Africa Matters News from Home and Abroad
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 9: Jul 2009
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 8: May 2008
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 7: September 2007
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 6: JUNE 2006
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 5:
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 4:
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 3: Summer 2003
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 2:
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol. 1:
This Fall Wendy made her 6th trip to Africa and her 5th
trip to Zimbabwe. Though Africa Matters did not fund her travel,
she was able to take with her items donated to the local community and to
conservation partners thanks to generous support at home.
Zimbabwe is under great stress from draught and a failed economy due to
political turmoil. Inflation is over 140% and supplies of basic
commodities are negligible to non-existent � mealie meal, fuel, sugar,
cooking oil and flour in particular. Several sources quote that 60% of
the wildlife has been lost, mostly to deteriorated management on private
preserves and concessions and a huge amount to illegal poaching.
Wendy: " My stay was mostly at Hwange National
Park where I have lived and worked in the past. I was welcomed back
warmly by the local community, including parks employees, friends and local
researchers. The Park has many lodges and chalets (cabins) which are
extremely affordable, and so I established my self there for approximately
four weeks. Much of my time was devoted to wildlife photography, but I
also carried out missions for Africa Matters."
I delivered school supplies and vegetable seeds for the students of the
school at Main Camp of Hwange National Park, where children of Parks
employees attend through elementary years.
Both the Head Master and Julia Salnicki, who teaches 7th graders
an Environmental Sciences class and whose research we support, were
delighted and deeply appreciative of the gifts. The class was planning on
preparing a large plot for planting season, first needing to secure
screening so that the garden could survive the resident monkeys and
mongooses that would otherwise raid destroy any garden. The produce will
enhance the limited diets of the students.
I was treated to a special daytime rehearsal of the school dance and marimba
company and shared many giggles as the kids watched themselves on her video
camera after they finished. (see photo)
During my second week, I was invited to join Julia and the 7th grade
students on a game drive into the Park. Although the children live at
Hwange and their parents work for the Park, many many had never been given
the opportunity to go into the park and or see the wildlife tourists always
are treated to. I can tell you it was a fabulous trip!! At the
very first waterhole we passed there was a herd of elephants, giraffes, kudu
and an ostrich. The students were SO excited. Later at sunset we saw
hundred of elephants and buffalo come to drink raising dust, filling the
evening with bellows and trumpets and excitement.
(...as Julia spells it).
Julia was thrilled with the Camp Chair Africa Matters donated to
her. Now when she must sit up (atop her vehicle) all night observing
her hyena, she has support. No more stiff and sore back! (see
I had a particular stroke of luck which had her hugging me and jumping up
and down and hugging me. On the first evening I went out with her, I
spotted a hyena � a very distinctive one who was missing a right ear.
Julia did not recognize this animal. At sunset I left the park,
but she stayed to observe this newcomer and discovered to her great joy,
that it was a female and she had pups. Even more joy that the
den was easily accessible and close to Julia�s cottage, making it easy to
monitor the den. Animals that are not radio collared can be impossible
to find, so finding a den with pups was a true bonus.
Julia got videotape of the pups that
night and realized they were younger than any she has had the opportunity
to study in the past 2 years and so might provide valuable research data.
On a later night, I too saw these tiny brown bundles of fur when the mother
called them out of the den to nurse. Julia graciously named the Mom
Brenda (after my son Brendan) since I already have an elephant named after
me. I confess, I have never been deeply fond of hyenas, but seeing Brenda
and her tiny babies was touching.
During my last week, Julia went off
into the bush making a large sweep in the park �calling� hyena to get a
census of the population. Julia will keep us updated on Brenda
and the pup's progress � or you can visit her website which is linked on
Some of you know that I have a long history with the PDPR (Painted Dog
Research Project). In 1997-1998 I spent a year at Hwange as a
volunteer at the Project Those were far leaner days. Consequently it was
very rewarding to see how far things have come since then. Their new
HQ has moved into new digs situated on Dept. of Forestry land at Ganda
Safari Lodge outside the Park. There is now adequate housing for
visiting volunteers and staff, as well as ample office space and equipment.
Formerly run by a small staff of dedicated volunteers, there are now 18
salaried employees and a constant flow of volunteers who are all working
hard on the building of a Community Education Center. The Center will
include holding pens for dogs that are injured, being re-located or
orphaned. The Center will include a large educational exhibit hall and
there will be housing for visiting students, teachers and researchers.
VERY exciting stuff! It is being build in the bush with much care to
limit any damage to the bush itself. And of course the research on the dogs continues.
It was just the end of the denning season, and so dogs were still deep in
the bush so, sad to say, I was not able to see any. Besides being
difficult to find, smart conservation dictates that dens receive as little
intrusion as possible so as not to stress and endanger the pups.
The bad news
is that dogs are being caught as unintended victims in wire snares set
to capture bush meat. These snares are cruel in the extreme, maiming
these endangered dogs, and other animals, elephants included. Two dogs
with horrendous injuries, but who had not been found, were receiving vet
care with hopes of their recovery and release.
Future for PDRP:
Plans at the Project include establishing an Arts and Crafts program and
workshop to teach local residents developing income-generating,
environmentally friendly crafts. I spent part of my time researching
what sorts of crafts are possible in the area, and will assist in the
selection of the specific crafts that will be funded, selecting the
artisans, and finding local and international markets. Africa Matters will
assist in locating markets and will offer a loan of funds to provide capital
for starting one craft. Equipment and supplies will be necessary to
start up. As the project becomes financially viable and repays the
loan, those funds will then be recycled to start another craft.
Oh, so MANY elephants. It is assumed that the draught has brought them
into the park to the waterholes in numbers hardly ever seen. Each
night there were hundreds and on at least one night, I would estimate 1000
sharing a large waterhole with 2000 buffalo! While this is thrilling
to the visitor, it is of course, devastating to the habitat. The
�elephant architecture� left behind is sad to see and will take years of
good rains to repair.
I spent a number of days out with Sharon. Her study herd is outside
the park. Having been the subject of a previous research project ,and
with Sharon's daily presence, they are quite habituated (tame).
Consequently we were always surrounded by elephants. They are quite
familiar with Sharon�s vehicle and thus will come RIGHT to the car, some
familiar enough to practically put their trunks in the window to see who is
inside! I was clearly something new. Quite thrilling to realize I
could have just put my hand on a wild elephant - which I didn�t do though it
was painfully tempting. This large herd has 20 families and Sharon is
currently identifying and documenting approximately 6 of them.
One is a �W� family and the matriarch
she has named Wendy � a lady with the largest, silliest ears I�ve ever seen
on an elephant. Her youngest baby I was allowed to name. It is
Winnie. Wendy did not appear with her family until my last day there
and it was truly a thrill when she stepped out from behind a bush. I
immediately recognized her from her photos. She generously stood and
posed for quite some time.
The Dog Project and Sharon are working together to rescue animals that have
been caught and injured in snares set by poachers. On my first day out
with Sharon, I saw 5 elephants which had been snared. Sharon�s passionate
advocacy has resulted in additional funds being received for a second
8-person anti-poaching team in the area. PDRP (Painted Dog Research
Project) which already has one trained team in the bush, has received
permission and license to set up a radio antenna to facilitate swift
communications when anyone finds an injured or snared animal. Africa
Matters has donated money to Sharon so she can afford her hand-radio to
contact PDRP when she spots snared animals in need of assistance.
Gregory Rasmussen, Director of PDRP, who is licensed to dart animals in the
wild, can be quickly contacted.
fact, I was privileged to witness them cooperatively rescue a little four
year old elephant who�s ankle was encircled by a wire snare that had cut
deeply and was badly infected. With the assistance and supervision of
National Parks and the property Manager of Touch the Wild where these
elephants live, the mother elephant was darted and drugged to prevent
problems, and the youngster was put down. Very quickly, the snare was
removed, antibiotics administered and within a short time, the little one
was up and trotting off into the bush. Mom was still standing there
"sleeping". This was the first time a standing immobilization of an elephant
had been attempted in the wild. It was a wild success paving the way for
future safe rescues. WHAT a joyous experience for us all!
COMPUTERS FOR WILDLIFE
CLUBS OF KENYA:
We have not yet found a company willing to donate the shipping of the
computers to Wildlife Clubs of Kenya. All ideas are welcome. In
the meantime, we continue to raise funds for that purpose. As this may
prove an on-going problem, a long-term solution for shipments needs some
attention. If you would be interested to tackle it, please be in
touch. In 2003 we will be working to initiate a program allowing students in
Kenya utilize the computers to dialogue about conservation and ecological
issues with students here in the United States. We are researching the
possibility of establishing a loan to provide seed money for the Arts and
Crafts project in Zimbabwe.
We have had
an exciting first year and want to update our friends on what we accomplished
our first year, what we�re currently up to, and what the plans are for the
In February we had a great
time at our benefit, dancing to the infectious beat of KOSONO, who came up from
Santa Cruz. The event put us over the top for the funds we needed to ship our
computers to Wildlife Clubs of Kenya.
UPDATE TO SCHOOL
Julia Salnicki has managed to get EVERYONE involved!
Students, parents, teachers � and even the Dog Project who donated wire to
cover the tender shoots and dissuade local critters and varmints from
helping themselves to a tasty treat. The garden is not only planted, but
now has a fence around it and will soon have a gate. Parents are helping the
students monitor and water the garden. The current problem is to find an
environmentally friendly pesticide to keep the bugs from eating the
tomatoes�.a part of the learning curve.
UPDATE TO PAINTED DOG
The Painted Dogs, as well as all the other animals in
Zimbabwe, continue to struggle in the face of increased illegal poaching.
However, work is continuing on the construction of the Community
Conservation Center. The Dog Project has invited Wendy to come and help
establish an arts and crafts program as part of the Center. The goal will
be to create jobs for local artisans to provide income and teach the use
sustainable use of natural resources in creating crafts. Africa Matters will
make a loan to the Dog Project to purchase tools for crafts work. This will
be a rolling loan: once sale of crafts can pay it back, it will roll over to
another craft. Wendy leaves on May 1 for a four-month stay. There will be
many challenges in a country full of economic and political strife and where
there is much hunger unrelieved by either rain or donor foods.
UPDATE TO ELEPHANTS:
We�re sad to have to report that the elephants in the
Hwange area are suffering greatly from the game poaching � Sharon Pincott
writes regularly of finding members of her study herd with snare on their
feet, necks and trunks. One dead animal was found to have been both snared
and shot � and she could only hope that the evidence that poachers now had
fire arms. Consequently her efforts to raise fund to pay for snare removal
are at fever pitch. If you want to make a contribution to these efforts
(drugs are very expensive), please get in touch with us.
UPDATE TO COMPUTERS:
They are now on the
high seas and scheduled to arrive in Nairobi the first week of June.
Director Wendy Blakeley has been conferring with EarthTeam staff (see
to develop a program whereby the student club members of Wildlife Clubs of
Kenya can access a web chat room and share their concerns, questions and
solutions to environmental problems with local student EarthTeam members.
To trigger interest, Wendy recently made
presentations to students of environmental science classes and conservation
clubs in local high schools, whetting their enthusiasm for being the first in
line to talk to the students in Kenya. Both at Pinole Valley High School
and El Cerrito High, eyes popped and questions flew in response to the materials
and slides Wendy presented.
The exchange with Kenya will be our
dry run for what we hope to expand to other countries � Zimbabwe, Botswana and
Namibia. If you have computers you want to donate, preferably web ready
laptops, please contact us. Also if you would like to be involved in the
development of this program or have experience with similar types of endeavors,
we hope you�ll share with us.
We are excited to report
that Mountain Travel/Sobek, The Adventure Company, has taken Africa Matters
under their wing, and will promote our work to their clients. We are deeply
grateful for this valuable support and look forward to working with their
Africa Operations Director, Caitlin Lepper. Discussions are underway
regarding activities that can benefit both their travelers and the projects
Wendy will be taking
materials from River of Words (see Projects) with her to Zimbabwe as well as
on-line to Kenya, to further encourage the use of artistic expression as a
tool in the world of conservation. We particularly encourage you to purchase
their new book, �River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water�
edited by Pamela Michael. It is an eloquent example of what we know to be
true � youth and art equal education for us all. Please check their website
for how to acquire the book.
BEAT BUGLE Vol.3: Summer 2003 (Winter in Zimbabwe)
We are happy to report that word from the Program Director of Wildlife Clubs
of Kenya informs us that the 6 computers that Africa Matters has donated for
their regional centers have arrived in Mombassa and are being cleared
through Customs. Following that, they will be deployed around the country.
Then, a long held dream will come true, and we will facilitate the Club
Members ability to communicate directly with high school Environmental
Studies students here in the Bay Area of California.
Needless to say, we see this as the mere start of broader program to
include other African countries. Earth Team will assist in designing a
curriculum and program that will promote understanding globally universal
environmental problems and solutions.
Africa Matters Director Wendy Blakeley left for Zimbabwe the first of May to
assist the Painted Dog Conservation project in establishing an arts and
crafts program in their local community. AM has made contribution of tools
for the craftsman as well as school supplies for the elementary school at
Hwange National Park.
Wendy reports that the Painted Dog staff is hard at work building a
large, multi-faceted facility that will include a dog rehabilitation center;
a bush camp that will house at least 40 students at a time with classrooms,
dinning hall all set in the bush and built in traditional style.
Additionally there will be a large visitors� center with exhibits to inform
all visitors, local and foreign, about the Dogs and their endangered state.
She will work closely with the Project�s Education Director to help design
these exhibits and incorporate arts and crafts into any program to further
the efforts of conservation.
Her own work took a while to get off the ground, given the usual
problems of living in the bush, securing materials, finding the artists and
crafts people, lack of fuel to travel around freely. BUT by this writing a
sewing project is well underway, with a group of 13 women at the local
village of Dete busily sewing and a group of 6 men who are painting wildlife
and flora for use on greeting cards.
In the after school hours, the children at the 3 local schools are
invited to come to the hall rented for the Crafts project, to spend an hour
drawing or doing wire craft. In this way it is expected to identify
individuals of artistic promise who can then be brought along to learn
crafts that can offer them a career path, or at the very least, bring them
Wendy has found it interesting that in this culture and education
program, most of the �artists� are boys; very few girls come. Needless to
say she is making an effort to make the sessions available to all!
It has been a rewarding effort � already one youngster of 11 has been
identified as extremely, naturally gifted and he will be monitored and his
The goal is that as soon a s possible, the running of these crafts will
be turned over to a locals, and thus not only providing income for those
making crafts, but open up a managerial jobs for a few others.
All of this will depend upon finding viable markets for their goods. Africa
Matters will assist in locating vendors in the U.S. when Wendy brings back
the first sample products in September.
If anyone is interested and has experience in marketing we would be
delighted to hear from you.
Part of the intent is to educate the local community to the value of
conservation and so there is an effort in all of this to start to steer
craftspeople away from curios carved from trees they cut. Deforestation due
to the need for fuel is something hard to control, but cutting trees that
can bee 100 years old for the roadside curio industry is something that can
When the Exhibit Hall at the Community Conservation and Education Center
(CCED) opens, there will be a small shop where visitors will be able to
purchase these crafts.
In addition to the Crafts workshops, Wendy has been asked to contribute
her expertise from her form �life� in the performing arts, by coaching a
group of young performance artists, Ingoyama. They have been formed with
the specific purpose of presenting plays in the local communities and school
about conservation. Their style is traditional and they incorporate
traditional song and dance into their work. These thirteen young people
ranging in age from 15 to 21 have gained a lot of attention � which Wendy
reports is much deserved. She will bring video and audiotapes with her to
have available and promote this group. It is the ideal recipient for Africa
Matters � whose motto is Conservation through Art, Education and Science.
NEXT: Africa Matters will have an exhibit at the Wildlife Conservation
Network Expo to be held the 2nd weekend in October. See their website at
www.wildnet.org for details. We will have items for sale (crafts and
t-shirts), as well as more detailed information about the Kenya and Zimbabwe
efforts we are supporting.
The political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has not only affected the
people, but the wildlife is suffering greatly. Some figures put the loss of
wildlife in the last 2 years at over 60%. Illegal snaring is rampant and
the dogs are easy victims. It is feared that a local pack has all been
killed excepting the Alpha Female who has also been snared, though she is
still alive. Efforts to locate and treat her are underway.
In July and August painted Dog will sponsor several workshops, inviting
locals to try their hands and creating sculptures from the lethal, illegal
snare wires, brought out of the bush by the APU�s (Anti-Poaching Units).
The best of these will be used for an international exhibit to raise
awareness of the devastating effects of poaching, and to raise funds to
further support the APU teams. There are MILES of every sort of wire
The demise of the tourism industry, which formerly brought in much needed
foreign money and employed a broad section of people, has proved a hardship
to people and wildlife. Without the tourists, it is almost impossible to
maintain the parks and private conservancies � to employ guards, find and
afford fuel for pumps to keep water available to the animals, to protect and
rescue endangered animals. Just in the western end of Hwange National Park,
poachers have in the last several months killed 11 black rhino � one of the
most endangered species on the continent.
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol.
4: Fall 2003
Director Wendy Blakeley�s report
update us on her work with Painted Dog Conservation this past year.
In 2002 I had been asked by Painted Dog Conservation
Zimbabwe if I would be willing to come there and take on the task of setting
up an arts and crafts program in the local community. The Dog Project is
located just outside Hwange National Park on the west end of Zim. Dete
(pronounced Debtay) is the small community near by. Since I have spent
time there in the past and know my way around and also am known by many of
the local people both in the community, at the National Park and by other
field research projects it seemed a good fit, to say nothing of a fabulous
opportunity to expand on the aims of AFRICA MATTERS (that of "Conservation
through ART" part).
To do justice to the effort in Zimbabwe, I resigned my
long time position at the law firm that has been supportive of my trips and
work for the past 12 years, and in May I went to Zimbabwe to take on a
challenge of doing something I have never done before. But I trusted my
desire to make it work, my confidence in the talents of the people and the
support of the Dog Project.
Both the long dedication of Greg Rassmussen,
founder and Director of PD,
his passion to ensure the preservation of the African Painted Hunting Dogs
and his vision for what that effort could mean to the local community, as well as the never ending work of the Project Manager Peter
Blinston, Painted Dog has grown from the 1 man - 1 volunteer status it was
when I first went (1997-98) to a large new complex encompassing a dog
rehabilitation facility, an exhibit center and the Children�s Bush Camp and
education program � and now the Arts and Crafts Project--- an amazing
accomplishment given all the trials and tribulations that have been heaped
on Zimbabwe in recent years.
To answer the inevitable questions I get �
yes I am fine (safe) when I am there. No, I do not worry or feel threatened. Yes,
what is happening to the people is horrendous and the spillover to what is
happening to the wildlife (THE premiere draw of tourists to this gorgeous
country) is heartbreaking. But I have always been humbled by both the
people and the wildlife of Africa. The people still maintain their dignity,
sense of humor, generosity, gentility, music and carry on. The
animals�..well they are always gracious in sharing their space with us if we
behave ourselves and we all thank them for that. When driving around, I
never question who has the right of way. I am in the bush and it is
The situation in Zimbabwe is not good; rampant
inflation, lack of foreign exchange cash to purchase imported goods, bad
rains for several years as well as political tensions have made the lives of
much of the population, and in particular those in rural areas, desperate.
Unemployment is near 70% nationally. The Dete area was heavily
dependent on the tourism industry, which is currently non-existent, as world
travelers have been convinced it is unsafe to travel to Zimbabwe.
But on to the project:
aim my efforts was to assist the people to develop arts and craft
products made in an environmentally friendly way, to marketed there and
The Dog Project rented a workspace and sent
out word in late May that a new project was being set up. Word of mouth
proved the most valuable and discerning, if slow, method of advertising the
project. Consequently, artisans were still appearing shortly before my
departure in September. We looked for talent and skills in both adults and
children. The difficulty of sourcing and acquiring materials and tools in
Zimbabwe, the daily problem of fuel for transportation, meant that it was a
difficult project to get off the ground. But momentum grew during those
months, and I came back with a good range of products to show vendors here.
I was able to select enough
artists and provide them with materials and tools for them to produced
quality items that they were paid for. We secured the assistance of master
wire craftsman Jay Thakaya from Victoria Falls to teach and seek out those
with particular ability to work with wire. Jay proved to be a gifted
teacher, both to the participants and to myself. He was able to inform me
about the best ways to address people, cultural issues I was unaware of and
to tease me much about how language poor I am. With his help we began to
sift out wire talent, from adults to children.
During this start up period we rented the
Dete Community Recreation Hall. It had the benefit of location near the
compound where most of the residents live and was available during the hours
we needed space. One day a week each of the schools in Dete sent most
artistically inclined of their children to the Hall for drawing and
wirework. There are 2 primary and 1 secondary schools in Dete. These
sessions helped identify children with skill and talent who will be
monitored and encouraged during the coming years. In fact a number of these
youngsters had their art and wire crafts purchased for resale. The monies
they earned are being directed to their education and will be used to pay
school fees, and purchase their school supplies and uniforms. Many children
do not get education for want of this money.
The adults worked in several areas: wire,
painting and sewing. Eventually we established a core group of nine men who
do small wildlife paints that are then affixed to greeting cards. MAPEPA
owner Walter Ruprecht donated a huge supply of papers made form nature
fibers (grasses, barks, dung) for our initial efforts. In the future we
hope to make our own papers, as we are in an area rich in these resources.
Approximately 15 women worked at making fabric hats. Slowly wire craftsman
presented themselves and their work�much of it coming at the end of my
visit. Some youngsters were also then inspired to bring their personal
creation. These proved to be of particular ingenuity and integrity.
WOOD: well the Project has the goal of
weaning local artists away form wood simply because the woodcrafts tourist
trade has been key in decimating the local forest. HOWEVER after years of
looking we have found artists who can replicate the DOGS. Lewis Present is
using downed NOT CUT wood to make these miniature, true to nature, carvings
which never ail to charm anyone who sees them. We hope to keep him busy,
and to eventually move him over to doing ceramics as well as
This was a totally unexpected event in the
lives of the residents of Dete: to be able to utilize their natural talents
to EARN a SALARY! And trust me, there is MUCH talent there.
INGONYAMA: King of
- spreading the word
Wendy Blakeley arrived at the Painted Dog Conservation Project in May of
2003 having accepted the invitation to initiate an Arts and Crafts program
for them in the local area around Hwange National Park. The goal was to
promote sustainable use of natural resources while developing marketable
arts and crafts to improve the economic status of people in this area, which
has been hard hit by the near disappearance of the tourist trade, and
rampant inflation in Zimbabwe over the last several years.
Immediately upon her arrival, the staff of another research station, the
Hwange Lion Research, approached Wendy Blakeley, knowing of her background
in theatre, and asked if she would take on the task as acting coach and
artistic consultant to INGONYAMA. This is a group made up of young people
from the area on the northern edges of Hwange National Park, more
specifically, the community of Dete. It was formed in 2003 with the mission
of taking conservation education to local schools in the form of drama and
dance, with emphasis on the issue of responsibility for the care of the land
They have developed a style of theatre that is a
unique fusion of contemporary and innovative techniques, resulting in a
repertoire that unfailingly enchants their audiences, be they children or
adults, locals or foreigners. They have also have earned a well-deserved
reputation for their performances of traditional songs and dances. Wendy was
thrilled to find theatrical talent of this caliber in the group, who were
however in need of assistance to improve their performance techniques and in
developing new materials.
Both the Dog Project Staff and Wendy were more
than glad to assist them since the work fulfills goals common to all
Conservation projects whether aimed at a specific animal (Dogs, Lions) and
the broader aims of responsible use of land and wildlife. Wendy found this
an exciting, challenging and rewarding partnership. She will continue to
coach their work in 2004, to continue improving their performance skills and
develop new material.
INGONYAMA is in constant need of additional
financial support to improve their artistic work and their ability to carry
the message of conservation. As with any theatre group there are the needs
of costumes, props, transportation as well as food and lodgings when they
You can assist them by making a tax-deductible donation
(Federal) through AFRICA MATTERS, by sending your check with a note stating
you want the contribution to be directed to Ingonyama.
We are hoping to cut a CD of their music during 2004 �
giving you a taste of their talents! Stay tuned.
BUSH BEAT BUGLE Vol.
5: Fall 2005
Board of Director changes: Member Robyn Marshall has retired from her three year service on the Board but we have added Pamela Michael, Executive Director of River of Words and Lori Komejan, artist and zoo keeper at the San Francisco Zoo.
Wildlife Conservation Network Expo: In both 2004 and 2005, Board Members and Africa Matters volunteers staffed AM�s table at the WCN Expo held at Foothill College in Los Altos WCN sponsors some of the premier wildlife biologists in the world who gather at the Expo and make presentations on the current status of their work. Besides providing attendees literature about Africa Matters, we function as the marketing arm for Iganyana Arts, the community development project sponsored by Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe.
Both years this work proved the most popular at the Expo. Sales of these unique and premier crafts, bring much needed income to the artisans.
Africa matters founder and Board President, Wendy Blakeley has spent the major portion of both 2004 and 2005 in Dete, Zimbabwe.
Painted Dog Conservation initiated this community development project in 2003, beginning on a small scale, by identifying, encouraging and training the talent in the area to create art and crafts for the national and international markets. Artisans now produce over 70 products.
The primary goal of the program is to bring immediate financial benefit to those artisans whose work proved of high quality. A secondary but equally important goal is the teaching of conservation through the sustainable use of natural resources in the selection of products and the materials used to make them. A third benefit is to educate foreign tourists as well as the local residents about the precarious status of the Painted Dog in Africa, and more specifically in Zimbabwe.
In 2004 the project secured the long-term use of a wonderful building in Dete, on the border of Hwange National Park, thanks to Landela Safaris. With the help of people who had participated in 2003, this building was quickly scrubbed, painted, repaired and decorated, turning it into a clean, bright, attractive facility housing both the crafts work and the administration for the Art Center. At this time, the official name of IGANYANA ARTS was adopted. Iganyana is the Ndebele word for Painted Dog. Quickly the Art Center was in full production. Materials used are approximately 70% recycled.
The Center has become a bustling place where people spend their days flexing their artistic muscles. Eventually this project will become self-sustaining and be administered by locals.
Artisans, both adults and youth, are provided with materials and equipment, a place to work and training where needed. They are paid per piece for work that passes quality control inspection. Many of the people are now developing their own unique signature style as well as their own product designs.
SNARE WIRE SCULPTURE
To further educate the world about the destruction of wildlife, and particularly the insidious use of wire snares indiscriminately used in illegal poaching, we have contracted local artists to create sculpture made from these torturous wires which are removed from the bush by our Anti-Poaching Units. These wonderful and unique creations will be shipped to Europe and the proceeds from their sales will be used to raise awareness as well as funds to further support our anti-poaching efforts.
BUSH BEAT BUGLE: VOL. 6 JUNE 2006
Old Current Future News
Dates to Note:
AFRICA MATTERS ANNUAL FUND RAISER
Date to be announced
Keep looking here for exact date, time and location.
To secure an invitation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION NETWORK EXPO
Be certain to put this on your calendar and look for our table at the Expo.
Date: October 7-8, 2006
|Location:||FOOTHILL COLLEGE||10AM - 5 PM|
|12345 EL MONTE ROAD|
|LOS ALTOS HILLS|
For details on the fabulous expo visit www.wildnet.org
If you would like to volunteer your assistance (A) at our table at WCN Expo selling Iganayana Arts and Crafts and promoting Africa Matters, you will get free admission to the Expo. and the possibility of attending some of the lectures by major movers in wildlife conservation from around the globe. (B) assist us in organizing the Africa Mattes Fund raiser scheduled as above Contact: Wendy Blakeley in Oakland at 510/655-4528 Or email@example.com
It has been a long time since I have sent word out of Africa. The reasons are mostly positive � just being very busy and happy to be able to report good success at the project I am working at here in Dete, Zimbabwe.
The downside reasons, which will not surprise anyone who keeps abreast of things in Zimbabwe, is that some things work some of the time, a number of things don�t ever work, many things break with regularity but not on any predictable schedule --we speak of email, computers, phones, 2-way radios, vehicles, tires, hot water heaters, printers� These things all add to the challenge of keeping morale high and Iganyana Arts and Crafts on an upward path.
CONSERVATION THROUGH ART
I have now been here in Dete, Zimbabwe for most of the last 2 years establishing Iganyana Arts & Crafts. Dete is a small community that sits right at the edge of Hwange National Park � one of the largest parks in Africa. It is a culturally rich place, with representation of many tribes from both Zimbabwe and her neighbors Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana. Many of my friends speak 3, 4 or even 5 languages! Established years ago to serve a huge tourist trade, it now is on hard times, approximately 70-80% unemployed, and perhaps as much as 60% HIV positive � and still everyone smiles and greets you, stranger or not.
I am here as a volunteer at Iganyana Arts Center, with the title of Community Arts Coordinator for Painted Dog Conservation Trust, a Zimbabwean organization. Iganyana is a community development project with the mission of bringing income into the community and spread the gospel that conservation pays. Establishing a business in any location is a challenge. As you might suspect setting up this business and ushering it through the usual growing pains here is an even more challenging and has consumed most all my time and energy. I have returned to California in the Autumn of both 2004 and 2005 and will do the same in 2006 � to engage in Africa Matters activities as well as expand Iganyana markets
You can learn more about all of PDC�s activities and about the Dogs by visiting www.painteddog.org
Drawing on the seemingly endless talents of the local people, we now produce about 40 products and have managed to find outlets both local and international. We have developed a reputation for innovative designs and top quality of workmanship.
My tasks span a broad range from selecting the artisans, organizing training, developing new products, supervising quality control, and the biggest task: marketing.
Given the economic and political turmoil in the country, it is a credit to the support of Painted Dog Conservation, friends of Africa Matters and most particularly the talents of the community.
One of the most unique products we create are those items made from snares. These illegal wire snares are removed from the bush and forest by Painted Dog�s anti-poaching patrols, where they torture, maim and kill animals indiscriminately and so pose a great threat to the highly endangered Painted ("wild") Dogs. We at the Art Center take those wires and turn them into beautiful functional and decorative crafts as well as wire sculptured animals. Purchase of these items carry with them a powerful message about conservation and economics, and keep the wire from being recycled back into he bush to kill more animals.(see photos in the Gallery)
The Center is now marketing around Zimbabwe and in countries abroad including the U.S., U.K., Holland, Australia, France and soon to expand into Zambia and try our luck in Namibia.
Targeting women, the upcoming year will see efforts to develop products that will specifically get more women involved at the center. We have just found another jewel. Trinity is a 19 year of girl who has joined us and after several weeks of apprenticeship is already creating her own line of jewelry. Our search for a traditional basket weaver has brought us an elderly llady who speaks no English but nods her head yes at all I ask of her.
If we manage to continue as we have the past years, we will shortly be self-sustaining, and will eventually turn over all administration to locals. Currently the Center employs a full-time administrative assistant and have just taken on a new trainee to assist her.
INGONYAMA DANCE AND DRAMA GROUP
Since 2003 Director Wendy Blakeley has been coaching, teaching and advising this local group of young men. Originally formed through the sponsorship of Hwange Lion Research Project, they were tasked with traveling out to rural land community schools and bring the conservation message through dance, song and drama. During this time the group has continued to grow artistically and, to my judgment, is now world class. Pretty amazing that such a group could be found all in the same little community.
In 2003 they cut their first CD and now they�re beginning to look for a far better studio to cut a new disk. They have traveled twice to Namibia where, in Windhoek, they are offered work seven nights a week. Though they regret having to leave families behind, and Wendy mourns their absence, they are able to earn hard cash and so manage to use their talents to support their artistic work.
During My return to California, I will be seeking support for this group. Having traveled with them to the schools and seen the powerful impact they have on young minds it is a worthy cause to keep them in the field. No other effort has the same effect. Ingonyama are local heroes to these young minds � they all want to grow up and be INGONYAMA!
They know the songs, the dances, they imitate the drama. which means they are watching and llistening. It is electrifying to see these performaces and I am deeply commited to helping the group continue this work, as well as advance their musical career.
They will be in need of "kit" � 9 matching shirts and ad pairs o shoes; duffel bags, a new drum, office supplies, printer ink cartridge, blank CDs and cases and more. I will be bringing their "VUMANI MADODA" CD with me to sell, which offers seventeen songs, most written by the group members.
If you are interested to knolw more about this group to promote conservation through their ART, please get in touch with us. (Email Iganyana@mweb.co.zw or firstname.lastname@example.org)
CONSERVATION THROUGH EDUCATION
SCHOLARSHIP FUND DRIVE
Just prior to my annual visit in 2005, it became clear that the economy here and the general unsettled political climate was going to make it difficult for many children to return to school in 2006 � word had come that school fees were going to rise significantly � and YES there was a time when education was free here, and that Zimbabwe had one of the highest literacy rates in the world�. All in the past now.
AFRICA MATTERS quickly sent out word to friends, families and colleagues and managed to raise funds to sponsor students in Dete� s three schools. At the present we are paying fees for 52 students � 15 in each of the primary schools and 22 in Detema Secondary. Our input pays the government levy as well as the specific school�s fees. It does not cover costs of uniforms, books, exam fees or, in the case of secondary students, any sports day fees. This fund went farther than what was anticipated but, from the time we solicited donations and when the money arrived in the country, the Zim dollar devalued and so our money was able to help a large group of students. The staff at Detema Secondary was effective in identifying students who (1) have proved serious about their studies, (2) that were in desperate need of assistance, and (3) most who also belong to the Conservation Club.
By the last year of secondary education, here known as Form Four, students write exams in the subjects they choose. Most students want to take seven exams hoping to have high marks ("pass")in at least 5 of those. Each subject is paid separately and currently the fee is $500,000 Zimbabwe dollars, which at the current official exchange rate is $5 U.S. But if you are a Zimbabwean, having a child write seven exams, means paying a total of $3,500,000 and very very few families can afford that. Inflation at the moment is at 1,200% so even a loaf of bread at $100,000 becomes a complete luxury.
MORE HARDSHIP �NEED FOR YOUR HELP: The financial tables have now turned again. Overnight with no prior warning to us, during the April school term break school fees at the government primary school were just raised 1000%. The Catholic primary school tripled. Now we are struggling to fulfill our commitment to get these students through this 2006 school year and 2007 then looms. Fees at the Detema Secondary will without fail go up markedly at the new year, threatening to leave students without the ability to finish their schooling.
Many public services, housing, health, and education have taken a brutal beating this past year. A hungry, unhealthy, cold and uneducated populace are easy to intimidate and control. AFRICA MATTERS is trying to do a bit to assure that at least some students are not left sitting at home and hopeless.
I am working with staff at Painted Dog to organize the Form Four Secondary Students to do an internship at the PDC facilities to expose them to the many ways a person can work in the field of conservation, in ways other than being a biologist. They will visit the Children�s Educational Bush Camp, the dog Rehabilitation Center to learn about the dogs, the visitor�s center which is still under construction, take a walk with our anti-poaching units in the bush if possible and observe at the HQ for Painted Dog, and of course, a visit here at the Arts Center in Dete
WE ENCOURAGE YOU to consider a tax-deductible donation to our School Fees Fund. See the attached Sponsor Donation Form.
Wendy will be in California from mid-September until December 1 2006 . If you are interested in a presentation to your group, students, etc. Please email email@example.com or phone Barry Blakeley at 510-663-5397 in California.
BUSH BEAT BUGLE: VOL. 7 September 2007
It is hard to evaluate the success and failure of our work over the past year while I am sitting here immersed the daily trials of life in Zimbabwe where so many things are failing or disappearing, where so much is broken with no repair in sight; where hunger hovers over everyone and hope stretches only to the next day and not much further for many.
As might be expected, the people here, at least in Matabeleland North province where Africa Matters has its input, are greatly stressed, suffering hardship with many empty stomachs; most sources of income have been lost; there is no longer a functioning clinic, and schools have pared down the curriculum, lost qualified teachers and suffer for want of materials. Still these people manage always to smile and greet you, children jump up and wave and shout when I drive past (�kiwa, or Wendy); they take education deadly serious, and yes, even sing and dance at the least chance.
Nevertheless, there are success stories and ours is one.
I am still here residing in Dete, a small community of mixed ethnicities, that sits on the border of Hwange National Park. I am still the volunteer Community Arts Coordinator for Painted Dog Conservation Zimbabwe, and as such, my main function is to run Iganyana Arts and Crafts.
My two main areas of work have been the expansion of Iganyana Arts and in this past year, more work in conservation education, through my involvement with Ingonyama Dance and Drama. We all apologize for the confusion of names, but it was not to be helped:
IGANYANA is the Ndebele name for the Painted Dogs.
INGONYAMA is a Zulu word meaning "lion king of the beasts". The drama group had this name before I became involved with them.
In a nutshell, with more detail below: (A) we again funded 52 students for the full school year, and (B) we made donation to Ingonyama Dance and Drama group to assure their continued work.
IGANYANA ARTS AND CRAFTS: Africa Matters continues to function as the fiscal agent and marketing arm for Iganyana Arts' international clients. Iganyana is a community development project sponsored by Painted Dog Conservation Zimbabwe (www.painteddog.org). In so doing we assist in expanding awareness of wildlife and habitat conservation with the added advantage of bringing income to those for whom it is most important.
I am happy to report that the Arts project has managed to continue to grow and that we are now no longer working in the red, but with new international customers, we are making a profit. That means that the crafts workers are able to earn hard cash each month for the goods the manufacture. Our reputation for innovative items and high quality work has allowed us to expand in the face of daily obstacles.
Each day is a mixture of crisis management, creative thinking to secure materials and patience to solve an unending stream of unforeseen hurdles. What with power outages bringing dead phones, email and computers; lack of fuel, daily tire punctures, plumbing failures, empty shop shelves, you can never know exactly what you will accomplish on a given day. Cost of anything changes from day to day or even hour to hour making your business plan a shambles before you've even got it documented. How DO you price your product and establish fair pay????? You can make a plan, but you often must let it go and deal with the immediate reality.
Still in the fact of all that, we have created new products to fulfill interesting requests from customers; added 5 new artisans; refined our production and administrative capabilities.
If you are interested to see the wares produced or have a suggestion for an outlet, send an email and I can forward our CD Catalogue to you. (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).
BUSH BEAT BUGLE: VOL. 8 May 2008
INGONYAMA ACTIVITIES: a Short Report
In April, the drama and dance group did a week-long workshop with students from 6 schools, three local and 3 a distance away. This is a term break period, so some students who attend distant schools are home during the break. They students were grades 6 through 12 and there were 28 participants.
The Drama group was assisted by Zulu who is a teacher and community development officer with Painted Dog. By profession is is a former school teacher and also holds a professional guide's license. His work with the group had a goal to develop a set of activities that can be used when he goes out on one day visits to our local 16 schools, getting the children actively involved using drama, story writing, discussion, games, songs and dances.
At this workshop, the group was eventually divided into 4 groups and each group then wrote a play. Wendy did a tiny bit of acting/stage craft training. The students proved very adept at writing short scripts with strong characters and the hoped for PC message. By the end of te week, each group performed their playlet.
As you can see from the attached photos, a new banner is needed. We gave each child an exercise book to take notes and write their stories and poems. They each also got a pencil. There were no prizes given at this workshop. We have run out of items that are inexpensive enough to have a lot and that can be transported easily.
You can see the nice shirts the guys have on. I had these made as a rush order before I left in February; they are very simple but do make the group identifiable at a distance. Just say INGONYANA DANCE AND DRAMA TROUP on the front and On the back: CREATIVITY AND CONSERVATION, Dete, Zimbabwe.
This workshop was a big effort and very well conducted. The each were paid $100 from last years allocation of funds.
BUSH BEAT BUGLE: VOL. 9 Jul 2009
BUSH BEAT BUGLE JULY 2009
Submitted by Director, Wendy Blakeley
Writing from Zimbabwe
2009 was kicked off at our 2nd ANNUAL AFRICAN BUSH DINNER FUND RAISER at the Oakland Zoo on February 23rd. Once again it was a wonderful evening with so many of you, our friends, sponsors, and supporters joining us. We were deeply moved by seeing every table full at the dinner. The evening was, well lively, joyful, and successful! Even those who could not attend extended their helping hands with donations.
Since the world economic crisis had just hit, we were amazed at the attendance at this function. Old friends and many NEW friends joined us. Kathy Getty, who has been an invaluable friend and mentor to me in my new field of arts and crafts, volunteered to do our auction display and it was a key factor in our success. People were drawn back again and again raising the bids! Kuzanga Marimba Band was back with their wonderful uplifting Zimbabwean marimba music; the food by Terry Paulding & Co. was again irresistible. Our Board Members and volunteers contributed in so many invisible ways and they deserve huge thanks. And there is no way to express our gratitude to the Oakland Zoo for not only providing the venue, but help in many other ways.
If you were not able to attend, don�t miss the next one and mark your calendars NOW for:
February 13, 2010.
If you know of others who would like notification, please get in touch.
SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM Third (and final) Term 2009 September through December
30 primary and 13 secondary students
Food Lunch Program
for 4 students taking 6 graduation exams
INGONYAMA DANCE AND DRAMA CONSERVATION EDUCATION ACTIVITIES
Salaries for workshops
BINDE OVENS (see below)
I returned to Dete, Zimbabwe in mid-March where I wear two hats: one as the Community Arts Coordinator for Painted dog Conservation and of course as the facilitator for Africa Matters activities.
Fulfilling our mission statement of supporting "conservation through art, education and science", our funds support:
(A) SCHOLARSHIP FUND continues to support students from indigent families by paying school fees so they do not have their education interrupted for failure to pay fees. For the 2009 school year we are funding 12 students at Detema Secondary and 15 each at Dete Primary and St. Francis Xavier Primary, one at Marist Brothers Secondary and lesser support for several others.
Scholarship students visit Painted Dog Visitors� Center Students do weekend litter patrol
Interpretative Hall around town
(B) FOOD FOR THOUGHT Also knowing that empty stomachs make empty minds, we have assisted with the hot lunch program for the primary students. This also encourages attendance! We have provided maize which when ground into (mealie) meal is the staple in the local diet, and to prepare it we have donated cooking oil and salt. Never eaten alone and knowing there is little protein in most diets during these very hard times in Zimbabwe, we organized the purchase of a cow for the Dete Primary School. The Catholic and Secondary schools have other sponsors who assist with their food programs.
Ever resourceful, the Deputy Head, Dominic Nyathi along with students and maintenance staff butchered the large beast right on the premises. I have not been at a butchering since the dark ages on my grandparents farm so it seemed quite a dramatic event.
(C) INGONYAMA DANCE AND DRAMA GROUP CONSERVATION EDUCATION:
Between June 2008 and present we provided new uniforms for the group to wear and be easily identified when doing their conservation work, new Africa Matters and Ingonyama banners for use at their workshops. Individual donors have provided support materials including items to use as prizes given for outstanding performance at workshops and as encouragement at the teaching sessions.
The 2008 August weeklong intensive workshop was a huge success much praised by the community. Mr. Mahlabezulu Zulu of Painted Dog Conservation assisted us in organization and facilitation. Forty students were selected from a large pool of applicants. Many community leaders made presentations, as did representatives from the local research and conservation organizations, including the Anti-Poaching squads, National Parks, Lion Research, Painted Dog Research and many more.
WORKSHOP: Holding the lion�s skull Being a giraffe!
LACK OF FUNDS may prohibit our annual workshop this year. Though fundraiser was up, costs of everything in Zimbabwe are higher than ever, and with 90% unemployment, need is greater.
You can still help!! SEE BELOW
2009: Ingonyama has added a new presentation to their already varied offerings to local students. With the use of newly acquired "Planet Earth" video, the troupe developed questionnaires and vocabulary lists for various segments of the set (The Great Plains, The Deserts, and Forests). Borrowed video equipment was used to take this to the secondary schools. Both teachers and students were thrilled, and enthusiastic for a return visit. These presentations had a huge impact as schools these days do not even have textbooks, but teachers do all teaching from chalkboards and lectures.
Everyone, students, teachers and Ingonyama, agree that there is huge potential for expanding this program, which not only increases their knowledge of conservation issues, but also widens their perspective of these concerns.
FUNDS again are already expended for 2009!!
NEW INITIATIVE: 2009 BINDE OVEN
I am exploring the cost of production of these simple ceramic ovens. Two
local ceramics workshops are making prototypes to determine costs for eventual sale and/or donation. Almost all rural people still use wood as their main source of fuel. This constant wood collection endangers the health of the forests by depleting the biodegrading on the forest floor. Air pollution from the fires in the villages is an on-going problem, especially since malaria and asthma are both high.
These simple small ovens use only 1/4 of the firewood that an open fire uses. This also means less labor for women who spend one day a week collecting firewood often having to walk long distances to find wood, and hand carrying it home.
BENEFITS: Less impact on the forests
Less air pollution
Less work for women
Start up costs: $300
sleeping bags for each of the 9 members. When they travel out to
Schools they are accommodated for sleep in classrooms with broken windows and cement
Cement floors. Used donations are very acceptable. Sleep mats an added bonus.
Workshop prizes items
School exercise books, pens and papers
Used laptop computer � preferably a MAC
YOU CAN STILL HELP THIS YEAR
Donations can be made via check mailed Africa Matters, 582 San Luis Road, Berkeley Ca.94707
IF you make a donation in someone else�s name � a GREAT GIFT IDEA!! We will then send notice of that to your designated recipient. They will receive this card with a beautiful photograph of some of our primary school recipients.
Africa Matters is now an approved
501c3 tax-exempt non-profit having received the IRS notification in
November 2003. All cash donations are now fully tax-exempt.
Additionally, this status is retroactive covering all of 2003;
consequently, if you made a donation during the past year it also can be
claimed on your taxes..after you check with your tax specialist.
Newsletter's photo gallery
Mandla Sibanda dances with
Traditional Dance Troupe at Hwange National Park School.
Researcher J. Salnicki
enjoys her new chair
donated by AFRICA MATTERS. 2002
Field Biologist Gregory
Rassmussen assisting an injured dog
Director Wendy Blakeley's
namesake: "Wendy", matriarch of the "W" family in the Presidential
Elephant injured by snares
outside Hwange National Park. Sept 2002
Sorting snare wire. Hwange
National Park, Summer 2003
Nymandhlovu Pan, Hwange National Park, 2002
Wildlife Clubs of Kenya
headquarter in Nairobi. 1998
Students at Hwange
National Park school: recyling trash for TOYS. 2003
Wendy Blakeley with Louis
Mr Banda, local craftsmen from Mabale. 2003
Picture frames made at the
arts and crafts center. 2003
Dog portrait by artist at
the arts and crafts center. 2003
Wire sculptor Nxolisi
Dhladhla at the arts and crafts center. 2003
Boys learning wire craft
at the arts and crafts center. 2003
The painters of the Dog
project arts and crafts center. Dete, 2003
Wendy Blakeley rehearsing
drama group Ingonyama. 2003
Wendy Blakeley and
drama group Ingonyama on the Victoria Falls Bridge in July of 2003 for