Zambia welcomes Thumbs Up Africa trio

Eleven countries later and still counting… This is the exhaustive and exciting hitchhiking journey of 15 000 km from The Netherlands through the continent of Africa, of the Thumbs Up Africa team, which has arrived in Zambia. The goal of the three young travellers is to raise awareness for sustainable development and around socio-economic challenges in Africa.

The campaign started on September 1st and will run until January 2013. The team’s route will be from the east of Africa starting in Egypt; then followed through countries in the Eastern part of the continent. Neda Boin and Christiaan Triebert, have both been in Africa before, while this is Sierd van der Bij’s first Africa experience. The three will hitchhike from North to South and visit a variety of sustainable development projects along the way.

In the first in a series of articles about the trio’s journey, we speak to Anna Booij, Programme Coordinator of Thumbs Up for Africa.

What has the team's travel experience been so far?

So far, the adventure and experiences of the hitchhikers have been diverse. They met very welcoming people all around, who invited them into their homes and treated them as ‘royal guests.’ However, in Egypt, they experienced that hitchhiking was pretty much non-existent, and thus had to use other methods of transport to stay the course. Upon reaching Zambia, they will have travelled through 11 countries; which is the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania.

Are there any experiences in countries visited so far, which surprised, excited or disappointed the team?

The image presented of Sudan in the media can sometimes be a bit grim. The hitchhikers were therefore particularly surprised by their stay in Sudan, where they found that the Sudanese people very welcoming. The Sudanese culture is so warm, modest and people were so generous towards them, that they made friends for a lifetime. In Sudan they spoke with former refugees who were trying to resettle to build livelihoods in their place of origin.

The hitchhikers have visited a wide range of projects thus far, to see the practical efforts that people are making throughout Africa to create positive development initiatives. The diversity of projects has been very interesting. During their stay in Egypt, they joined a group of actors for interactive theatre plays to raise awareness on women's rights. In Ethiopia they taught at primary schools in the country side to see how education can further children's rights and how child labour can be addressed. In Kenya, a visit to a farmer’s coffee cooperative and biogas project provided a lot of insight into how sustainable agriculture can make a difference.

In Tanzania they met up with the initiator of a very successful water and sanitation project close to Dodoma. For all the personal opinions of and experiences with the projects, we invited the public to have a look at our website: www.thumbsupafrica.org.

How do the team plan to share these experiences after the journey with more people?

We are looking into the possibility of producing a documentary out of all the video material from the journey. There will also be a photo exposition with the best pictures, and the Thumbs Up spirit will be continued in many other projects!

The Cotton Association of Zambia and Solidaridad’s sustainable partnership

The cotton industry in Zambia has developed into the country’s largest quasi-formal distribution network with more than 200,000 smallholder farmers with an estimated one million dependants participating in various out grower schemes. This important agricultural sector relies almost solely on input pre-financing schemes operated by out grower or ginning companies, who after pre-financing the farmers’ crop, buy the seed cotton produced and deducts the value of the pre-financed inputs from the money payable for the seed cotton.

The role of Solidaridad Southern Africa in Zambia is to work with the Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ) to promote sustainable cotton production and strengthen the position of smallholder producers.

The organisation was established and launched on 25th November 2005 to become a platform for smallholder cotton farmers to represent the needs of farmers and include them in the dialogue of the future development of the cotton industry in Zambia. During their visit in Zambia the Thumbs Up Africa team will visit two cotton projects in Zambia, which is part of Solidaridad and CAZ’s local partnership projects.

The team will respectively visit the Haachanga Farmers Group and Sinazeze Farmers Group in the region. Cotton grows well in the central and southern provinces of the country which is the route for the Thumbs Up Africa travellers.