On Wednesday 01/06/2016 Shearwater Café, located on the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe, kindly played host to the first ever Cross Border CITW Eco-Club debate on Reforestation. As reforestation is one of the projects for the Zambezi Eco-Clubs this year, the teams were discussing whether the trees being planted should only be indigenous (Zambia) or exotic (Zimbabwe)?
Two teams consisting of students and teachers from the schools’ CITW Eco Clubs – Twabuka and Simoonga Primary School (both from Zambia) against St. Mary’s Primary School (Zimbabwe) – were bussed to their respective border posts, where they were able to pass through without passports, meeting in “no man’s land” – the middle of the Victoria Falls Bridge. What a sight it was, the excitement and awe was tangible, an added bonus was seeing the Victoria Falls in all its glory, a first for the majority of the children. The gathering was an iconic (and very friendly) impasse on the bridge, with each team cheering and beating drums in an attempt to intimidate the other team pre-debate.
And then the rivalry began…
It started with a quick quiz to warm up and to eliminate any shyness on either side prior to the debate. This game was hotly contested by both sides.
The debate then started with the children from each team taking it in turns to stand and present their reasons for why their view (pro-native or pro-exotic reforestation) was the best, only to be put in their place by the contending team. The Zambians argued chiefly that including exotic trees in reforestation projects would lead to these trees becoming invasive and detrimental to the native trees. However the Zimbabweans came back and argued that because exotics are fast growing they can be replenished regularly and easily, monitored and used for firewood, to make furniture and other wood based products rather than cutting down the struggling indigenous flora. The students on both sides were all well prepared with notes, props and even poems, amazing both the audience and each other
The end result was a draw with both teams being well informed, and incredibly well matched thus splitting the winners’ prize , $50 for each team towards their Eco Clubs. A student from Zambia won the prize for best speaker, with Zimbabwe winning the prize for the team with the best time management.
The debate was a huge success, it initiated interaction between the schools under the CITW banner, both within a country (with Zambia being represented by two schools in one team) and across countries in a friendly but animated meeting. The students were gracious in their win and mixed so well, sharing bottles of water and later even shared lunch together. The aim of the debate was to not only discuss a serious topic that greatly affects the future of these two beautiful countries, but also to lead to collaboration between the Eco-Clubs across borders and initiate friendships too.
The event was witnessed by officials from the Zimbabwe and Zambian District Education Office, and videoed by Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.