Our Mission Statement: “To achieve success through providing good value, high quality safari experiences to our guests, thereby improving the well-being of the local communities, whilst minimizing the impact to the environment on which the future of our business and the local people rely.”
As our mission statement suggests, we aim to be a ‘green’, socially responsible business. When making decisions, we try to balance the responsibilities that we have to our business, to the local community and to the environment.
Flatdogs is very active in the local community and with conservation and environmental projects. Our community work is mostly directed through Project Luangwa, a charity set up by a number of lodges in the Valley to administer their community activities, focusing mostly on education and small businesses. Our environmental and conservation projects are varied in scale and content; some are based here in camp, and some span the whole Valley; the largest environmental initiative that we support is the South Luangwa Conservation Society. We’ve divided our projects into 5 groups to help us identify which areas are well supported, and which areas need more help.
We fundraise from generous donations from our guests, from corporate sponsorship and from the Luangwa Conservation and Community Fund (a portion of your final bill is set aside and goes straight to Conservation and Community Projects).
HELPING FARMERS – As many of you know, Flatdogs Camp and our guests support the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) with various forms of funding.
This rainy season we have committed to helping SLCS and their partners Awely in providing local farmers with protection of their crops in this vital growing season.
Watchtowers are built and trained guards are issued with chili blasting guns that they fire at problem elephants to stop them from damaging crops. Flatdogs has agreed to fund ten of these guards for 5 months in the hope of a good harvest. This will help local people live with elephants and not see them as a threat and in turn aid in their conservation.
See more details on the document here
SCHOOLS & EDUCATION
Chiyembekezo is a very special little school because it was set up entirely by local people for orphaned and vulnerable children. Kelvin, the founder, was concerned by the number of children he found walking the streets, fishing with their fathers and generally not attending school. With their own money, he, and a couple of other local businessmen, hired a teacher (paying her when they could) and started a school in a small house. From there, the school has grown enormously, and only when it was providing education for 50 children 5 mornings a week did Kelvin come to Flatdogs and ask for advice on how to fundraise for the effort. Flatdogs was very impressed with his commitment and initiative and happily offered to help. Through our combined fundraising efforts, we pay the teacher’s salary, buy uniforms for the children and occasionally provide educational resources. We are very lucky to have the use of St Agnes’ Anglican Church for classes; Flatdogs recently helped the church to install mains power and re-painted the inside of the building.
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Our future plans for the school include the construction of a small storeroom so that the teacher can secure all her teaching resources and upgrading the playground for the children. We are currently fundraising for these projects and also to provide uniforms for the children. If you would like to know more about this remarkable school, please ask Ed, Ade or Harold.
We’ve had many kind donations through the Pack for a Purpose website – please have a look at their site if you’d like bring out a few things to help us support local schools.
Dailes – Chiyembekezo School’s teacher:
Dailes is central to the success of this small school. Even when the school fund couldn’t afford to pay her salary, she continued teaching the kids, knowing Kelvin’s fund would pay her when they could. She already holds a Teaching Qualification from the Technical College in Chipata, but the school fund are planning to offer her more training as a reward for her amazing commitment to the school – during the holidays, she will be enrolled on a computer skills course.
Dailes completed her computer skills course in September 2011 and is now able to put together tests and mini-exams for the kids!
Once a pupil reaches grade 8 and secondary level education schooling is no longer free and this means that, for many children, their education comes to an abrupt halt. When a Flatdogs’ employee has retired or passed away we often help by sponsoring their child through school. However the only option for many orphans or kids whose parents are poor is to apply to Project Luangwa for support. Project Luangwa runs a sponsorship scheme matching local children with individual sponsors so that they may complete their education and realise their potential. These kids are bright and keen to learn but their home situation means that they would not be able to attend school without help. Their progress is monitored closely and they are offered support and guidance when required. Sponsors of children receive letters and are encouraged to write back and forge a link. Some of these children have no close living relatives and the letters sent by their sponsors encourage them to realize that someone, somewhere, cares.
Project Luangwa annually arranges support for well over 100 children in the area and giving them a chance at a better future. If you would like to sponsor a child please visit www.projectluangwa.org/sponsorship where you’ll find a handbook explaining the realities of the Zambian education system as well as their sponsorship scheme.
BUSINESS & INFRASTRUCTURE
Mfuwe Secondary School:
Mfuwe Secondary School is the only Secondary school in the area. Until recently, it had only one classroom block of its own. Its 550+ pupils are squeezed into these 3 classrooms and any classroom space that it can borrow from the Primary school next door. As well as depriving the 1400 primary school students some of their own classroom space, this situation reduces the quality of education that the Secondary school offers. The end result is that much of the good work that is being done at Pre- and Primary school level is wasted because it is not followed up with good education standards at Grades 8 – 12. Through Project Luangwa, we have built a block of 3 classrooms and the community have collected the funds for another, which will give Primary school leavers a good chance at a place in Secondary education.
The classroom blocks are finished!! We had a fantastic opening day, attended by lots of dignitaries from the Ministry of Education including the Permanent Secretary. As well as increasing the number of classrooms available, it has also encouraged other lodges in the area to put up the funds for a third block which will be finished soon. We hope that the high profile event will draw more funding to the education system in the Mfuwe area, both from Government and other sources.
Following the high-profile launch of the new classroom blocks, PL (with assistance from other fundraisers) have collected the cash to build two new dormitory blocks at the same school. They are nearing completion, and you can read more about them here – http://www.projectluangwa.org/node/213
Since this time, they’ve also raised the funds for a new Library and Science block. The library is just waiting for shelves and the science block is coming along well.
Desks for the Secondary School:
With all this fantastic new classroom space, we are keen to make sure that we have enough desks for the children to work at! We’ve launched an appeal to fill the rooms with desks and you can read more about it at www.projectluangwa.org or on the information sheet in your room. If you would like to donate a desk to this worthy cause and help us reach our goal of finishing the classrooms by the end of August, please see Ed, Ade or Harold. Thanks!
With funds raised by guests at Flatdogs and further afield, we now have enough desks to fill the new classroom block. But we are still fundraising for desks for the second block if you think you might be able to help – please ask at reception, or have a look at the leaflet in your room.
AGRICULTURE & LOCAL PRODUCE
We live in one of the most fertile areas on the planet – just ask the animals who benefit from the vegetation and fruits which grow in abundance during the rains!! At Flatdogs, great food is a very important feature and we use several local farmers to help us achieve our goal of fresh, locally produced food. We have worked with Rodgers, a successful vegetable grower, for years and helped him finance the installation of a water pump to help with irrigation. He will even grow the bizarre, exotic vegetables that we sometimes need!
Linking the supplier with the buyer is always a problem in developing countries where transport and communications are poor. We have made good progress in this area by encouraging local farmers to bring their produce to a central ‘farmers market’ where we, and other buyers, can go to get what we need. Farmers are often reluctant to harvest their vegetable crops if they can’t be sure of a buyer (they would rather let it go to seed) so this farmers market should help them, and help us get the freshest vegetables!
We now spend over $150 per week on local produce for our kitchen!
When buying locally, we have also to consider the effect of our bulk purchases; buy too much of a scarce commodity, and prices rise beyond the reach of local people. So we try to balance our needs, the demands of the business and the prosperity of local people when making our purchasing decisions. When we need lots of a product in short supply, we encourage Rodgers to grow plenty of it so that we don’t have to buy at the local market. So every tomato you eat will be local, but none of the fish, for exactly this reason – fish is a valuable protein source for local people and we want to keep prices down.
We also have our own garden in camp where we grow herbs and vegetables and the chillies that make our fiery chilli sauce! Thomas the gardener keeps everything in order, and also waters and looks after our tree saplings which we’ve planted to replace the older trees in camp when they die. Garden projects at the local schools are underway and we will be involved with the garden project at Mfuwe Secondary school…..once we’ve finished building the classrooms! These projects aim to contribute produce to the school’s kitchen and encourage kids to learn about conservation farming practices and the variety of fruit and vegetables that can be grown in our fertile soils. We’re always looking for new ideas for these projects and support for purchasing shade-cloth and irrigation equipment is very welcome.
Unfortunately the elephants have made short work of our tree planting scheme! We will try another idea later in the year when the rains will help the trees grow!
COMMUNITY & SOCIAL
Through Project Luangwa, we are supporting several projects which promote women’s rights and independence. Eunice Nakachinda (who works for Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust) is working closely with PL to encourage women to continue their education and seek work themselves, a lifestyle which local culture sometimes discourages.
Eunice’s work will be made a little easier, we hope, by the words of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education when he opened the classroom block at Mfuwe Secondary School – “Girls, get yourselves into school, and stay in school. Do not let your ‘uncles’ force you to marry too young, or to have children. Go to school and stay in school!”
PL are currently raising funds for Girl’s Clubs at schools and last year commissioned a play from SEKA (Sensitisation and Education through Kunda Arts), a local drama group. This play deals with teenage pregnancy and sexual harassment. We show this play at schools and in villages; it is very interactive and uses humour to address sensitive issues. After each performance we invite the audience to voice their opinions and generally discuss the problems that have been brought out into the open. A performance of this play costs $150 and PL are always grateful for financial assistance with commissioning SEKA to perform this play in as many areas as possible.
PL have launched a “Bring a Bra Scheme” as many of the girls we deal with cannot afford this essential item. They are also starting to run ‘Girlie Days’ which will help young girls to cope with some of the problems of sanitation and personal hygiene in a rural area – this scheme is still in very early stages so please get in touch with PL for more info.
Game Drives for Kids:
This year, we will continue with our existing programme of offering night drives for school children to give them a chance to see the wonderfully diverse wildlife spectacle on offer in the Luangwa. Many children’s understanding of wildlife comes only from a close encounter with an elephant late at night in one of the villages, so it’s great to have the chance to show them these animals in a more relaxed situation! Each of our guides takes a group of children out, helps them learn about the wildlife and talks about the value of this unique park over a (soft!) drink at sundowners.
We encourage the children who we take on game drives to get involved in community conservation initiatives. When the bush dies back late in the dry season, we arrange for them to walk the streets of Mfuwe with plastic bags and collect all the litter that they can find. We dispose of the litter carefully, and then drop them back at their homes. During November, we will begin our ‘litter patrols’ and encourage the school children and villagers to do the same.
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Mfuwe Rotary Club:
With the help of Rotarians from around the world, Mfuwe now has its own Rotary Club! We hope that this excellent organisation will help local people and perhaps encourage more visitors to come to this area. There are several guest speakers lined up for the upcoming meetings, and we will update on progress in our next bulletin. Please ask Harold if you’d like to know more about this new scheme, and especially if you are a Rotarian!!
SHAReII HIV/AIDS Workshops:
In July, SHARe II, a well established HIV/AIDS organisation started to work with lodges and local people in the Mfuwe area. They are supported by US AID and provide training for peer educators, sensitize management staff on the effects of HIV on productivity and health of employees and has robust follow up program that provides HIV testing and counseling. Several members of our staff have attended the meetings to learn about becoming a peer educator and we hope this programme will develop across the area.
CONSERVATION & ENVIRONMENT
Solar Water Heating:
Our biggest and most exciting environmental project the recent installation of a solar water heating system to provide hot water to all the safari tents! It was designed and built in Italy, then disassembled and shipped in a container to Mozambique (via Malaysia!?), before coming overland to Flatdogs! Since the sun is our most abundant resource, solar energy makes good sense but it also means that we don’t need to collect fire wood which is much better for the environment. In Zambia, illegal firewood collection and charcoal production have destroyed large areas of woodland. And while we have never cut down trees for firewood, even collecting fallen branches damages the ecosystem because it removes the habitat for a large variety of decomposers.
Cooking for the staff:
Traditionally, people in the local area cook in pans balanced on mopane branches and bricks. This is not only inefficient, as most of the heat escapes, but every year children are badly burned when pots of hot water fall off the fire. We bought a ‘Save 80’ stove for our staff cook which uses small pieces of wood and burns very efficiently saving 80% of the firewood normally consumed. However, the stove wasn’t big enough for the large pot of nsima….so using the same design we have converted two 44 gallon drums and made our own. If you would like to see our home-made Save 80s (we’re very proud of them!), please ask Ed, Ade or Harold.
These have been such a success with our staff, that many are requesting them for their own homes! We’ve built a couple more which are being used at Tribal Textiles who cook for well over 100 people each day. Please request to see them in action when you visit Tribal Textiles.
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Waste and Recycling:
Anyone who has visited a developing country before will remember smiling at the astonishing way that people make use of everything – very little goes to waste out here! In camp, we always think about the secondary uses of all materials before throwing anything away; all ‘green’ kitchen waste goes to the garden as compost for the vegetable patch, jars are saved to store dry goods during the rainy months and plastic bottles are used to make ice blocks.
Recently we’ve managed to find a good home for even more of our rubbish: paper and cardboard goes to a local school project who turn it into bricks which can be used for cooking; glass and plastic goes to Lusaka where as much is being recycled as possible; and tin cans are being used by a local arts group to make creative gifts. Anything that we do throw away here is at risk of being spread around the area by baboons, so we are happy that we’ve reduced this to a minimum.
The small amount of rubbish that we do have to throw away is now buried in a concrete-lined pit on high ground, away from flood water. The contents will not seep out into the soil and a protective cage over the top prevents baboons from spreading it around.
South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS):
Conservation is central to our existence – we are dependent on this unique ecosystem for everything that we do. But more and more, the reverse is also true; as beneficiaries of the wildlife in the National Park, we have a responsibility to ensure that the environment remains healthy. And as a large employer, the safari industry also has the opportunity to make this happen. We support SLCS and Chipembele (a local wildlife education centre) and actively assist with anti-poaching and anti-snaring activities. In fact, we believe so strongly SLCS’s approach to conservation, that we donate half of your Luangwa Conservation and Community Fund donations (the small charge that we add to each guest’s bill) to SLCS.
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Sustainable Building Products:
We also do our bit for the environment by building from sustainable materials (we are building the classroom block at Mfuwe Secondary out of concrete blocks rather than bricks which have to be fired using large amounts of firewood) and using threatened resources – such as mopane wood – very sparingly. We recently brought in pressure-treated gum-poles from the forestry companies in the Copperbelt area of Zambia, rather than using local poles, since they last much longer and are therefore better for the environment.
Tree Planting Scheme:
Starting in the next rainy season, we will be increasing our gardener’s workload. We’re planning to plant and nurture indigenous trees so that we can continue to re-stock those in camp that are getting old, and offer them to staff to plant in their villages. Deforestation for firewood (or charcoal) has degraded huge areas of the Luangwa Valley and we are keen to do our bit to reverse that trend.We attended a meeting about the deforestation problem in this area and were shown some horrifying images of the damage that is being done to the forests. It is estimated that if current trends continue, there is less than 2 years’ worth of hard wood left in local forests. All the safari lodges present agreed not to buy any hard wood products locally, and only to source from sustainable sources elsewhere in Zambia. Steps were also taken to reduce the amount of illegal cutting of trees and improved monitoring is planned.
We are lucky to have a clean supply of water from our bore-hole that is both safe to drink, and actually tastes nice! But we are aware of the scarcity of clean drinking water in many areas so we use it responsibly – we have fitted ball-valves on as many of our water tanks as possible to prevent overflow.We are also looking into cleaning products which are more environmentally friendly than those that we have used previously, and all our septic tanks now have soak-a-ways so waste water is cleaned and filtered before being returned to the soil. We will be fitting a grey-water filter to our laundry water outlet in the next couple of weeks.The grey-water filter has been installed and, after a few modifications to the original design, it is working well. The sand is filtering out the soap and the water that flows out of the other end is clean and clear. We will use the same principle for other water outlets in camp and suggest the idea to other lodges too. The system is working so well that there are now grasses and reeds growing in the pit – surely a sign that the water is being filtered well!
Flatdogs has entered into an agreement with the Chief to encourage conservation locally by keeping the land adjoining Flatdogs’ boundaries as conservation areas. Fishing and development are prevented and we therefore ensure that a large patch of land along the river is protected for the sole use of wildlife. In a region where development is putting the ecosystem under increasing pressure, we are very keen to protect wildlife havens whenever possible, and give the local community some benefit financially.
Updated April 2013
If you would like to know more about Project Luangwa’s work, you can read their newsletters here.