Update on La Rochelle Organic Herb Project

The NTZ is part of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) which is a non-governmental group founded in 2007. INTO was established to promote the conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural heritage of all nations for the benefit of the people of the world. INTO has close links with organizations such as: UNESCO, UNEP, ICOMOS, IUCN and Europa Nostra.

Currently, INTO represents about 55 million individual members and countless millions of visitors to sites and properties across more than 25 counties.  INTO are actively involved in various initiatives including conserving and enhancing existing built resources, most notably by the viable re-use of historic and older buildings, greening of existing building stock, and reinvestment in older and historic communities and managing land in a sustainable way.

Members of INTO own and manage many farming properties across the globe. The organisation encourages and supports the conservation and preservation of natural resources, heritage breeds and heirloom species, heritage farming structures, traditional rural landscapes, and the use of traditional farming and cultural practices.

INTO Sustainable Farms brings together National Trust farming properties across the globe. By exchanging knowledge through INTO Sustainable Farms, other National Trust farms and the wider community will learn about food and fibre production whilst concurrently supporting the conservation of natural and heritage resources.

Farmers today are under pressure to meet the demands of a rapidly growing global population whilst operating in increasingly challenging environmental conditions. It is more important than ever to ensure both food security and environmental sustainability not only for our generation, but generations to come. To achieve food security whilst safeguarding ecosystem stability, there must be a widely shared appreciation of agriculture as a multifunctional strategic land use that can provide: nutritious food, rural development and employment, environmental management, and the sustaining of cultural heritage of agrarian communities.

We are very pleased to announce that INTO Farms have just posted details about our organic herb project at La Rochelle on their website. Please see the article below.


La Rochelle Country House

Thank you.


Tackling Aliens and Increasing Biodiversity

Mabukuwene is one of seven National Trust of Zimbabwe (NTZ) properties. The twelve hectare site comprises of three separate plots that were purchased and consolidated by the successful businessman Mr. Thomas Meikle, which were given, by his daughter, to the NTZ in 1979.  One portion of the property has since been returned to the Thomas Meikles Trust (TMT) as this section contains the Meikles family cemetery and the main infrastructure.

The property is situated about five kilometres south of Bulawayo City centre. It is a tranquil place and consists of indigenous trees and plants set in an un-spoilt area of kopjes whose distinctive pink hue distinguishes it from other rocky environments in and around Bulawayo. Mabukuwene means ‘high point’ and there is a ‘look-out’ built upon a rocky outcrop 1,422 m above sea level that once afforded a 360º view point of the area (sadly much of the view has since been hidden by trees and residential development). The property has a long social heritage that extends back from at latest 250,000 years to the early colonial era. This history is represented as archaeological sites, old village remains, rock paintings and various stone and brick-built structures.

Over a decade ago the NTZ was alerted to the fact that there had been a serious invasion by an alien plant species called  Lantana camara which had developed into a veritable forest and threatening the indigenous plant species at Mabukuwene. In Zimbabwe its common name is ‘Cherrypie’ or ‘Tickberry’.  Originally from Central America Lantana is an invasive shrub that can grow up to 4m high with numerous square branches with hooked spines. When scrambling on other trees it can reach heights of up to 15m.

The lime green bushes are all Lantana smothering the indigenous vegetation

The fruit has many berries that ripen a purple-black. Each contains a seed and in flush a single large bush can yield up to 12 000 seeds. The plant has a short taproot and a mat of many shallow side roots.   The flower colour may be red, purple, pink, with yellow centre, salmon, orange, pure yellow, white etc. sometimes the inner flowers a different colour from the outer. We certainly see a great variety of colours in Zimbabwe.

Lantana camara Photo: Bart Wursten

Lantana spreads both by seeds (a food favoured by small animals and birds) as well as layering where horizontal stems take root when in contact with moist soil. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for a decade or more. This species often forms impenetrable thickets that rapidly takes over and out-competes indigenous vegetation. It becomes an aggressive invader of disturbed and overgrazed areas, it is extremely difficult to eradicate. Simply cutting it down is effectively a waste of time as it coppices and the area is left in a worst position.

It’s ousting of indigenous plants has a negative impact on various bird and insect species which are dependent on specific host plants. Lantana has been nominated as among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders on the Global Invasive Species Database. In Zimbabwe it is declared as a noxious weed under the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27 Section XIII). It can be poisonous to both livestock and children.

As part of its mandate the NTZ desperately wanted to clear the noxious weed from the site.  In 2013 Mr Dave Mason of the Thomas Meikle Trust (TMT) and Malcolm Ross, a local resident expressed interest in assisting with a clearing project. In 2014 the NTZ managed to find a small amount of money to start clearing the Lantana on a small scale and then in 2015 the TMT agreed to finance the clearing project. Work was stepped up and clearing started in earnest and the Lantana extending from the main gate away to the distant boundaries was cut back to about 30 cm above ground level and left in small piles for burning. Permission to carry out a controlled burn by the local fire brigade was granted by the Environmental Management Agency and Bulawayo City Council. Local residents were informed of the burning, as well as the Town Clerk and the Head of Parks.

Burning stimulates further Lantana seed germination so the emerging seedlings that arrived after the rains had to be removed by hand. Constant vigilance will be needed for many years to come to ensure that all emerging seedlings are uprooted and burnt. Unfortunately there is no quick solution. As the plants regenerate the larger ones were treated with a selective chemical to kill them off.


Lantana regrowth after the burn                                  Piles of cut Lantana


Controlled burn of cut Lantana                                    Post burn

After seeing such an improvement at the site the TMT agreed to continue the clearing exercise in 2016 for which the NTZ were very grateful for. Fortuitously also for the NTZ, Busani Bafana one of the Board members at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Charles Wawn of Eco Logical Safaris and Travel and Hylton Price of Halsted’s kindly offered to assist and a small working party/committee was established. During the course of the year Lantana was re-cleared from the central area and from the really badly infested hills on the west side and from a section of the Meikles area along the north side of the road way.


The cleared entrance roadway                             Entrance with Wrought-iron gates

The NTZ would like to commend Mr Mason and the Meikles staff for clearing out most of the litter that was thrown in the bushes along the entrance road.

Several of the stone walls that had collapsed in a number of places, one section fell down after a 25 mm rainstorm, were rebuilt.


  Sections of collapsed stone walls

A new cement stone wall was built and the historic wrought-iron gate moved to its current location. The main entrance wall was repaired: it was seriously leaning over (being supported with gum poles).


One of the restored stone walls                             Leaning Main Entrance Wall

Fortunately, in 2017, Meikles continued to fund the clearing of the Lantana and the team started with the outside of the gardens along with the clearing of a 4 metre width fire guard (from the fence) both inside and outside of the property.  In October when the wind and temperatures conditions were right, the fire brigade carried out another controlled burn of the cut Lantana. During the whole clearing exercise other invasive species like Mexican Sunflower were also removed. Happily the Prickly Pear is being destroyed by cochineal bug, interesting to see a natural biological–control process in action.

This year we are delighted to say that the clearance of the Lantana along the perimeter fence was finally completed after many grueling months of hard work and that the Lantana, within the rocky areas, that re-grew (following the rains) will be sprayed with herbicides.

The NTZ would like to express its sincere gratitude to TMT, in particular to Dave Mason, for continuing to fund the clearing exercise and for all their assistance at the site. The clearing of the Lantana cannot be over stated enough. The NTZ would also like to extend its appreciation to the working party consisting of Busani Bafana, Charles Wawn, and Hylton Price whom worked tirelessly often under difficult circumstances.  We are also very grateful to Halstead’s for donating equipment such as gloves, boots, refuse bags and various tools.

The project has led to the NTZ working with new people and stakeholders and we are enjoying the relationships that have been formed and very proud of the significant progress that has been made. The clearing has enhanced the beauty of the site and visitor experience and most importantly the removal of Lantana is leading to the restoration of the property’s natural biological diversity.


The NTZ acknowledges Busani Bafana for supplying most of the photographs.




Celebrating International Women’s Day

Sir Stephen and Lady Virgina 

Pastal Circa 1963


In 1890 Virginia Periano family moved to London from Romania where she received a convent education.  Rebellious and unorthodox, while still a teenager Virginia had a large snake tattooed down the front of her right leg, a shocking choice for a convent schoolgirl to make during the Edwardian era!   Her marriage to the aged Italian Count Spinoza was annulled by the Vatican and on 20 August 1923 she married Major Stephen Courtauld at Fiume in Italy and after living in Etham Palace in England  she ended up living in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) . Together Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld built La Rochelle estate, comprising of 108 ha , in 1951 as a retirement home, and donated it to the National Trust of Zimbabwe in 1970.


Sir Stephen and Lady Virgina standing outside La Rochelle by the formal pond

Circa 1963


On 16 June 1954 Stephen and Virginia became citizens of Rhodesia and over the next 13 years their major achievements included the funding of the construction of buildings for:

–           The Courtauld Theatre, Mutare (1955)

–           The Queen’s Hall, Mutare (1957)

–           The National Gallery, Harare (1958)

–           The Rhodes Club, Mutare (1961)

–           The auditorium of what is now the Zimbabwe College of Music, Harare (1962)

–           Kukwanisa Farm School, Nyanga (1964).

In their unobtrusive quest for a just and non-racial political dispensation in their adopted country the Courtaulds were also the main sponsors of the Capricorn Society Africa, a pressure movement that sought to improve  relations between races in the British-administered countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Virgina, with her kind and generous nature, had a deep desire to improve the welfare of the women in the rural areas and so she established a ‘Homecraft Club’ on the property where she taught needlework, embroidery, cooking and domestic science.  The women were able to sell their arts and crafts and for the first time financially support their families.   Her important contribution was made quietly and modestly, with sincere humility and she improved the lives of many African women over the course of several years.



Announcing the Winners of the Schools Cultural Heritage Competition

Ms Emily Drani, Executive Director and Mr John De Coninck, Programme Advisor from the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) developed a concept for a project reflecting their conviction that we must focus much of our work on the youth and a desire to share the lessons they have learned from their work to support “Heritage Clubs” in (now over 100) Ugandan secondary schools in the past few years. In 2017 their conviction led to the creation of a schools heritage club completion being held in three African countries.

The idea behind the heritage competition is to ensure that young people from Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and Uganda develop a better appreciation of the diverse heritage across the continent and become more effective in its preservation, through an electronic platform/ learning network related to heritage conservation and to strengthen the skills of our organisations in delivering more effective Heritage Education programmes for youth in a globalised, but diverse world.”

John De Coninck, Programme Advisor

Following this idea, the International National Trust Organisation (INTO) launched their first ever crowd funding campaign to raise competition funding from as many donors as possible in five weeks.  The threshold goal of £2,500 was successfully reached with the assistance of Global Giving. The NTZ would especially like to thank Mrs Catherine Leonard, Secretary General of INTO, who championed the campaign that also resulted in INTO earning a place in the Global Giving crowd funding community.

As part of the global family of National Trusts (INTO), the National Trust of Zimbabwe (NTZ) participated in the competition entitled ‘Heritage education: youth linking minds across the continent’ which was aimed at creating spaces for intercultural learning from various parts of Africa.  Students (under the age of 20) were invited to submit a short, original video clip (taken on a cell phone) showing the world their unique heritage by sharing an original experience or activity of their heritage club, which they felt was exciting. The video had to be accompanied by writing (about 250 words) explaining the clip.  Young people from each of the countries selected a winner from another participating country which resulted in three ‘first’ competition winners who each won a cash prize.

In Sierra Leone Ms I Smith Chairperson of the Monuments and Relics Commission and team generously provided technical assistance to the competition. In Zimbabwe the competition was successfully run by Mrs Edone-Ann Logan, Chair of the Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition, and Mr Willie Dhlandhlara of The Solon Foundation who is an expert in the field of education and heritage projects whom provided both technical and financial assistance. Mr Dhlandhlara designed a competition poster and wrote a proposal and presented them to the Heads of Schools in the Nyanga area under the theme ‘I love my Heritage’.

The response was good with 33 entries being submitted. Mrs Logan and Mr Dhlandhlara were delighted with the entries – all covering very different heritage subjects: pottery, traditional courts (2), processing sorghum, roofing of traditional Homes, the sacredness of Nytate Bush, ancient ridges and structures, the importance of cattle and mat making: all of which were extremely well presented. The top eight were shown to a panel of young judges who elected the five best videos and the same process happened in the other two countries.  Each entrant was asked to speak for about five minutes prior to the video being shown and answer questions afterwards.

The competition judges said that they appreciated the following from the entries:

  • The diversity of the videos; diverse cultural themes and activities, different schools participating;
  • The videos were communicative and generally easy to understand the messages conveyed;
  • The good sequencing of the message in creating a story, making the significance of the cultural activity clearly understood;
  • Illustrating the cultural activities that made the videos very lively and compelling to watch;
  • The entries from Zimbabwe were mainly from primary (younger) students than the other two clubs so the judges felt that there was a need to balance external technical support with student ownership.

During the course of the competition there were inter-country exchanges of experiences as members of each of the heritage clubs and schools learnt about the other countries culture and heritage which lead to an increased understanding and appreciation of just how important it is to keep it alive.  Solidarity and cultural respect among young people across continents can provide energy and solutions to heritage preservation.

Looking ahead, areas for future improvements were noted in the judging process such as the limited participation of students in some videos, poor sound (caused mainly by being outside in the wind) and image quality (low lighting levels) because it is planned to make the competition an annual event.

So who won?

The top two videos selected from Sierra Leone were:

First prize

Song and dance for planting: With Agriculture, Food   

Sufficiency is Assured’   

By Henry Fergusson Junior Secondary School                                        


Second prize






‘Pul Na Do’ Naming Ceremony for a Baby By Methodist Girls’ High School

The top two videos selected from Uganda were:

First prize


Ekizino’ a Ceremonial Dance Performed After a Successful                 

Harvest or Victory in Western Uganda                                                        

By Perfect Tumusiime of Kabaale Trinity College Heritage Club           


Second prize

‘Imbulu’ an Initiation Ritual by the Bamasaaba Ethnic

Group in Eastern Uganda

By Paul Kusolo of Bulucheke Secondary School


The top two videos selected from Zimbabwe were:

First prize


‘Building a Traditional Hut’ By St. Monica’s High School            

Second prize

‘The Secret of Nyatete Bush’ By Nyatete Heritage Club

The competition was made possible with the generous help and support of INTO and its members: CCFU and the NTZ. Ms I Smith Chairperson of the Monuments and Relics Commission in Sierra Leone and team and Mr W Dhlandhlara of The Solon Foundation in Zimbabwe.

The NTZ would like to thank all the heritage clubs for participating in such an exciting and interesting competition and would like to say ‘Makorokoto’ (congratulations) to all the winners.  It was heartening to see a good gender balance and for young people to share their culture to enable others to discover and experience it. Every student should be very proud of their work and the fact that they certainly helped to make a difference to the future of African heritage!

Why not take a few minutes to learn about the fascinating cultural heritage of Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe! You can watch the short video clips that have kindly been posted by Mr Bill Turner of INTO on YouTube.  Here are the links:

Sierra Leone:

St Edwards Cultural Club, The Death of a Chief: https://youtu.be/z0VrzyDwYx0

Methodist Girls High School, ‘Pul Na Do’ Creole Baby Naming Ceremony: https://youtu.be/kYBsMPvT17E

Henry Fergusson Secondary School, With Agriculture, Food Sufficiency is Assured: https://youtu.be/pCfK-lNACLw

Annie-Walsh Memorial School Heritage Club, A Creole Engagement Ceremony:  https://youtu.be/s-zt-5AZ92Y

Ahmadiyya Muslim Secondary School Heritage Club, What Happens Before the Planting Season: https://youtu.be/-ul7WFcIDno


Grace Atuhairwe of Kabaale Trinity College Heritage Club, A Family Tree My Heritage:  https://youtu.be/uFTG48l5xAE

Elizabeth Twesigye Queen of Bweranyanyi Girls Secondary School, Preservation of Culture Through Art and Craft: https://youtu.be/6QDsyIF0Sv8

Treasure Akansasira of Kabaale Trinity College Heritage Club, Importance of Museums to Our Lives: https://youtu.be/dWO9I0SoLhk

Paul Kisolo of Bulucheke Secondary School Heritage Club, ‘Imbulu’ an Initiation Ritual by the Bamasaaba Ethnic Group in Eastern Uganda: https://youtu.be/p9HY62sDZVc

Tumusiime Perfect of Kabaale Trinity College Heritage Club, ‘Ekizino’ a Ceremonial Dance Performed After a Successful Harvest or Victory in Western Uganda: https://youtu.be/TmY2XcQOCkI


Nyamhuka Primary School, Processing of Sorghum into Sorghum Meal by Paidamoyo Hondo: https://youtu.be/WBQikpS3a7U

Nyatate Heritage Club,The Secret of the Nyatate Bush: https://youtu.be/bVuZkIjx9gQ

Nyamhuka Primary School, Importance of Cattle in a Family: https://youtu.be/tCGu3DWnJW4

Nyajezi Primary School, Pot Making: https://youtu.be/OFiXykefBKI

Tanatswa Mvududu of Nyamhuka Primary School, My Rich Heritage in Nyanga National Park: https://youtu.be/bbiBtW_LHZg

St. Monica’s High School, Building a Traditional Hut: https://youtu.be/6OgwQed27K4

An aristocratic African B&B full of orchids and roses A very British couple left behind a palace in south London to create a horticultural gem in Zimbabwe. Lisa Grainger takes a tour of La Rochelle

We would like to share an excellent article about La Rochelle that was recently compiled by Lisa Grainger. It was published in The UK Daily Telegraph Gardening Section for which we would like to extend our deepest appreciation to Lisa Grainger.


The Art Deco bungalow has a French-style turret and Welsh slate roof

There were few sixty somethings in the Fifties who would have chosen to leave an English home as spectacular as Eltham Palace in south London to build a new life in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).There are even fewer who, upon ­retirement, would have bought a ­rundown African farm and turned it into the finest arboretum in the southern hemisphere.

But Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld weren’t any conventional retirees. Stephen had been awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in the First World War and knighted for his philanthropy (including his support of the Royal Opera House, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and Ealing Film Studios). Virginia was the headstrong London-educated daughter of an Italian marquis who had scandalised society in Thirties Britain by not only divorcing her aged aristocratic Italian husband, but also by having a snake tattooed up her leg.

In their 15th-century palace, where Cardinal Wolsey took his oath of office and where elite guests such as Rab ­Butler and the Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother) dined, the couple lived a glamorous, carefree life. As well as their own palace, they had their own yacht and their own plane on which to explore the world.

The one thing they didn’t have was sunshine in which to grow the exotic plants they had gathered on exotic journeys aboard their 210ft, 30-crew steam-yacht, Virginia. The couple were both keen gardeners and Stephen had inherited a love of orchids from his father, Sydney. In 1949, fed up with post-war Britain and rain, the couple sailed to Cairo, then flew their twin-engined plane to Cape Town, and on to Southern Rhodesia.

The rare orchid 
Vanda lombakensis ‘Virginia

When they flew over the beautiful Imbeza valley in the Eastern Highlands, with its 3,000ft hills, trout streams and forests, and discovered a farm which had once been called La Rochelle – the part of France from which Stephen’s French-Huguenot family had fled in the 1500s – they decided their fate was sealed.

In 1951, once they had been granted Rhodesian residence, they bought the farm and started to build a house – an expansive modernist bungalow with a French-style turret, Welsh slate roof and sprung-wood dance floor, which would be their home for the next 20 years.

It was to be the biggest personal project of their lives – and one, according to Stephen’s memoirs, that gave them more pleasure than any other. When they died, in the early Seventies, the couple left behind one of the finest arboretums in the southern hemisphere, one of the most beautiful formal gardens in the country, and one of greatest collections of orchids on earth.

Like many properties in Zimbabwe, La Rochelle has seen several dramatic turns since it was built. The Courtaulds were – unlike many of their countrymen in the former British colony – liberal, and were among the key sponsors of the Capricorn Africa Society, which sought to foster good relation between races.

During the country’s fight for independence, the Courtaulds hosted not only British aristocrats and politicians, but also opposition leaders such as the future president Robert Mugabe, Leopold Takawira, Herbert Chitepo and Ndabaningi Sithole, all of whose signatures were etched, using a diamond stylus, into a glass window in the 
couple’s home.

When the Courtaulds died, childless, the property was left to the people of Zimbabwe, whom Virginia called her family – a bequest protected by an Act of Parliament and the National Trust of Zimbabwe – along with a gift of $250,000 to cover running costs. While their intentions were honourable, their timing was unfortunate. A liberation war had broken out and the house was around four miles from the border with Mozambique, where hundreds of guerrilla fighters were trained. It was neither safe for anyone to live at La Rochelle nor to visit the property.

La Rochelle has been restored to somewhere near its original glory

By the time the war was over in 1980, and Zimbabwe was born, the funds left by the Courtaulds were depleted and the property had started to decay. Wild bush had taken over the 20 hectares of garden, in which the couple’s beloved pet lemur was buried. The greenhouses had collapsed. Flagstones on paths built to help Stephen wheel around in his latter years had been stolen. And the couple’s collection of 365 trees amassed in 25 countries had been subsumed by indigenous greenery.

When La Rochelle’s current head gardener, Nicholas Kashiri, came to work in 1972 as a 16-year-old apprentice – one of 55 full-time gardeners employed by the British couple – it was, he says, “the most beautiful garden you could imagine. “It had hundreds of rose bushes, of all colours: red, orange, yellow. Big wide beds planted with asters, lavenders, roses, salvia, agapanthus, cannas, hebes.”

He adds: “In summer we’d plant marigolds, zinnias, salvias, then in spring petunias, calendulas, snapdragons and lots of white annuals. People came from all over the world to see it.”

Then, in the Eighties, the hard times arrived. A grant from the Zimbabwean treasury was cut. As Mugabe continued to incite supporters to take over white-owned farms, donors abroad became nervous about sending funds. Inflation rose to 231 million per cent, and people across the land suffered and starved. Oddly, it was in part thanks to these desperate times that 17 years ago the property found a saviour.

When a local farmer, Jannie Martin, had three consecutive properties taken by Mugabe’s supporters, he decided that he “should try to use the negative to do something positive”.

Having lived in the area all of his life, he explains, he had grown to love the property, and admired the ­philanthropic spirit of the Courtaulds, who had paid for schools, civic halls, museums and clubs across the country – from the National Gallery in Harare to a homecrafts centre for local women. So he set about doing what he could. Gardeners who worked with him were paid in food, grown on the land. The property was leased as a B&B, painted, and partially restored, to lure visitors.

When, in 2013, two donors were found, serious work began to turn the home into the comfortable guesthouse and national garden it is now. With the help of nine gardeners, the shade houses and orchid-houses were rebuilt. The pathways and funnels bringing water from mountain streams were fixed. And, finally, 10 hectares of land were ploughed and turned into an organic herb farm, to ensure that the property could continue to fund itself.

Walking around the garden today, it seems incredible that such a magnificent property was almost lost. From the grey-painted modernist bungalow, with its art deco furnishings and homely bedrooms, views stretch out over acres of lawn, dotted with giant trees, towards forested hills.

  An organic herb farm brings in income  

To the east, the rose garden has been replanted by Henrietta Courtauld (a distant relative by marriage) and Bridget Elworthy, founders of The Land Gardeners, based in London and Oxfordshire, with hundreds of pink and white blooms: ‘Iceberg’, ‘House and Garden’, ‘Duet’ and ‘Virginia’ (named after Lady Courtauld). A long avenue of white standard roses and lavender created by them now leads to the original circular pond, where the pergola beyond is still planted with a thick roof of purple Queen’s wreath.

Since The Land Gardeners visited the property in 2014 – when, Henrietta remembers, “it was pretty much a ruined garden, albeit a magical one” – a large pond has been cleared, uncovering an island, now reached by a pretty bridge. Hillsides of azaleas from Nepal, India, China, Burma and Japan have been uncovered.

Terracing has been planted with hundreds of white agapanthus and orange clivia. And on the hill, dozens of beds are now thick with aloes, cacti, cycads and cymbidium orchids. This is now a garden in which days could be spent exploring: examining trees from around the world, taking in the scents of enormous magnolias and pink begonias; marvelling at the variety of palm trees; walking trails in the indigenous forests and, of course, examining orchids.

Stephen had one of the finest collections of orchids in Africa, and today, under the care of both Martin and Nicholas Kashiri, as well as Martin’s son, Kevin, who now runs the garden, the six orchid houses are flourishing. In regulated conditions, orchids thrive in pots on sunny shelves, attached to tree trunks, hanging in enormous balls.

There are red and purple Vanda lombakensis from Malaysia; phalaenopsis of all shades from East Asia; dendrobium, arachnis, bulbophyllum.

The most treasured orchid of the collection – the rare Vanda lombakensis‘Virginia Courtauld’ – Kashiri shows to me with some pride. The Courtaulds found the plant in Java in the Thirties, and took it back to their Eltham Palace greenhouses, where it flowered just once. After the palace was bombed, bits of the orchid were rescued, and when the couple came to Zimbabwe, they brought it with them. Since then it has flowered three times, including last year, under the keen plantsman’s care. “For me, when it flowered it was like an omen,” Kashiri says, smiling. “Like this house, it almost died. But now it’s blooming again. That makes me very, very happy.”

La Rochelle (larochellecentre.com) now welcomes guests, from $75pp (£54) a night, B&B, and $20 for a three-course dinner, featuring local produce. It periodically also hosts gardening weeks, yoga weeks and art courses, and welcomes donations to maintain the gardens through the Zimbabwe National Trust (ntoz.org). May to October is peak season; for British Government advice on travel to Zimbabwe, visit gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/zimbabwe



This Way to the Museum

Committee members of Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition arrived at the Rhodes Museum for their usual bi-monthly meeting on 7 December 2017 and started work on setting up the new ‘Time Line Project’ and also co-opted member Ray Clutty, together with Marshall Nyanhanda, the task of fixing the newly painted signs outside the Museum and positioning them strategically.


This has proved to be very successful in drawing the public’s eye to the locality and entry point of the Museum.  Needless to say, the NTZ and Marshall, in his capacity of Curator since July 2014, are extremely chuffed with these new signs. Hopefully, they will attract more visitors to the Museum.

   Marshall Nyanhanda with the new sign


COP 23 – Climate Change: Consequences for The National Trust of Zimbabwe

Mr Oliver Maurice, Director, INTO attended the recent conference of the parties (COP) COP 23  under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which aims to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” held in Bonn, Germany. Mr Maurice presented the “Gianyar Declaration: Cultural Sustainability and Climate Change” that was ratified at the INTO ICNT conference held in Bali in September 2017.

Indeed Mr Maurice has attended most of the previous COP conferences  representing the concerns of the global INTO membership regarding the effects of climate change on their heritage sites.

As an INTO member the NTZ first participated, with the very kind assistance of Mr Maurice, in the COP 22 in Marrakech in 2016 when Mrs Sharon Waterworth, Chartered Environmental Scientist and Vice Chair of the NTZ produced a poster for display on climate change in Zimbabwe.  The important issues included: a) the education of NTZ members and visitors to our sites about the effects of climate change b) for the NTZ to share information about what action the NTZ is taking to protect heritage from climate change and c) to be able to get communities involved in protecting their local heritage sites. The NTZ was able to keep abreast of the conference by listening to regular blogs by Mr Maurice and a podcast series run by Mr Bill Turner entitled ‘INTO Conversations that Matter’.

For this years COP 23 conference Mrs Waterworth wrote a paper entitled: “Climate Change: Consequences for The National Trust of Zimbabwe” extracts of which were kindly displayed at the conference by Mr Maurice on the INTO stand.  The NTZ would like to extend its gratitude to Mr Maurice for attending the conference and working hard to highlight global heritage issues with respect to climate change.

Climate Change: Consequences for The National Trust of Zimbabwe

Globally, according to many scientific organisations, including NASA and the United Nations (UN), agreed that 2016 was the hottest year on record. The UN reported that, this was a new high for the third year in a row.  It means 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been in this century.  2016 was the warmest year in the 136 years of modern data-keeping.  The scorching temperatures around the world, and the extreme weather they drive, mean the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected.


Everyone on earth is and will be affected by climate change, but the countries that will experience the most severe impacts are in the developing world.  Africa (with the exception of South Africa and Nigeria) contributes to only 4.6% of total average global greenhouse gas emissions.  The IPCC predicts that average temperatures across most of Africa will increase more quickly than the global average.

Zimbabwe, situated in central southern Africa, is endowed with abundant human and natural resources, and these resources are interdependent. For example, since the economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and electricity, its strength and stability are linked to the climate and particularly the state of the country’s water resources.

Around 20% of its land area, including the Zambezi and Limpopo river valleys, lies below 900 m. The climate is strongly influenced by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which develops as a result of the collision of warm moist air masses from the north and cool air masses from the south. Zimbabwe has one of the most variable rainfall patterns in the world in terms of distribution across time and space, although dry spells and droughts are part of a normal cycle.

The graph below shows the variability in average seasonal rainfall since records began in 1901. As can be seen by the strongly zigzagging line, Zimbabwe has experienced wide fluctuations in average seasonal rainfall over the last century. The red line on the graph indicates that average rainfall is declining. The decline is attributed to climate change. Zimbabwe’s continental interior location means that it warms somewhat more rapidly in the future than the global average.



Zimbabwe average seasonal rainfall (mm) 1901/02 to 2009/10

Meteorological Services Department of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s National Climate Change Response Strategy states that “Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity today”.  There is evidence from records since 1900 that average annual surface temperature has increased by 0.4°C. There are now, more hot days and fewer cold days than in the past. Climate change is expected to bring an increase in average temperatures across the country of between 1°C and 3°C before the end of this century. Temperature extremes cause ground frost during the cold season and heat waves during the hot season. Annual rainfall could decline by between 5% and 18%, especially in the south. Rainfall will become more variable. There will be an increase in droughts, floods and storms.

A small increase in winter temperatures could have a disproportionate large effect on human health and deaths as it will increase the distribution of the preferred habitats of insects that carry disease including mosquitoes, tsetse flies and ticks. In Africa in 2015, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths.

Between 1990 and 2015 Zimbabwe lost 36% of its forest cover at a rate of 9% per decade. Deforestation has become a major problem in recent years as forests have been cleared in preparation for agriculture, for fencing and for use as firewood mainly for tobacco curing and brick making. Natural resources and ecosystem services have been degraded over the years through various human activities. Climate change will accelerate the degradation and its impacts will be felt more strongly. Soils, for example, have been increasingly eroded through annual ploughing, burning for land clearing, building on wetlands, deforestation and poor grazing management.   The lack of controlled water run-off from slopes and uncontrolled open-cast mining areas has added to the degradation.

The country’s economy is heavily dependent on water availability and its gross domestic product (GDP) has been strongly affected by rainfall fluctuations in the past. During years where rains have been good, GDP has increased and decreased in drought years GDP. Climate change will exacerbate hardship and poverty among the people of Zimbabwe, those living in rural areas, will be the worst affected.

Photograph courtesy of David Brazier, 2015

The impacts of climate change in Zimbabwe, particularly the increase in rainfall variability, make it difficult for organizations operating in the tourism and heritage protection sector such as the National Trust (NTZ), who now have to cope with seasonal shifts, wildfires, threats to soil fertility and an accelerated expansion of deserts. In addition extreme weather conditions such as droughts and heat waves, storms and intense rain affect visitor numbers and a lack of water resources at some of the properties is fragile.  The Worlds View property relies on water pumped from a local dam that is dependent on rain water. La Rochelle County House is reliant solely on borehole water to supply the hotel and a holding dam for the up-keep of the gardens.  The water for the Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition is supplied from the adjacent hotel that is provided via a water canal that is owned by the Water Board.  These three sites receive the highest numbers of visitors who require access to water. The Mabukuwene property which also receives visitors: only has access to municipal water which is rarely distributed. Whilst some of the other more remote sites do not have a water supply at all:  Fort Gomo, Sebakwe Poort and Murahwa’s Hill.

It is not only humans that require water to live and together with the destruction of natural habitats, pressure from human settlements and poaching, wildlife populations have been decimated, particularly those of endangered species.  In November 2016 Mr David Dell, Chair of The Friends of Hwange ( one of the oldest and largest National Parks in Africa) announced that there was certainly an increase in the heat levels in the Park and 2016 was  particularly hot as has the last few years. Elephants not only need water to drink but also to keep their bodies cool. Their skin has many small cracks into which moisture is trapped by mud and as it dries the latent heat of evaporation helps to cool them down. It is hard enough providing water to drink let alone enough to keep them cool. We are seeing a number of elephant deaths in the Park. Buffaloes are also succumbing to the extreme heat.   Apart from these two species suffering other animals are also having a hard time as they cannot get to the water as the troughs are dominated by elephant.

Scientists worldwide agree that global warming is happening, and that human activity causes it. We now need to implement adaptation and mitigations strategies to combat the terrible effects of climate change and to prepare for the future by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Primarily, we must protect the natural resources on which our lives and livelihoods depend by introducing better land management practices

Adaptation strategies are actions to counteract the adverse consequences of climate and landscape change. Natural resource managers can use both strategies to reduce adverse ecosystem effects of climate and landscape change. These strategies can increase ecological resilience to climate and landscape change.

Mitigation strategies are actions to prevent, reduce, or slow climate and/or landscape change such as increasing the use of solar and wind energy and reduce ecosystem vulnerability, conserve biodiversity and restore degraded ecosystems.  Communities, too, can adapt for example by switching to more drought tolerant agricultural crops, increase the use of irrigation in crop production in areas expected to become more arid, maintain landscape connectivity to aid vegetation and wildlife migration.

At the recent International Conference of National Trusts held in Bali,  the NTZ, as a member organization, pledged to implement (wherever possible) the Gianyar Declaration for Cultural Sustainability and Climate Change that was ratified at the conference by undertaking the following actions:

  • Reduce our carbon footprint and
  • Encourage our visitors to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Undertake water conservation practices
  • Mainstream climate change by including the subject in all of our agendas, meetings, decisions and management methods
  • The NTZ will be hosting the inaugural Africa Region conference in Zimbabwe in 2018 and we will focus on organising a ‘green’ conference by implementing measures such as: reducing our carbon footprint, limiting the use of one time plastic, produce the minimum amount of solid waste, undertake tree planting and so on
  • Conserve intangible cultural heritage associated with our properties
  • Any new buildings that may be built on any of our properties will be designed as environmentally friendly as possible. The NTZ will work closely with planners, architects and engineers to achieve this
  • Environmental Management and Monitoring Plans will be compiled both for the construction and operational phases of any new developments
  • Sustainable urban and rural landscape, garden and estate management practices will be adopted on our properties
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle solid waste
  • Conserve biodiversity at our properties and
  • Promote creative industries based on the conservation of nature and culture

The NTZ is dedicated and actively working to reduce the impact of climate change that is threatening each and every one of us.




The NTZ kindly acknowledges Anna Brazier, 2015, Climate Change in Zimbabwe: Facts for Planners and Decision Makers, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung