Friends of Hwange Trust
THE FRIENDS OF HWANGE TRUST
(Saving Zimbabwe’s Largest National Park)
A Brief History
The Friends of Hwange Trust (FOH) was formed on the back of the extreme drought of 2005 that severely affected Hwange National Park, leaving a wake of thousands of dead animals. Since its inception the Trust has successfully been solely responsible for 10 waterholes in Hwange NP, repairing and maintaining the diesel engines, boreholes and the troughs.
It became apparent from the start that diesel is the single greatest expense (in the dry season a single borehole engine uses around 500 litres a month) and an alternative method of pumping water had to be found. The Trust has rapidly turned to windmills and possibly solar power as alternatives to pumping water.
After in-depth research the Trust invested in two windmills – they are robust and affordable, however their pumping capacities are limited. The solar pumps are able to produce the volume required however they are expensive and susceptible to theft especially in the more remote areas (as experienced previously in the Park).
Even though the windmills are unable to keep the waterholes full all year round, they provide a head start for the waterholes to fill to dam proportions, thereby reducing diesel requirements in the drier months. The mostly Lister engines take over from the windmill once the Park starts drying up rapidly (July – November) and the pressure for available water increases from animals, especially elephant.
The first windmill was placed at Kennedy One (south-east Hwange) waterhole, and is now running steadily, complemented by a Lister engine to cope with the large elephant volumes.
The second windmill at Shumba (central Hwange) has done exceptionally well pumping on average 7000 litres a day. It was able in the earlier months of 2007 to successfully fill the pan at Shumba. This saved about three months worth of diesel (some 1200 litres or USD1200).
Another three windmills have now been installed at Mabuya Mabema, Shapi and Tshompani. Our vision is for Hwange to be more self-sufficient in its water supply by way of wind and solar-powered pumps, reducing expensive diesel requirements, and thereby also providing a long-term eco-friendly solution.
Hwange National Park
The Hwange National Park (formerly called Wankie) is located in the western part of Zimbabwe, two hours from Victoria Falls and is Zimbabwe’s largest and best-known national park. At 14,500 sq. km it is half the size of Belgium. The area was declared a National Park in 1928 and today is home to 108 species of mammal and over 400 bird species, one of the most diverse parks in the world. The Park is most famous for its elephant herds, which combined make up a heaving population of around 30,000.
Hwange NP was the hunting ground of the great Ndebele king, Mzilikazi and the park is named after Hwange Rosumbani an Ndebele warrior, who lived in the area circa 1900. When the area was proclaimed a reserve in 1928, animal populations had virtually been exterminated by hunters. Fewer than 1000 elephants remained and the black and white rhino had been wiped out completely.
The Park lies in a transition zone, between the burnt sands of the Kalahari to the west (bordering Botswana) and the savannah woodlands and renowned teak forests of Zimbabwe and therefore has little natural water. Ted Davidson, the founding warden and author of “Wankie Game Reserve”, drilled dozens of boreholes and established 60 more pans in the Park.
Over the years the animal population recovered and many species started thriving with water and food being readily available. Without perennial rivers in Hwange, today most of the water has to be pumped from boreholes in order to sustain the current animal populations.
Friends of Hwange
In 2005 as mentioned a devastating drought struck Hwange National Park. The National Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (PAWMA), plagued by lack of funding and a decrease in tourist arrivals, did not have the funding to keep the boreholes going and only a handful of waterholes had water. This resulted in literally thousands of animals dying of thirst.
Angus Preston, owner and director of The Hide Safari Camp in Hwange responded by forming the Friends of Hwange Trust in November 2005 with his friend Gordon Brown. Soon after, Dave Dell and Beck Edwards were asked to be trustees along with honorary trustee and Ernst & Young Partner, Paul Turner.
All trustees are passionate about preserving Zimbabwe’s most precious resources for future generations despite the current turbulent times. Angus and Beck have been involved in the safari and tourism industry in Zimbabwe for many years while Dave is a keen and talented wildlife photographer and a long-time supporter of Hwange NP.
Fortunately the 2005-6 rainy season was excellent, which gave the new Trust some breathing space to recruit the right staff to implement the Trust’s objectives. It was decided that to begin with, FOH would look after 10 key waterholes in Hwange NP, namely: Kennedy One, Kennedy Two, Makwa, Jambili, Sinanga, Mabuya Mabema, Shumba, Tshompani, Inyantue and Shapi.
Mario Gomes was employed as the man on the ground to ensure that the engines on these 10 waterholes were maintained and kept running to keep the waterholes filled. Mario was with the Trust for the 2006 season and did a fantastic job repairing and maintaining the engines, boreholes and troughs. His job also included delivering rations to the pump attendants.
Maha Doppelfeld was employed at the beginning of 2006 to handle the administration and fund raising for the Trust. Maha met with a number of potential donors and managed to raise funds to get the trust through the last one and half years.
In March 2007 Gary Cantle succeeded Mario Gomes. Gary’s father was a warden of Hwange NP and Gary spent his first few childhood years growing up in the Park. Gary has experience in all areas from plumbing and boreholes to overhauling engines and thrives on being in the bush.
FOH is currently purchasing a solar pump to be placed at the Kennedy Two waterhole, close to The Hide and Somalisa Safari Camps where game drives are a daily occurrence. The Trust will compare the volume output of water of the solar pump to that of the windmills.