Visiting Ngoma Village
Helga and I wait for Sipps for most of the morning, he is the head guide who is supposed to show us around and tell us about the lodge. It looks like he is very busy with some high maintenance guests and we decide to take a drive to the nearest village.
Ngoma village is a small settlement of about 65 permanent residents. The village contains 6 fenced of pieces of land and in every compound lives a family. Usually these families consist of father, mother, sons (when they are married, also their wives and children) and daughters who are not yet married. The reason their properties are fenced off with large branches is to keep the kettle in and the wildlife, like lions and elephants, out. In these fenced off areas are several small buildings. In the middle is the kitchen and every family has its own hut. The huts are made out of clay, straw and thatched roofs. They are often painted white to keep it as cool as possible. When we have a look around we see that there is a small vegetable garden, a mango and a lemon tree. There is also a cart which can be pulled by a cow or donkey.
The house in the middle has solar panels. When we have a look inside we see that there are several TVs, a video recorder and a small satellite dish to receive the channels. We realize that they have everything they need to live a comfortable and self sufficient live. The only thing that seems to be missing is water. When we ask them about it they tell us that the nearest water point is 2 km down the road. Usually in the mornings, one of the older children will go with the cart to get water for the day.
When everyone is comfortable with having us around I get the chance to talk to the father of the family. He tells me about his life and what it is like to grow up in a community like this. He is very grateful for his four sons who support him financially. He saves up every dollar he can get. Education and progress are important to him and we can definitely tell by the level of English proficiency of his children. Even his youngest daughter gets the chance to study. We hear that studying in Zimbabwe is not for free. The fees to pay for schooling are about the same as selling one cow. He is very proud to be self sufficient. Nowadays, it is possible to get a connection to the electricity, but he chooses to use solar power instead.
He lives with his family among the elephants and lions every day. When I ask him about stories of people being attacked by these animals, he informs me that he knows of none. He tells me that the nightly visits they get from elephants mainly result in material damage. When the elephants are coming it’s usually the dogs that chase them away by barking. If the dogs don’t succeed they will try to scare the animals away by banging on pots and pans and making a lot of noise. Lions wear GPS collars nowadays and when they are near the village the people get a text message to tell them they are close. Usually this gives them enough time to move the cattle and get the children inside.
Lastly he tells me about the many differences there are between the people in the tiny community. Some want the progress, while others are totally against this. Superstition and the village chief are important factors in these matters. When there is a good chief who can mediate between different families, the community will prosper. Alcohol abuse and HIV are major problems in these villages and they are things a village chief and the community itself has to deal with.