Greenpop Action Festival, Zambia 2017

After being full warned about the road conditions we would encounter on the way to the festival, we began to realize people’s concerns about getting the beast through there. As we came off the tar road we entered a relatively narrow dirt road with a huge variety of side stores selling everything from small consumables, popcorn, cigarettes and even a store that offered putting music onto memory sticks for people. It was a vibrant but very aesthetically unpleasing section as the running water from the houses flowed out onto the street harbouring who knows what and rapidly deteriorating the road conditions. We were reduced to about 5km/h as the village children ran up beside us giving us high-fives and occasionally trying to jump onto the back with little success due to the bumpy conditions. Leaving the main stretch of the village we now hit sand, not one of the Tuk Tuk’s best friends but he handled like a beast! Worried about the middle of the road being the sandiest for our front wheel we managed to hold steady with the arse of the Tuk Tuk occasionally sliding out behind us. A few more bumps and about 40 minutes later we finally arrived at Livingstone Guest Farm, just 11km away from Livingstone where the festival was being held!

 We were welcomed literally with a hug which made us feel good as people were aware that we were making an arrival at some point, and in perfect timing we arrived just as lunch was being served. We filled ourselves up with some of the best ‘Fat Cakes’ we’ve ever had and got taken on a tour of the farm which looked like a fantastic venue to hold such an environmentally friendly festival. Our arrival day was relaxed as we waited for the rest of the volunteers to arrive, got to know the area, look at facilities and top the day off with sundowners at the Baobab tree located only a ten-minute walk from the communal area.

The following day we were straight into it as we learned about what was planned for the week and what activaties people could get involved in. These activities included; Tree Planting, Permaculture, Bee Keeping, Regenerative Agriculture, Environmental Education, Upcycling, Mural Painting, Eco-Enterprise and Systems Thinking Workshops as well as side activities that kept everyone busy and relaxed at the same time.

This is one of three festivals Greenpop organises, with the Zambia one being the longest as people come from all over to plant trees, practice and learn about sustainability. The goals of the festival were to; create awareness around the deforestation issue, develop a tree planting culture, promote alternative energy sources and material use, educate children on their natural environment and plant indigenous trees and food providing trees. The whole event was eco-friendly, having plastic bottles everywhere to fill with rubbish to create ‘Eco-Bricks’, an environmentally friendly method of recycling rubbish to make something suitable for building chairs or even parts of houses. They had eco-toilets set up to create compost, as well as compost holes where left over food and other bits and bobs are layered on each other creating the compost used to grow and maintain the impressive gardens on the farm. There was also a variety of workshops that educated us all on how to practice and understand sustainability. Food was locally sourced vegetables made into vegetarian and vegan meals to make people aware of the environmental impact eating meat causes, even though we weren’t so keen on this idea. Meat is an important part of our lives and we believe in what it does for someone consuming it, however we gave the vegetarian thing a go partly because there wasn’t much choice and secondly to get a first-hand idea of what people put themselves through when opting for this lifestyle, how bad can it be? The honest answer is, not great. Some meals were not too bad but the consistent use of lentils and chickpeas was quite overwhelming as we felt ourselves getting weaker each day. Thankfully the organisers at Greenpop are understanding to the needs of different people so two nights a week were dedicated to chicken, which we found ourselves longing for as if waiting for the weekend after a tough week at work. Admittedly, we did sneak off into town to consume some sort of meat on a few occasions but we considered it important to us if we wanted to keep up our spirits high at the festival.

We got our hands dirty planting several trees and succulents at a local school which was good fun and quite a rewarding process seeing this garden area come to life and learned about the coal burning problem facing Zambia which is depleting the tree numbers rapidly. At one point, we started helping the production manager move a one ton tree sculpture made up of old steel motor bits. It was a stunning piece of art work that took a lot of effort to create and arguably even more to move the thing to its resting place. We hitched up a trailer and reversed right up to the tree and began rolling ideas out. Eventually we decided we would lie some old tyres down while we tip and lift the metal tree onto the back. Five hands helping, we managed to get it onto the back and pushed it into position. We now proceeded to drive it to the presentation location where it would be revealed along with a conservation mural on Bees. Getting it off proved to be quite a bit easier and the tree now rested in position for the grand reveal where the Mayor of Livingstone was to attend. There was a good turnout at this event and the Mayor of Livingstone confirmed the governmental support of Greenpop’s initiative and its efforts to promote sustainability of trees, so that was good to see involvement and support from the top.

We met some incredible and fascinating people at this event who came from all over to get involved in this great concept of a festival. A group that really stood out for us was the ‘Soul Circus’ team, an energetic, friendly, caring and vibrant group of people spreading their good vibes through everyone there. Their bubbly nature had people smiling constantly and their ability to make people laugh and feel good was a valuable asset to the festival. The Soul Circus is a nomadic festival and voluntouring retreat for artists and activists who go around spreading good will and vibes to all they encounter. It was a pleasure to spend a week with these fantastic, talented people and will follow their progress they grow and affect people positively with their personalities.

We like to think we had some impression on the people there as we noticed each day the number of people walking around barefoot increased. At the very least we were opening people minds to trying something new or different.

All in all, the festival was one of education, involvement, excitement and fun which we felt privileged to be a part of. We are also proud that we have chosen Greenpop as one of our beneficiaries and it was great to see first-hand what their vision is and how they are working to achieve and promote environmental sustainability. Once back in Livingstone for a night we decided to treat ourselves to some red by and bought a large fillet from the store and sat around a camp fire having a real fry up an enjoying the first piece of red meat since Kasane almost two weeks ago. We slept well and are felling energetic for the day ahead.

We are now sitting at a café updating our social media life, feeling a bit of the festival fever but keep reassuring ourselves that we aren’t going home but rather hitting the road again to experience and see a huge variety of beauty that Africa offers. We are now making our way to Lake Kariba as a detour on the way to Lusaka, then will keep pushing into Malawi. The expedition has been great so far and we are grateful to everyone we have met and everyone who has helped us before and on the expedition.