Open Hearts, Dirty Hands, Active Feet
For 21 days in June and July 2015, volunteers, community members, school children from around the world, local businesses, tree growers, farmers, and local organisations came together to plant trees in and around Livingstone, Zambia and learnt about a more sustainable way of life. Everyone who joins Greenpop’s annual festival finds it hard to explain their experience to people when they get home. There’s something powerful about getting active (not anxious) about the environmental challenges that face our communities. It moves people into a special space where they can connect with themselves, each other and the planet.
The Zambia Festival of Action has been an annual event in Livingstone since 2012. It is a major highlight of Greenpop’s year. Here’s what went down in 2015:
- 21 days – 1743 trees planted (122 indigenous and 1621 fruit trees) – and an unquantifiable amount of growth!
- 192 active citizens from 15 countries came together, including South Africa, the United States of America, Australia, Zambia, Ireland, England, Germany, Zimbabwe, India, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Denmark, Namibia, Kenya, and Japan.
- Of those 192 active citizens, 42 of them were high school students, representing 11 schools from around the world.
- 9 Local schools and 4 farming communities – with a total of 298 pairs of hands – received trees and were a part of fun-filled days of tree-planting, education and sustainable development.
- 4 school murals and 1 public street art piece – quite possibly the largest in Zambia – were painted under the artistic direction of Martin Lund.
- For the fourth year in a row, Greenpop continued to develop a food forest at the Sons of Thunder farmers co-operative with permaculture specialists Marshall Rinquest and Artwell Chivhinge.
- Zero-waste warrior Candice Mostert and a team of enthusiastic helpers finished building 1 eco-brick bench.
Life back at camp was just as busy.
- Renowned dendrologist and co-author of Trees of Southern Africa, Meg Coates Palgrave gave 6 Tree I.D. courses.
- Permaculture experts Marshall Rinquest and Artwell Chivhinge, zero-waste warrior Candice Mostert, and green chef and owner of Saucisse Deli Amanda Lewis ran practical workshops on site to teach people how to “grow their own”, upcycle their waste and cook using Wonderbags and solar cookers.
- The Green Village hosted 2 speaker nights focussing on small scale sustainability solutions featuring project attendees and local speakers from Livingstone, and 2 outdoor movie nights, where we screened Cowspiracy and The True Cost.
- 20 UNICEF Youth Climate Ambassadors from Livingstone joined us for a series of 3 Eco-Enterprise Workshops exploring green business opportunities around food, waste and energy.
Everyone at the Green Village applied green living practices to daily life.
- The kitchen only used 12 hrs of electricity and 36 hrs 30 min of gas in 3 weeks to feed a total of 232 people.
- As part of a zero-waste management system festival attendees and Greenpop crew cleaned and processed 165 Tetrapak cartons to be upcycled into craftwork, stuffed 111 eco-bricks, made 15 briquettes from cardboard and paper waste, and only produced 172 kg of hard plastics, tin, cardboard and glass over the course of 3 weeks!
And what would a Greenpop event be without a little POP?
Together the Greenpoppers:
- Shone brightly (and got silly) at 3 talent shows.
- Kicked off 3 plant days with crazy morning dance offs.
- And filmed a mega Madiba Jive to commemorate Mandela Day.
Speaking of pops, Earth Fest Africa 2015 went off with a BANG on the 11th of July!
Earth Fest is a passionate celebration of community and the environment. Greenpop works with local businesses and regional musicians to develop an African music festival where artists and active citizens come together to create an epic cross-cultural experience of music, and environmental engagement and activation.
The idea is to have a great time while still ensuring the sustainability of our people, ourselves and our planet. This day-long festival exemplifies Greenpop’s mission to make greening fun and POPular and aims to bring communities together in celebration of a common mission.
- Over 500 people from Livingstone and beyond poured into the Maramba Cultural Village for the event.
- Earth Fest hosted workshops on everything from permaculture, to rocket stoves, to making clothes and fashion accessories out of upcycled waste (which were modeled for us at the Trash ‘n’ Fashion Show).
- 16 local vendors showcased local products and crafts and kept the crowds fed and feeling full, offering a delicious variety of vegetarian and vegan meals.
- 2 DJs and 6 bands, including headlining acts Mokoomba and Greenpop co-founder Jeremy Loops, kept the party jamming late into the night.
Quotes from the Zambia Festival of Action 2015:
The feedback Greenpop received from the inspired and inspiring individuals that attended the Zambia Festival of Action was overwhelmingly positive. Each one of them discovered Greenpop and their project in Zambia in their own way. Whether they were high school students or eighty years old, their journeys all brought them to one space in time and together they created something amazing: a conference of action that gathered like-minded people from all over the world to a very important place in Zambia.
During their time in camp, Greenpop connected with the festival attendees and got to hear their stories. Here are just a few of them:
David Nkisi, a student at the Zimbabwe College of Forestry, discovered Greenpop through his research into Zambian charcoal making. “Climate change (…) is affecting us at lightening speed,” and David sees forestry as being a key factor in its mitigation. He joined the Zambia Festival of Action because he was keen to connect with an organisation that shared his passion.
“Other environmental organisations and NGOs say things, but they don’t do. (Greenop) have the know-how and (…) (they’ve) got action.”
He found working with young people at schools and in communities in Livingstone fascinating, because they are our “future leaders and they have to learn about this issue of climate change. (…) It affects all of us, whether you’re in Asia, Europe, America or Africa. (…) We have to work together.”
When Natascha Minnit, a student in Politics and Psychology and the University of Stellenbosch, joined the Zambia Festival of Action, she pictured spending every hour of her time in Livingstone planting trees. What she discovered was a far more holistic experience. “It was very dynamic. It wasn’t just one angle. It included a lot of aspects of social and environmental issues (and) allowed me to grasp the causes a lot better.”
As someone who generally considers human matters to be more important than environmental ones, Natascha was struck by how social issues are interlinked “with nature and the environment.” When people say they don’t care about trees, they care about people, the two are actually “one and the same. It’s a system.”
Lara Roux, a yoga teacher from Cape Town, South Africa, joined the Zambia Festival of Action after her experience at Greenpop’s Platbos Reforest Fest. “When there’s a collective source of input and energy, what you create is something amazing.” Lara got involved in everything from digging holes, to painting murals, to gracing the campsite with yoga lessons under the 1500-year-old baobab.
For Lara, the thing that stood out the most about her time at the Green Village was the people. “There’s such a huge range of ages, yet everyone seems able to overlap and intertwine and integrate.” She was particularly thankful for the crew’s good vibes. “It takes a deep well to keep pulling up buckets of energy (…) My well feels quite empty. Being here, I’ve received a lot of that energy.”
Ganief Manuel, a passionate permaculturalist working with food security in his community in Cape Town, explained that in the past, he has often been made to feel like an outsider because of his passion for the environment. “It isn’t always easy, finding people that are on the same vibration as you are.” Being at the Zambia Festival of Action was a welcome change. “Gatherings like this tend to be special for people like us.” The Green Village creates a space for like-minded people to come together and has let Ganief know that he’s “not alone.” Being surrounded by people on the same mission as him has galvanized his resolve to spread his love for nature to his community back home. He only had one complaint: “One week is too short.”
Co-founder and Tree-E-O of Greenpop Misha Teasdale reflected on the environmental organisation’s journey since the first event in Zambia in 2012, saying, “The Festival of Action started as a tree-planting festival. In the first few years we planted trees like crazy, but with time it’s developed into so much more than that. The Festival of Action is a holistic project that tackles all aspects of sustainable living. Education is at the heart of what we do – we want to empower people to take green-living back home with them.”
Greenpop is now five years old. If you ask Misha what the secret to Greenpop’s success is, he’ll answer that more than success, they’re interested in “stepping into a place of significance.”
With a lot of help from their friends:
The Zambia Festival of Action 2015 couldn’t have been possible without the powerful partnerships that Greenpop has maintained with their long-standing partners, or without a number of new ones that they’ve nurtured this year.
Greenpop is deeply grateful to the international and local partners that supported the Zambia Festival of Action 2015, and those that support our ongoing project in Livingstone. In particular: Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles SA (Sandown Motors), Hemporium, Dongola Guest House, Chic Mamas Do Care, Redbull Amaphiko, and Reliance Compost.
For a full list of all the partners and sponsors that contributed to making this event a success, click here.
Greenpop’s story is inextricably linked to Zambia. Over the last four years, this tree-planting and sustainability festival in Livingstone has become a cornerstone of what Greenop does. Moving forward, they plan to strengthen partnerships, work closely with local authorities to ensure trees are planted sustainably, continue to develop food forests, work on land management plans to support natural reforestation, explore coppice management initiatives, further develop eco-awareness campaigns through radio and video, as well as researching ways to look into job creation and local innovation through eco- enterprise awareness initiatives.
Greenpop is on a mission to (re)connect people with our planet & each other. We plant trees and have fun doing it. It’s a Treevolution. Get involved! greenpop.org