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Holistic Management Makes Rivers Run Again

Yesterday we left the ranch. At sunrise we loaded in the open truck caravans and bumped down the dirt road to meet a van waiting to take us to the Sizinda village and then on to Victoria Falls.

The village was a Waldorf school’s dream. When we arrived the whole community was working together in the enormous community garden. Oxen pulling a cart passed us and the grazing cattle trotted to the community water trough near the garden. The belled cows (there were many) sounded like church bells in the mid morning. We sat under a tree near the school and the community speakers unfolded big pieces of brown paper to show us their community action plan (detailing how everyone works together) and their holistic context (formerly called holistic goal). The core group leader spoke while Precious and Elias from the Africa Centre for Holistic Management translated for us. Under the tree, with the Sizinda community leaders, the women, men and children it is obvious how social, economic and ecological factors are part of a whole. In the United States, where our community context is–in many places—fragmented and eroded it is harder to understand this concept.

Their holistic goal valued healthy land, healthy livestock, enough food for everyone and the ability to gain knowledge. It was similar in many ways to others I’ve heard throughout the world. Similar to our own.

We toured the garden, keeping out of the way while women and children carried buckets of water on their heads to the vegetable plots. They grew square plot after square plot of collard greens, tomatoes, peppers and onions. A papaya tree stood in the center of the garden and citrus trees lined the back fence of the garden. Small watermelon plants were starting to grow as the collard plots matured. Ricardo from Arizona shared knowledge he gained from experimenting with water conservation techniques in his garden. They were so happy to have this exchange of information–they showing us their work and us sharing ours.

We then toured the non-planned grazing areas of the community–which were stark and bare, with each house grazing their animals as they choose. Then we went to the planned grazing areas where the herds from each household were combined and moved through their holistic grazing plan. We asked how they knew one house hold’s cattle from another and Precious just laughed. She said, “oh they know their cattle. They know the sound of each one’s moo, let alone their markings.” Cattle here are more colorful than the States. A core group started with grazing holistically and then others have joined from the village. No one was forced to join. Slowly, most of the community is joining the grazing plan. The Africa Centre helped them apply for a grant to develop the community watering borehole (well), which was part of their grazing plan. From this work, the dry riverbed near the village started running again year round after years of running dry each year. Then, they were driving cattle 18 km to water each day and losing many head, but now water is not a problem.

We walked to the Zambezi River–rumbling through a deep gorge–the division between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Then we went back to the village head’s home (which is not one house but a group of small thatch-roofed huts in a yard of perfectly swept red earth) for a community meal. All cooking was done outside over handcrafted fire pits in cast iron pots and one enormous potjie pot filled with pap (which is like grits, basically). We had goat, a beef stew with carrots and onions, collard greens and a mix of perfectly chopped cabbage with tomatoes. The community ate mostly pap. It is the staple of their diet. We washed our hands with everyone and ate with our hands. We sat on the ground in a circle. It was the most delicious meal. After Tre spoke on our behalf and the village head spoke as well, the meal was over. As we left, everyone in the village joined together singing and clapping and then dancing. It was the most beautiful sound. We left so full of hope and happiness, community and good food.

We went to Victoria Falls then, touring the mini-rain forest and incredible water falls. Spence and I got soaked walking along the falls path with Sarah and Seare. Spencer and Seare climbing trees that lined the path like little boys. I must tell Maezy when I get home that we found the end of the rainbow there at Vic Falls. There were so many. It is, according to the information boards there, a sacred place that tribes from all over Southern and Eastern Africa travel to for rain dance ceremonies.

We ended the evening at the Victoria Falls Hotel–a grand and historic place filled with European, Australian and American tourists and then at a restaurant called the Boma where we dined on Eland meat balls, tons of salads, warthog, steaks, boere wors and joined in  restaurant-wide drumming and dancing. Such fun and laughter! Oh and Spencer, Tarquin, Trevor and others are officially Mopani worm eaters. Yes, they ate fried worms and got a certificate.

Back to business planning today. We are working through our one-page plan, discussing fundraising today including practicing pitches. It is back to work for all of us. We are ready to dig in to the last stretch of bootcamp.