Many livelihoods in Livingstone rely on the tourist industry, not only the lodges, operators and adventure companies but in many cases smaller businesses and individual entrepreneurs seek to sell their goods and craftsmanship to visiting tourists and adventure seekers. The villagers from the surrounding bush produce some of the most intricate and skillful craftwork, this helps generate an income and support their families. Many of the villagers earn money through employment in the adventure industry as guides, porters and photographers so whilst maintaining tradition and simple lifestyle they can support their extended families. In many cases this is practically the whole village.
Chalobe village situated about an hours drive on dirt roads from Livingstone is one such village. Situated high on a plateau the village looks down on the Batoka gorge and Zambezi river from its beautiful setting. The few mud huts and straw fences which form the village are neatly and cleanly laid out. The only interruption to it's peaceful ambiance are the bustle of squabbling chickens, ducks, cats and dogs.
This is the home of Melvin Ndelelwa a highly experienced class five river guide with Safari Par Excellence. As son to the headman Melvin cherishes the traditions and lifestyle he grew up with in his village. He enjoys nothing more than to disappear for days on end into the bush with just his dogs for company. With expert knowledge of the Batoka gorge and surrounding bush Melvin’s clients warm to his calmness and confidence in his surroundings. Rafting and river boarding guests often bring him and the village business by buying his hand crafted Nyaminyami’s at a fair price.
Nyaminyami; - (river spirit) The modern legend tells a story of separation. The male and the female Nyaminyami were parted by the construction of the Kariba damn, the female below and the male trapped upstream to watch over the Batoka gorge. Those intrepid soles who take on the might of the Zambezi River wear a carving of the female form on their journey. The adventure seekers hope that the Male Nyaminyami will see his wife and keep the party safe on their journey.
The body shop foundation visited the Zambezi in September 2014 completing a fundraising challenge, “Hell and High Water”. Melvin was a key member of the Team at Safari Par Excellence when guiding the team of 21 Body Shop employees for a mighty 60km of rafting and an epic 47km hike back to their starting point, Victoria Falls. The first day of hiking took us to Chalobe Village where we spent the night camping in the surrounding bush. The local carvers laid out an impressive display of wooden hippos giraffes and elephants as well as walking sticks, bowls and stools. Un-perturbed that they could not fit more in their hand luggage the representatives from Body Shop Finland came up with an innovative and meaningful Christmas gift idea which would bring a seasonal boost to the carving industry. Step in Adventure Logic to make the connection. In November 2014 310 bowls were delivered to Helsinki, they are to be given as Christmas gifts to employees of Body Shop Finland and Baltic states. This generated almost $2000 income for the villagers. This was an important boost in a quiet season for the 15 strong team and their families. The carvers, artists and markers, led by Kaiba Ziangwa and Melvin Ndelelwa all have extended families spread over 3 villages, which will all benefit from this festive bonus.
I discovered, on a meeting with Kaiba, that perhaps one of those to benefit most from the project is his daughter Andrea Ziangwa. Kaiba’s shop was burgled in August, the thieves making off with everything inside. Getting his business back on its feet has been hard but with the added income from the Body Shop gifts, school fees can be paid and Andrea will be able to attend 8th grade.
The lifestyle and traditions of all the villagers mentioned in this article are under immediate threat by the construction of the Batoka Dam. In two years construction starts and the Batoka gorge will be flooded losing one of the worlds most unique and beautiful environments. Read more about the destruction of one of our natural wonders. Visit and share the face book group page “Stop the Batoka damn on the Zambezi River”
The team at moemba falls (top) and camp at Chalobe Village
A word from Adventure Logic
Through handing out a business card as a river guide I was able to make this connection. After earning the trust and friendship of the Body Shop team on our river expedition it was simply a matter of logistics. Thank you for the hard work and care taken by the villagers to produce 310 beautiful items ready for shipping and the vision and thoughtfulness of the Body Shop team in Finland. This little project was a mini adventure which helped me learn more about the lives and traditions of my friends and colleagues here in Zambia and to bring a little something back to an area in which it has been a privilege to live and work for 3 seasons.