I guarantee that everyone you meet in Africa will leave a lasting impression on your life, but it is an entirely different experience to know that you are leaving a lasting impression on somebody else’s life.
During my summer vacation from North Carolina State University, I had the opportunity to come back to Zimbabwe and volunteer with the Mother Africa Trust. The Trust, alongside the Amalinda Safari Collection, operates out of Matobo and Hwange, which is where I spent most of my time at the Khulu Bush Camp.
Throughout my stay at Khulu Bush Camp, I have met so many incredible people passing through, but nothing compares to the relationships that I have fostered with the staff members. Khulu Bush Camp is a family-owned business, and the staff completely embody this notion by making all guests feel as though they are a part of the large and loving family. Many of the staff members live nearby in the community of Mabale, which is one of the many communities that Mother Africa has organized programs and opportunities for the local residents.
One program that specifically sparked my interest is the lion-proof bomas. The benefit of the boma is two-fold: they protect the resident’s livestock from predators, such as lions, leopards and hyenas, and they protect predators from local residents who no longer fear their presence. Mother Africa teaches residents about the importance of predators and other game-viewing animals which bring the main source of revenue to the Hwange area. I have had the privilege of visiting the existing bomas and grading them on effectiveness. After seeing all of the bomas that Mother Africa builds, they are 100% effective in terms of protecting livestock and truly change the lives of local residents. To be able to see and interact with the local people, despite the language barrier, as they generously taught me their way of life changed my perspective every time I went to a different homestead. After seeing the difference that Mother Africa has made for people who have so little, I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to build a boma for a family.
On Monday, June 28th 2021, my mother and I, Sandy Salle, set out to Mpakathi village to meet the family for whom we would be building a boma. When we got there, we met the Khulu and Gogo (Grandpa and Granny) and their son who helps take care of them. Khulu and Gogo are getting a bit old, at 93 and 80 something respectively. Khulu has trouble walking and stays indoors most of the day, so much of the burden of taking care of livestock falls onto Gogo. They have five cows, but only have one goat as the rest had fallen prey to hyenas. They have an existing boma on their homestead, but it leaves livestock unprotected as hyenas and leopards can easily walk under the support beams while lions can easily jump over. Their neighbor’s children help take care of their cattle, due to struggles with their age, so the boma will be both for the neighbor’s and Khulu and Gogo’s cattle.
It took about four hours, and a community, to build the boma. First, we painted the vertical stakes with termite poison so that we could put them in pre-dug holes and not worry about termite damage. Then we attached three levels of wires going around the whole structure, followed by three levels of support beams. Then we attached diamond mesh going around and secured it to the structure. It’s not the most complicated structure, but it costs around $500, so it is too costly for many of the locals to afford, which is why Mother Africa donates the bomas. All of Khulu and Gogo’s neighbors joined in, and everyone was put to use based on their skill set. Even the children who sat watching us during the heavy lifting got their chance to participate near the end by attaching wires. It was heartwarming to see the community come together to help Khulu and Gogo.
After all of the work was done, we invited everyone to join us for lunch. Everyone sat on the ground together to eat their sadza and nyama. We shared stories and enjoyed each other’s company after a fulfilling hard day’s work.
If you are going to Hwange, I cannot recommend enough staying at Khulu Bush Camp. When Mother Africa donates a boma, it’s not a handout which they forget about. The people who receive the bomas become a part of the Mother Africa Family. Mother Africa checks on and maintains the bomas to make sure they are used effectively.
Knowing that, to be able to donate and build a boma for an incredibly grateful family will forever be one of my most cherished memories. I will forever recommend this experience that Khulu Bush Camp and the Mother Africa Trust made possible for my mother and me. If you do decide to take on this opportunity, don’t forget to mention my name during your stay at Khulu Bush Camp :).