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Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, Zambia; Creating Africa's Young Conservation Leaders


Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust has been empowering the children of Zambia’s Luangwa Valley for over 20 years. You can visit Chipembele on your safari to Zambia to see their work in person and provide much-needed support.

What are the challenges to conservation in South Luangwa National Park?

More than 60 percent of the population in Zambia live in rural areas and as a result, derive their livelihood from their surroundings. Due to poverty and demand, elephant poaching for ivory in South Luangwa National Park is frequent and an increasing number of hyenas, wild dogs and lions are caught in snares meant for antelope and warthog that are consumed or sold on the market. This puts enormous pressure on wildlife survival. Equally, wildlife is affected by little political will, as well as habitat loss through human encroachment and agriculture, to meet the needs of a growing human population.

How important is conservation education?

Education is key to changing local attitudes toward wildlife conservation and protecting the environment. However, mainstream subjects in schools are favoured over environmental education programmes. If children do not learn about the environment then they do not feel empowered to make changes, nor understand its value in enriching their lives and its economic benefits through tourism. Despite only living a few kilometres from the National Park, many children have never been inside and the only animals they see are the ones with which they have conflicts, such as the elephant and baboon.

What is the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust?

For more than 20 years, Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust has been educating and empowering children of Zambia’s Luangwa Valley through its conservation clubs and Community in Nature interactive outdoor education programmes. Chipembele is a local word for rhino, a species that thrived in the Valley during the 1970s but by the early 1990s had disappeared as a result of poaching.

The hub of the organisation lies in the grounds of Mfuwe Secondary School. Here there is a classroom, student resource room, staff training room, administrative offices, a botanic garden (where children plant and care for seedlings) and a computer room. Students also participate in litter collection so that they learn to care more for their environment. On Fridays, students participate in a programme run in partnership with the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) where they collect data and learn about ecology on field trips in the National Park. In addition, they build skills in leadership, teamwork and communication on a three-day camping excursion, called Nature Nights. Every year there is a student-led environmental campaign in the community.

Addressing gender equality, Chipembele leads a gender awareness programme. They also run an outreach programme, which assembles community groups with presentations and discussions about conservation topics. In addition, Chipembele organises an annual all-day event in late September called ‘Chikondwelero’, meaning celebration in the local language, which brings together around 400 students from 18 schools for drama performances, sports, live music and dancing.

Anna Tolan, the charity’s dedicated founder and former police officer from the UK, leads education programmes at the Chipembele Conservation Centre. The Centre is located next to the Luangwa River and comprises a classroom, library and an internationally acclaimed Discovery Room. Anna runs a full-day education programme twice a week for seven local schools.

In 2019, 640 school children were taught by the Education team each week and more than 7,000 people attended community education sessions so the charity reaches a large number of people. Two students previously supported by Chipembele are the inspiring Thandiwe Mweetwa and film producer Samson Moyo, who produced this three-minute video.

Engage with Chipembele

During a vacation to South Luangwa National Park, include a two-hour visit to Chipembele Conservation Centre on your way to or from Mfuwe Airport. The Centre is a 40-minute drive from Mfuwe. The best days to visit are a Wednesday or Saturday as this is when Anna teaches the local school children. You could also stay in their new guesthouse, located a stone’s throw away from the Conservation Centre. It is two bed-detached property, with a shower room, kitchen and living room. It’s fully equipped, furnished and has running hot water.

From February 2020, Anna began a new programme called ‘Mentors at Chipembele’. This programme selects eight of the very best students who have left school. Chipembele trains them in life skills for a year and they then mentor younger students. On a visit to the Centre, you could meet these students and help to develop their life skills, or you could meet other students to help lead short sessions on conservation-related themes as well as help with arts and crafts.

Where to Stay

As well as Chipembele’s new guesthouse, there are many beautiful places to stay in the National Park. Covering an area of 9000 square kilometres, the South Luangwa Valley is one of Africa’s untouched wilderness areas and is most well-known for its walking safaris led by some of the finest guides in Africa.

Properties we recommend include the beautiful bush camps Time + Tide Luwi, Nsolo, Kakuli and Mchenja, from where you can arrange a magical sleep out under the stars. Luangwa Safari House and Robin’s House are exquisite private houses which you can take exclusively, ideal for a family safari.

For more information about safaris to Zambia or charitable support please do feel free to contact us, or should you wish to dream some more, please visit our Video Library.

Please do feel free to contact Nicola directly or at The Explorations Company for further inspiration and unforgettable safaris and holidays to Africa, Asia, and Latin America

Or, if you would like to just dream some more for now then you can by visiting our Video Library.

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