No photos for this update my friends. The internet goes up and down here, so I’m typing quickly while sitting at a table with my peers–faces flushed from the sun hunched over tiny screens typing as fast as we can. We arrived at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management/Dimbangombe Ranch yesterday after the overnight flight from London to Johannesburg, then raced through the airport to catch our little flight to Victoria Falls. Luckily we were traveling as a group and the SI folks had lots of experience navigating connections in an African airport. The flight from South Africa to Zimbabwe was the most luxurious I’ve ever seen. Spencer was in heaven. They started serving food as soon as we were seated and didn’t stop until 10 minutes before we landed. They were served on real plates with real silverware and napkins. When we got to the airport, our luggage was set in the airport…just somewhere there behind the tiny customs counter. We all piled into trucks with their beds converted into benches and took off down the highway in the open air. Welcome to Africa.
We are staying in thatch roofed stone chalets that provide the best night of sleep. This morning Spencer got up and took his binnos for a walk in the veld while I went for a run with Tre and Ricardo and Brian from the Arizona hub. Spencer saw some small deer and lots of birds. We saw birds too (including some African chickens, which I documented diligently for Backyard Poultry Magazine) as well as elephant sign and tracks of either hyena or leopard. We did see one lion track today too on the ranch tour. It was an amazing run–at sunrise in Africa.
We focused today’s training on the operation here. They work mainly with communal lands which is a different model than working with commercial lands (as we will in the US). A successful technique of theirs is what they call a planned mapping exercise. This is how the conversation about holistic management in a community/tribal area is initiated. The program manager invites the chief and other leaders to describe and map what their lands looked like 30 years ago, now and then what they would like it to look like in the future. It is a powerful trust-building experience. Later during our training we will tour the communal lands they work with. Today we toured the ranch and saw the crop lands improved by animal impact, walked with the herders through grass that covered the cattle (and it is the non-growing season) and saw the one spot on the ranch they purposely left as bare ground for training purposes. Our dinner is ready and we are all dining together in the main hall here (with of course a thatch roof, open windows and stone walls). Tomorrow we start in on the business planning–hopefully after another run through the ranch at sunrise.