Benjamin Mibenge is known in the city of Livingstone as Uncle Ben. A graphical designer by formation, he worked many years in the National Heritage Conservation, from 1985 till his retirement in 2002. He now spends most of his time promoting the conservation of the trees, and is the key-person for many environment related topics in Livingstone and Zambia.

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“The snakes are not after all as bad as we think they are”

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“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

He is the chairperson in Livingstone of the Worldlife and Development Conservation Society. This NGO is the oldest in Zambia, it has been established in 1952.

He is the responsible in Zambia of the South African non-profit organization Greenpop (www.greenpop.org), which fosters the plantation of trees. Three weeks a year, this social enterprise comes to Livingstone, to organize events related to planting trees, publicizing the conservation of forests, demonstrating more efficient cooking ways (like the rocket stove).

He is an honorary Wildlife Officer. In this department, depending on the Ministry of Tourism, he looks after the animals. He also volunteers in the forestry department. He has to interact with many important persons, like the logging companies, or the charcoal companies.

He has created clubs in schools for bringing awareness to the children: the Chongololo clubs in primary school (chongololo means millipede in Bemba) and the Chipembele clubs in secondary schools (means rhinoceros). In these clubs, he brings the children to the Victoria falls, to the parks, to the forest, and talks to them about the animals, the water, the pollution, !

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“The Owl”

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“Traditional Conservation Method”: in the tradition, the elephant is composed of different carcasses, and therefore is not hunted

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“The tree of Life”: Most of the things we get for our life are from the trees

Uncle Ben uses the media to amplify his action. He participates in many radio program. Each Sunday, he presents “Chongololo on the air”. He has weekly programs, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Indeed, we have been invited to the “Tree Tuesday” program on Zambezi fm, to talk about our project and its aspects related to the environment!

He also uses arts to promote his ideas, by drawing local faun or trees as a mosaic of hundreds of symbols. It’s fascinating! Several of his pieces are exposed in the Rhodes-Livingstone museum (the oldest and biggest museum of Zambia).

He likes to say that the trees are better than humans because they offer their fruits and fresh air even before being asked for, while humans may not want to offer a service if asked. Deforestation is a huge problem in Zambia. Every year, 350 000 hectares of forest disappear, contributing to the soil erosion, the sedimentation of the bodies of water and the loss of genetic diversity, shade and shelter. Zambia is the fourth country with highest deforestation in Africa! Conservation measures have to be taken:

  • Cutting only mature trees, not selecting species.
  • Planting three trees for each one that is cut.
  • Developing the plantation of fast-growing trees, to reduce the pressure on original forests.
  • Using other sources of energy (charcoal, briquettes, electricity)
  • Early burning of the forests (instead of late burning that is much more destructive)