Mutinondo Newsletter 2006
Most of the year has sailed by whilst we celebrated the slow but sure repair of Mike's back, the truck being back on the road at last with a new engine and the return of peace and quiet to Mutinondo. The super Kwacha and Government's ban on exports buried our soya bean out growers scheme having only got K650/kg for our remaining 100tons (which we had bought for K1100). It's criminal that the farmers could only sell their soya for K400 this year and tragic that after 10 years of building up the project, the 1500 farmers on our books have since lost an annual income of about K440 million Kwacha. We personally lost K53 million and found it unethical to offer the same price we were offering in 1998 so we reduced our loans from 23 tons to 5.5 tons.
The big plus of this sad story is the wonderful void of the nightmare logistics the project caused us every dry season to administer, finance, collect, transport and market the crop. We have had much more time to enjoy our wilderness and go traveling. The plant database has benefited although there are still plenty of question marks to be solved. Pete Leonard continues to keep our bird list in line, additions for 2006 include: Openbill Stork; Hadada; Eastern Red-footed Falcon; Swee Waxbill; Blue Waxbill; Rufous bellied Heron taking the total to 314. The fish we reintroduced into the Musamfushi have at last almost become big enough to amuse some visitors and great to see Mike wander out of the office with rod in hand on the odd afternoon. Our new self catering camp on the Mutinondo River is slowly gathering a following and is also handy to visit on foot, horse back or bike from the main camp. We now have two mountain bikes for our visitors to use as well as our own. We had a magic spell half way through the year when we could cycle to a dambo with some beers, sit on an anthill and wait for the herd of roan to come and graze as the sun set. Then we would return in the moonlight feeling very lucky indeed.
The 6 village scouts which we employed in 2005 have continued to be incredibly brave and determined, they have "captured" 25 muzzle loading guns and a shot gun this year and ZAWA has recognised their good work. The most exciting reports of the year from our scouts were four wild dog in October and a herd of 9 eland in November.
Chief Mpumba asked to have a meeting with our staff in April to ask them to show more loyalty to us and not to pass on any inside information to their fellow villagers. The DJOC (District Joint Operating Committee) have arranged meetings with us and some members have visited Mutinondo as a result of last year's problems which is reassuring.
In April Mike went to Malindi to recuperate with friends and family whilst Lari had a fun and easy time with a camp full of guests and friends. It's becoming more and more difficult to define the difference between clients and friends and work and pleasure! A big thanks to our staff and the sort of visitors Mutinondo attracts who all make our lives wonderfully stressless. Lari cycled to North Luangwa via Katibunga Mission in May and in August did a round trip to Kasanka via Mabonga and Waka Lake returning along paths through the south of Bangweulu - a great way to see parts of this area which you can't reach by car. Then in November at last we went away together - to Zanzibar by train and ferry to join Charlie and Ali (Mike's son and his girlfriend) for a blissful week on the east coast. The train was far better than expected and the game viewing through the Selous and "window shopping" from the train were added bonuses. It's good to know we can leave our staff to run the camp and things were fine when we got home.
Congratulations and thank you to Manfred Vachel for the wonderful ZAMBIA ROAD MAP ISBN 3-932084-30-6 he produced this year.
In August our beautiful big thoroughbred Jet died, possibly of a mamba bite. He was a big cuddly bear and we were very sad to lose him as well as him being the 2nd of our big gentle giants to die in 13 months, restricting the size of our riders until we replace them.
The 2 local craft initiatives which we have been encouraging seem to have stalled this year. Ryan the recycler has gone underground possibly due to "misinvested funds" for his workshop along the main road. Simon the stone cutter has given up the prospects of buying his own equipment to start his own workshop on the road possibly due to family pressures and lack of security. Mike is still working hard with the Chintu Mukulu group to have their own campsite and centre along the road and ultimately their own wilderness for tourist activities similar to ours. Two of our staff, David and Willie, visited the 5 IBA schools to promote conservation awareness, tree planting, vegetable growing and bee keeping, hopefully the school children's enthusiasm will continue and grow with future follow ups.
The imbalances of assistance, policy and actual development in the area and in general continue to be an enigma. "Zanzibar Chest" by Aidan Hartley (only bought because it had a horse and the word Zanzibar on the front) puts this quandary in a realistic perspective. It also makes one really appreciate the value of peace which we take so much for granted in Zambia.
All the very best to everyone for next year.
Mike and Lari