systems. The dependence of people on the natural resources underpins the importance of the environment in this present day and age. Wessa encourages development which is sustainable in nature, and which doesn’t not only focus on the economic side.

Richard Sowry – Section Ranger Kingfisherspruit

From the perspective of the people in the parks the park are in good hands. The parks now require the support of people and governments and that they see for their worth to the world, not just as a recreational tool, but as an integral link in the chain of human survival on the planet, because without a clean healthy environment, man will not continue to survive.

The people on the ground, the foot soldiers on conservation, the game rangers, men and women are still going out there every day to try and make it work and look after the land and the wildlife.

Jennifer Newenham – Environmental Consultant

The highlights were seeing how resourceful the conservationists have been with absolutely nothing, especially in Zimbabwe, where they use their initiative and are very dedicated.

Professor Michelle van der Bank & Olivier Maurin – University of Johannesburg (UJ)

We collected a total of 150 new specimens to add to the Tree BOL Africa project unique to Zimbabwe & Malawi. A duplicate of each specimen will be send to the National Herbarium in Harare & Lilongwe. Formal collaboration was setup between the University of Johannesburg and National Parks in Malawi & Zimbabwe.

Training will be offered early next year to delegates from Zimbabwe & Malawi at UJ and on-site. Training includes: Basic Herbarium technique, tree Identification and bar-coding.

Stephen Midzi – Section Ranger Vlakte Plaas:

We are in this world in this field of conservation for the sole reason of conservation of natural resources. This trip has made it possible, to put aside borders, nationalities and cultural differences in the name of conservation and to say to ourselves, we have a purpose as mankind which is to conserve the natural world. It’s been quite a learning process, wherever we’ve been, we’ve learned new things, discovered new conservation challenges, and for me the intensity of human wildlife conflicts around Southern Africa.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The end is not the end.

The end is not the end.

Just under three weeks ago, a hippo scared me witless. I will admit it now. Today I'm sitting on the eastern bank of the Rundu River in Gonarezhou and think they are quite cute down there in the water. I know that, of all the wild animals in Africa, they are the biggest killer of people, but you see, I'm a dog. If it weren't for all those flat dogs in the river, I would happily go and swim with the hippos.

I know I'm babbling today, but I am not feeling well. Physically I am fine, it's all emotional. It's the last day of the trip and I am already nostalgic. You know that they always say how nostalgia makes you miss people you don't know and places you've never been to. At least this time I can say I've seen those places and I know those people. They are the 20 people who were on the trip from start to finish, making it happen. And that with an expedition in October, Africa's suicide month. It is the hottest, driest month of the year with the first rains staying away.

I want to thank those people for the greatest experience of my life. For making the logistics happen, the food happen, the travel, the awesome work done for nature and the environment. For the fact that everybody was always happy with doubling up, doing extra duties. Nobody was ever too important to get his or her hands dirty. I also, on behalf of the whole team, want to thank Toyota South Africa and all our generous sponsors for keeping us going. Once again we are going home with all 10 Toyotas still going strong. After more than 6 000 kilometres, they're still leading the way.

Let's reminisce for a moment. Theresa had major successes with the ex-students from SAWC and Bryan the same with his environmental training with the communities. The tree people taught me something. Another way to mark a tree. Their DNA-barcoding tally is close to 150.

Talking about trees, have you noticed that a lot of people always get fascinated about game? Especially the Big Five. Because it is 'sexy'. A lot tend to forget about the flora. The fact that the Outreach focuses on the environment and nature, maybe therefore makes it less of an attention getter for a lot of people out there. But as Gerhard always says: "Give me an open cheque book and I create a Big Five game farm in a month. Give me a 1000 years and I create one big tree." Deforestation in Africa is a crisis.

But now that the Outreach is over, the question is, did we really make a difference?

The statistics look good, but that is not what really counts. We made friends. Friendship is the strongest weapon to overcome problems. Friendship creates hope. Belief. A sense of want.

Friends care and friends share. By sharing the knowledge, it spreads. Knowledge empowers. Empowerment brings healing. And this chain reaction is what the 20 people from the Outreach initiated with this trip. Yes, Africa is big, very big and we only managed to reach a few places. But we've been there.

At the end of it all, this is only the end of this trip. That's all it is. The process continues.

It has to continue, because Africa is suffering. Africa is overpopulated, poverty is rife and biodiversity loss is alarming. Therefore a lot of pessimistic people say that Africa doesn't have a dog's chance to make it. This dog says they're wrong. Because of people and projects like the Toyota Enviro Outreach.

Tomorrow we go home. It's a good thought, but I will miss all my Outreach friends. I will think of you and want you to know that I have learnt more from you than I ever thought I would.

Now it's also time to say goodbye to you, my readers. Thank you for your support by following us on the blog.

So, before I start howling, there's only one more thing left to say:

"Hasta la Vista Baby, I'll be back..."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Outreach runs on its stomach

Photo 1: Dinner about to happen

Photo 2: Frank doing al dente a la Africa

Photo 3: Finely chopped, says the recipe_s

Photo 4: Camping at Ghonarezhou

Photo 5: Cobus, Gerhard & Foeta

Photo 6: Our malaria patient

Photo 7: Chilojo Cliffs

Photo 8: Group Photo.

The Outreach runs on its stomach

I want to talk about something tonight that is very close to my heart. Secretly it is something that worried me about spending three weeks on the road. Food.

I mean, I am a fancy dog. Eating cold bully beef is not my idea of superior cuisine. Make no mistake, nothing wrong with bully and onion from time to time. But then you’ve got to do it up. With a bit of herbs, garlic and so on. And you don’t want it every day.

Well, let me tell you something, making the simplest of food for 22 people on the road is not easy. That’s not what the kitchen team is doing. They make exquisite food on the road. The organisation is so good, nobody has had to pop an Imodium as yet. And who do we have to thank? National Luna, fridges that don’t leave you out in the cold. They keep the cold inside.

Variety is the name of the game. So much so that I started getting worried that the Bully Beef is never going to happen. But it did. Other nights we had dishes such as goulash, chicken curry, chorizo stew and rice. And braaivleis. Not just boerewors, but even ostrich fillet. We also had a snoekbraai one night. For lunches on the road, we have chicken pastrami sandwiches. Now really, what more can a fancy dog ask for? We’re on day 19 and had fresh mixed salad today. Plus fresh fruit every morning. Scrambled eggs, bacon, French toast, muesli.

Frank, you’re my man. And Elmarie, Wilaa, Gwynette and Marguerite, you’re my favourites. I’m moving in. Most dogs get skinny beyond repair in Africa, but I’ve never looked so good. Those bitches back home are going to flip.

Today was a good rest day. We just drove to the Chilojo Cliffs here in Ghonarezhou. But what a sight! Check out the pics. Tomorrow Theresa’s last group of ex-students are coming in. I don’t want to talk about it. The end of the Outreach makes me miserable.

I’d rather talk about what we’re going to have for dinner tonight. Tuna Lasagne. You see what I mean?

This is Buddy barking off.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The spirit of the Outreach

The spirit of the Outreach

Chamunorwa Rambanapasi was one of the ex-students that were supposed to meet with Theresa in Hwange. He is a very diligent senior wildlife officer and waited patiently for his station commander to arrive at the station before he could leave. He would not leave it unmanned.

Unfortunately his station master got held up due to circumstances out of his control and in the end Chamunorwa left too late. By the time he got to Hwange, we have already been gone for a few hours. He knew our destination was Mushandike Campsite near Masvingo and drove through the night to catch us.

He arrived at three in the morning and patiently waited outside the camp while we all slept. When he realized the students at Mushandike had their training the previous day and we were basically packing up to go on to Gonarezhou, he was prepared to come with us. That is how valuable a meeting with SAWC is to them and their career. Theresa then said no, she will have a special one-on-one meeting with him. He gothis update and she got her information and he happily drove back to his station in Hwange, 550 kilometres away. That is the spirit of the Outreach.

Another interesting fact is the amount of women in conservation. At Mushandike alone, we had three men (including Chamunorwa) and four women. A lot of people say it is because women want to prove
themselves in a man's world. They are just as capable to be field rangers. To walk patrols. To apprehend poachers. I believe they are, but I personally think it is because all women are
instinctively mothers. And mothers are caregivers. They want to protect, conserve and ensure a brighter world for what is theirs. The concept of conservation comes naturally to them. It is part of their make-up.

Be that as it may, we'll take that debate further later. After Chamunorwa and Theresa finished their discussions, we drove via Masvingo to Gonarezhou and set up camp at Chipinda Pools on the river.
Tomorrow we'll tackle an other chapter of the Outreach.

This is Buddy barking off.

NEWS FLASH!! NEWS FLASH!! Returning to Hwange, Chamunorwa found out
that he is the only advanced student selected by the Zimbabwe Wildlife
Authority to attend the Transfrontier Conservation Management
qualification at SAWC in 2010.

Woof, I say to that!

Download GPS Tracks for today: Google Earth Format & GPX Format

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mushandike College

Today the college met with 6 past students representing 5 conservation areas. Two of these students are currently as Mushandike College furthering their studies. Three of the other four have been promoted since training at SAWC. The other students have not been promoted, but have added responsibilities.

One of the former students, is a Black Rhino monitor, and she feels passionate spending her day and nights protecting these extremely rare species. Sadly with the political turmoil in the country the Rhino population has dropped from 60 to a mere 5 in that area. It is infectious to hear Sibomiso talk about her passion for Rhino's and conservation, even in difficult circumstances.

Theresa Sowry visited Mushandike College at the beginning of the year and on return to the college eon the outreach remarkable are noticed under the new management.

Changes include a substantial vegetable garden that feeds the students as fresh vegatables are not widely available across Zimbabwe. This vegetable garden will also overtime a sustainable income stream for the college.

The Mushandike College and people like Sibomiso gives hope for the future of conservation in Zimbabwe.

How does the Outreach get out there?

How does the Outreach get out there?

Gerhard is our front man. That you already know. Klipbokkop Mountain Resort near Worcester is the base where he and his wife Elmarie plan everything. Most people also know that. What al lot of people don’t realize is that Klipbokkop is the backbone of the Outreach.

In association with Toyota South Africa and all our other generous sponsors, the planning and preparation start there. Gerhard and the Goodyear 4x4 Academy has refined 4x4 driving to an art. The approach is not to bundu bash and see how high, far and fast you can burn your beast, it is to be able to drive responsibly to get to places you need to get to for a reason, without leaving bleeding gaps in mother earth. Gerhard, Elmarie and all their people at Klipbokkop are nature lovers and offer a service to help and support conservation and the environment.

Gerhard’s outreach has started long ago. Over the years he worked hard to qualify himself to understand the bush, how to get in and out and with the aim of helping to make life and the earth a better place for all.

To really explain it I want to introduce you to Hendrik Melk. It sounds like a character from some literary novel, but this character is real. Originally from Kimberley, he ended up in Worcester by chance, but liked the place so much, he stayed. His paths crossed Gerhard’s and Gerhard saw someone that he liked.

At that stage Hendrik only had a learner’s licence, but today he is a 4x4 instructor at Klipbokkop. He is also in charge of the maintenance team. More importantly, he is the backbone of the Outreach when it comes to making things happen. He knows where everything is and he knows how to make everything work. He is really a watchdog, and that’s why I like him so much. He’s a lot like me.

When one of the trailer’s wheels gave a jiggle, who was there first? Hendrik. When someone got stuck in a river bed, who got him out? Hendrik. Who is always laughing and enjoying the Outreach the most? Hendrik.

But the reason I like him the most, is because, although he never stands still, he always has time for me. He makes sure I get the best bones before the hyenas get it.

Today we travelled a quick 550 kilometres to Masvingo where we also camped the first night. It’s like home from home being back here. Time has gone so quick, but somehow it feels like months ago since we’ve been here.

Actually I’m really a worried dog right now. I’ve realized that there are only a few days of the Outreach left. How on earth am I going to say goodbye to all these great people when the trip ends?

This is Buddy barking off, wondering if anybody’s got a suggestion for a good therapist?

Download GPS Tracks for today: Google Earth Format & GPX Format

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The relativity theory in Africa

Photo 1: Former Students of the SAWC
Photo 2: Stephen playing drums with community children.

Photo 3: The end of the curios line

Photo 4: Mana scores five stars for game

Community Children having fun with the Enviro Picture Building Game.

Photo 7: Respect the Enviroment - Group photos with community children.

relativity theory in Africa

I think all the dogs in Africa must have the same father. They are all light brown, medium sized dogs with long faces and tails. Breed? Canis Africanus.
They are very nice and friendly, but can't talk. I mean like you and I can talk. When I introduced myself to one for the first time, he growled at me. I had to switch over to dogspeak to calm him down. Now really...

I envy them for the big backyard they can run in, but the problem is most of them can't really run. Like their owners they are always hungry. Underfed and weak. Relative to them I have a king's life. Come to think of it, relative to any other dog, I have a king's life.

All this makes me think of another example of relativity that I experienced over the last few days on the Outreach. If you go from Mana Pools to Hwange, it seems that you are going from none-graded accommodation to five star. Mana is basic. Very basic. The ablutions are clean, but deteriorated. And apart from a few water taps, there's nothing else in the campsite. Yet, if you want a wild African experience, Mana is five star. At night you hear lion prides from both sides of the Zambezi competing to be heard. Hyenas not only make themselves heard, they come right up to your tent, sniffing for something to scavenge. Somehow they stayed far away from me. Fear I guess...

One night we got very excited when a hippo cruised through the camp. The next moment the main show started when a lion chased the hippo and the hyenas started laughing. Nervous cowards.

However, let me get back to relativity. After Mana Pools, Hwange's neat camp, thatched huts and everything looked superior. But if you know had to go from the Kruger National Park to Hwange, the place might seem rather bleak, basic and run down. It is so sad to see how a flagship could deteriorate like this.

Another interesting thing happened yesterday when we went to Vic Falls to fill up with fuel. Just outside town they have these African Craft stalls. But due to the lack of tourists coming to Zim lately these enterprises have died. I feel sad for the guys not making a few bucks out of the tourists anymore, but I feel happy for the trees. Now that there is less demand, fewer trees are being cut down to make giraffes, hippos and masks. Which brings us to a new type of curios they are selling in town these days. Now that the rand is accepted as local currency, nobody wants to deal in zillion dollar Zim notes anymore. But they are being sold as curios. Soon there will be none left, so the price is going up. The biggest one, a 100 000 trillion dollar note will fetch as much as US$10 these days.

It's all a question of relativity, you see.

This is Buddy, barking off.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The paradigm shift to heal Africa (at no extra cost)

Photo 1: Allan loves grass under his feet

Photo 2: This was a dry river bed not too long ago

Photo 3: The mobile kraal

Photo 4: Allan's humble abode

Photo 5: Johan Botha asking a question
Photo 6: At the new water pools with the convoy.

The paradigm shift to heal Africa (at no extra cost)

For many years, we have been developing our understanding of what is good for the earth. Scientific research to the nth degree has been done by many, many clever people. We’ve worked out that overpopulation of animals is killing the land. Overgrazing removes all the grass. Barren soil gets rushed off to the see with every flash flood. Erosion follows. The world eventually will turn into one big desert.

So the logic that kicks in says there are too many animals. Domestic or wild. Culling needs to kick in. Give the land time to rest. What if we are wrong? What if we actually need more animals? Is it possible that an increase in livestock and wildlife can solve the problem?

The Outreach today visited the Holistic Management Centre near Victoria Falls and we were stunned. Allan Savory is busy proving that we all need to make this paradigm shift. His land is a wild piece of pristine Zimbabwean bush with the Big Five on it.

A few years ago it wasn’t like that. Instead of culling wildlife, he looked at it differently. First of all, he realized that land being ‘rested’ by taking the animals off it, ends up with grass drying in the winter. It doesn’t go back to the soil, it oxidises and turns a grey-black colour and hard. Without any meaningful nutrients. The land doesn’t rest, it slowly dies.

What needs to happen is that the grass needs to be churned over and chopped to form a blanket on the ground. A blanket that will hold water and let it seep slowly into the earth to feed the roots. There are machines capable of doing that, but it uses al lot of diesel, increasing your carbon footprint. Then fertiliser would have to be added artificially.

There is another way, though. Cattle. Yes, he uses cattle for conservation. What he does is to allow as many cattle he can find to graze his land. At the moment he has 400 head, but would love to go up to 1 000. The secret, however, is that the cattle is herded tightly by 12 herders and they don’t stay long in any given area.

The herd takes up just over a hectare at any given time and stay on a stretch of about four to five hectares for three to four days. Just long enough to trample the earth that allows the grassroots to spread. Long before the cattle have eaten up all the grass, but left a blanket of grass covering the area, plus urine and dung as fertiliser, the herders move them on to the next piece. At night they put them in a mobile kraal to protect them from predators. As soon as they move into the next area, the kraal is moved as well.

When the rains come, the water doesn’t run away. It is absorbed by the ground cover and feeds the roots. The excess water goes underground and feeds the nearest river. Allan has a natural spring on his farm. That used to be the only source of water for the game. Elephant paths used to lead towards it from all directions. We followed what used to be a dry river bed not too long ago over a kilometre and a half and there was still water in it. The elephant paths are overgrown these days, because the elephants have so many more drinking places to choose from.

Due to the fact that the cattle are so tightly herded, it is easy to control and visitors to the farm will never know they are there. That means that there is no reason why other parks and game reserves can’t use this method to heal their land. But more importantly, it can be used by all the many cattle farmers in all the rural areas of Africa. They already know how to herd; they just need to be taught the secret of timing. Of not leaving them too long in any given space.

It’s not rocket science. Just a shift in thinking. And this is just a basic explanation of Allan’s holistic approach. To find out more, visit www.savoryinstitute.com

Well, just before we drove back, I decided to do my bit for healing the land. Hey, Allan, check out that grass patch behind tree number three. The grass will be greener there.

This is Buddy barking off.