On a recent educational trip I spent a night at Toka Leya in Zambia before heading to Zimbabwe. The camp offers all guests the opportunity to plant a tree during their stay and I was determined to do just this, having not had time to plant one on my previous visit. I asked the camp manager to book a back-of-house tour before my departure and they happily arranged this as part of my final morning’s activity.
John Yombwe, manager of the tree planting at Toka Leya, met me the next day, eager to show me around his ‘office.’
John led me down a pathway to the area where the nursery, water treatment plant and worm farm are situated. He explained how the camp uses worm farms to process all organic waste from the kitchen. This is then used to nourish the trees that are grown in the nursery. He carefully opened one of the boxes to show me how the different levels are used and how efficient the worms are at breaking down material that is later used to feed to his plants.
We then moved on to the water treatment plant where waste water from the camp is passed through this system of tanks until it has been cleaned. The clean water is used to irrigate the plants in the nursery as well as the newly-planted trees around the area.
John also collects the seeds of trees that he then germinates. Once the saplings start to grow they are moved to various areas in the nursery depending on their age and requirements (some areas provide more shade and protection from the elements). I was surprised at how long it takes to grow the trees before they are ready to replant. Each tree planted is recorded on a comprehensive map. Some are, of course, enjoyed by the animals, especially elephant, so they don’t all grow to full size, but that’s nature for you!
And then lastly, the moment I’d been looking forward to: planting my tree. John let me choose my preferred species and we walked over to a hole that had already been dug and watered. Here I finally got to plant a tree. And then John asked me to name it! As I’d chosen the tallest of the red milkwood saplings I decided to name it ‘mulanfu’ – meaning tall.
It was such a great feeling knowing that this tree was lovingly grown in the nursery and that I got to plant it and help with the rehabilitation of the woodland. Hopefully when I visit again I can look for my tree and check on its progress.
Written and Photographed by Mary-Anne van der Byl, Graphic Designer, Wilderness Safaris