Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Connecting to the global circle

Learn about the Africa Project

Express Staff Writer

Dimbangombe residents in Zimbabwe, Africa gathering straw.

Zimbabwe has fallen to economic ruin and political corruption within the last decade. In spite of that, Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield, co-founders of the Africa Project and Holistic Management International, have been making strides to improve the quality of life there through environmentally, socially and financially sound practices.

In an effort to educate the Wood River Valley to the progress of the Africa Project, Savory and Butterfield will hold a free presentation at the Anne Reed Gallery in Ketchum on Tuesday, July 1, at 5 p.m.

Lea Flocchini, a promoter of the Africa Project and co-founder of the Council Circle, will present her own slide show on her experience in Zimbabwe.

"There is so much despair and dismal news all over," said Flocchini. "I want to hear good news."

Flocchini's family met Savory and Butterfield more than 20 years ago and adopted the Holistic Management International methods on their ranch in Wyoming. Savory and Butterfield invited Flocchini's family to their ranch in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, which Flocchini visited last fall.

"I saw something sustainable," Flocchini said. "There were people who have not eaten in days, but there were women running part of the project. The project is giving a future and empowering people in the face of horrid living conditions with the highest inflation in the world, no fuel and no groceries."

Thirty percent of Zimbabwe's population is infected with HIV/AIDS and 40 percent of the population now depends on food from foreign aid. Life expectancies in the country average 35 years. Flocchini said the corrupt government is using both violence and humanitarian aid as weapons against its own people and has suspended foreign aid.

"This is genocide, but in spite of the despair and crisis this project is fostering hope and sustaining people," Flocchini said. "The project received seed money from a U.S. grant but funds will run out in September. The project will finish its pilot phase in four villages and include four more, making 15,000 people sustainable."

Savory and Butterfield want to make manuals and a model to replicate across Africa.

The Africa Project involves four tribal communities totaling 1,100 families or households, and is benefiting over 7000 people. Over 30,000 acres of land are being improved by Holistic Management, and a Goat Banking program is offered to the poorest of families. The project gives people tools to heal their land, allows women to make decisions about family planning and livestock management and to change attitudes toward the role of women. It provides education, training and restores tribal traditions.

"Survival is the spirit that cannot be killed or squashed," Flocchini said. "When there is a personal connection, it feels incredible."

Refreshments will be served and there will be time for informal discussion. For details, call 720-0425.

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