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The Art of Rooting: An intro conversation ...

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

What do you think of when you think of "roots"?

What does the word "rooting" evoke in you?

I am assuming that your answer will not be limited to the physical roots of a plant or tree and that my questions may lead to some deeper reflections.


In the middle of April 2022, the sight of a fallen tree during one of my hikes at the Audubon Acres Cherokee Arboretum provoked many reflections about roots. By the end of April, came the idea to write a new book, a book about trees.

I have written seven books thus far and have poetry published in two anthologies.

I have learned from each book that the books take on a life of themselves and that I am the one who needs to be intuitive and obedient to "where the journey may lead."


Writing for me is a spiritual practice. Writing with the intent to share is a practice I approach with a lot of sensibility. I pay attention to details, to "serendipities" and "synchronicities", to those things that happen that I can not control nor take full credit for.

As I embarked on this new writing journey, I found my African roots pulled to a part of Africa that I have yet to visit, and I found my heart and my spirit stirred in ways I could not anticipate.


One thing with roots is that they stretch further than where you set your plant in healthy soil, and I am enjoying seeing mine spread!

I met some wonderful people, reconnected with amazing people I knew already, had some interesting conversations, and promptly realized that despite my best effort to share as much as I could in the book, there are many things that I won't be able to share in print.


I still want to share many of those things with you guys therefore, I am turning to the Nakivoire Blog to introduce you to some of those people and make you a part of those conversations. "Spread your roots" with me and "let's root" for one another even if we are continents apart.

I know that once the book The Art of Rooting will be released in a few weeks, it will incite many more beautiful connections and I intend to keep those conversations going and share those lessons on this platform. While you wait for the book, I recommend that you enjoy The Art Therapy Experience!


The first person I would introduce to you is Mwape Mwangilwa.

She lives in Zambia and I was introduced to her by Chulu Chansa, a phenomenal Zambian sister that the gentle wind of destiny blew on my path. ( This is an amazing story for a later day.)

Chulu, the founder of Africana Woman, is a force and when she connected me to Mwape, I knew then that my idea to write a book about trees would offer more fruits than I expected.

The Africana Woman Blog offers stories and articles meant to edify us as women and one such story is a folklore by Chansa Chisa M. "Mumbi Mukasa Lyulu: The Bemba Queen from Heaven" that I had the pleasure to illustrate.


Shortly after I connected with Mwape, Mwape recommended that I meet another Zambian who does some impressive work for the environment, Thimothy Kamuzu Phiri, founder of Mizu Eco-Care. Kamuzu's knowledge and passion for nature and the environment turned my vision for my book into a mission and a sort of divine assignment.


(Right to left Timothy Kamuzu Phiri and Mwape Mwangilwa)


Mwape also introduced me to two brilliant young men, Sammie and Nathan, who are a part of her organization and who are also making an impact in addressing environmental issues. You would want to stay tuned to hear about them because young people doing amazing things is something worth reading about!


Cool fact, "Mizu" means roots in Chewa, Kamuzu's language and Chulu's motto is to " Know your Roots, Grow your purpose"!

If this wasn't enough of a sign of an exciting new journey, I don't know what sign and proof I would need to know that this book would be special.


You would have to get a copy of The Art of Rooting to learn and savor more!


I can't wait to share more about my growing Zambian family and how they are nourishing my roots, but today we will focus our introduction on Mwape as I think the blog will offer more flexibility to share one of our conversations in its entirety and some of the many photos she excitedly shared with me.

Ubuntungwa means freedom in Bemba, Mwape's language, after you learn more let me know in the comments, if you can see how fitting the name is.

( I will fill in some context or additional information in purple.)




A CONVERSATION WITH MWAPE MWANGILWA


Please state your full name and the name of your organization:

My full names are Mwape Mwangilwa and my organization is called Ubuntungwa

Mwape and Sammie at the 2023 Africa Music, Art, and Cultural Exhibition #AMACE23 held at the Mulungushi International Conference Center in Lusaka.


How old were you when you decided to start your organization?

I was 26 years old, and the year was 2020 after a recommendation from the then

NYDC Council Secretary Mr. David Musonda.


What’s your educational/ professional background and how did it lead

or serve what you are doing now?

I have a Degree in Marketing and worked in the Banking Sector as a corporate and

retail banker. It made me understand how to see the world from an investment,

economic point of view as I would encourage clients to invest their money with

our bank. I used those marketing principles and investment fundamentals in ways

in which I could protect the environment.


What made you decide to start your organization?

I found it unfortunate that many youths were facing financial challenges and yet

there are many opportunities that they can venture into by simply protecting the

environment.



What are some of the services, products, and activities that you offer?

We focus on offering capacity building to youths especially those who are about to

finish college on how they can generate an income through proper management of

their environment. These include capacity building on growing drought-resistant

crops such as sunflower, sugar beans, nursery establishment, and management. We

also offer internship programs for youths who would want to learn agribusiness

skills such as fish farming, animal husbandry, and horticulture. We have also just

started making organic fertilizer which will help small-scale farmers.


Nathan is also one of the young members of Ubuntungwa.

On the collage above: Nathan with Mateo, a local farmer, in a sunflower field

Nathan with the Mayor of Kabwe P. Chishala who proudly supports the work and efforts of Ubuntungwa.

I love this photo of Mateo and Nathan because sunflowers are my favorite flowers to grow and honestly I have lived in America so long that I didn't even think that Sunflowers also grew in Africa. It just never crossed my mind.




( Left to right: Nathan, Mateo, Sammie)



Mwape, you have told me before about Nathan and Sammie and I will share more about them later, but can you tell me more about Mateo?

Mateo is one of the youths that we were working with within the community who we taught how to grow sunflowers. We did capacity building with them for two weeks and gave them some seeds. He was one of the successful participants from the training.





I love sunflowers and would have loved to be in that field with Mateo, but why sunflowers, what do you guys do with them?

That's a great question. Sunflowers have a lot of uses. It is processed and made into cooking oil and margarine.

Some use it to make cosmetics as it is rich in Vitamin E.

It can also help protect the skin from adverse effects of the sun, especially those who are sunburnt.

The residue is made into sunflower cake and used as feed for animals such as chickens. cows and goats.

Most importantly it requires very little water to grow so even if there is little rainfall due to climate change or hot temperatures sunflowers will grow very well!




This is amazing! I knew about the use of sunflower for cosmetics because I make my own Nakivoire organic cosmetics, ( I use other rich ingredients) but I didn't know this much about its agricultural uses.

Did you guys know this? Yes! You the reader! Did you know this?


What makes Ubuntungwa, your organization stand out?

We focus on changing the mindset and perceptions of the youth and society to see

the financial benefits of the environment. The main objectives are to reduce

poverty levels by helping people make money, produce more food using less

chemicals and create more awareness on how to better protect the environment.


Who/what influence (d) you the most?

Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, are leaders who served their

communities despite the negative opposition they received and the time it took to

achieve their objectives. I aspire to motivate and encourage others just as they have

encouraged me.


What are some of the challenges that you face and what are things that

could be done to assist you?

Sometimes it takes people a long time to perceive or understand what we are trying

to achieve because, in African culture, only lawyers, engineers, doctors, etc are

considered successful people. Doing something different and teaching them that

this too is success, isn’t easy. It is really just a matter of time really but I am happy

with the response from members of my community. Media houses such as KNC

TV and Radio, Times of Zambia journalists help us communicate to a larger

audience what we do. Various government departments such as Forest Department

in my town are always ready to include us in their programs and hear our ideas.


What are some of the rewards?

When some of the youths we worked with shared how they have established their

own business because of the knowledge we shared with them. Communities, where

we planted lead-absorbing trees, were happy with the trees and asked to plant

more trees in their households.


What keeps you hopeful and motivated?

My family, it is really a team effort. My big brothers and their loving wives

alongside my dad are my biggest cheerleaders. My sisters Inonge, Munambeza and

Demby are always there for me any time day or night. I spend long hours being

encouraged by Tamika and Kabeta who keep reminding me why I started this

journey. Passy Haachizo is always ready to write articles of all our activities so that

more people are aware of what we do.

(Passy Haachizo is a freelance journalist from Times of Zambia.)



Can you share more of your wins?

A women’s group in our community started a business of selling seedlings to

farmers to promote conservation farming. They are able to feed their families and

improve their livelihood. There are more government projects towards protecting

the environment and more citrus plants are being planted. More youths are learning about their environment and reaching out to my organization for information.







Being mentioned by Claudia Bröll, the Africa correspondent for the German Newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), in Volume No 127 on Page 3 which was published on Saturday, June 3, 2023.



Claudia Bröll, (pictured with Mwape and the brilliant young Nathan, who I promise to introduce to you), wrote about the seriousness of lead contamination and the effects of mining. Mwape was quoted along with a few others who

have shared concerns for the way mining's lead contamination has impacted their communities.


One of the first things I learned from Mwape when we first talked was that Kabwe is one of the world's top lead-polluted cities. She believes that agriculture can be a solution.


(Pre-order or Grab a copy of the Art of Rooting to learn more)


I helped Mizu Eco-Care, Eco-Rising, and the Global March for Elephants and


Mizu Eco-Care is one of the amazing organizations Mwape introduced to me. Visit Mizu Eco-Care to see more photos of this impactful event that Timothy Kamuzu Phiri spearheaded and that Hon.Eng. Collins Nzovu, the Minister of Green Economy and the Environment supported and praised.




Can you see the beauty of the Art of Rooting? Different organizations and different people of all walks of life and different status, rooting for one another because we are all in this together.


(Far right photo: Right to left, the Minister of Green Economy and the Environment and Timothy Kamuzu Phiri)




What are some of your ultimate goals/dreams?

To see less pollution and more youths taking better care of the environment. I am

looking forward to creating a green economy with more green jobs being created in

my country.



What is your favorite tree?

Baobab tree, which is known locally as Mabuyu. The plant produces fruits with

such a unique slightly sour-like taste and is rich in nutrients, baobab powder is

listed as a supper food. The tree can live for hundreds of years and it stores water

in its truck for other animals in the desert. So it is useful for the whole eco-system.


I absolutely love that Mwape mentioned the Baobab tree because I grew up hearing stories of villagers gathering at a Baobab tree and my mother raves about its countless health benefits.


How do you take care of yourself mentally?

I take time to meditate daily. I also enjoy swimming.


What made you decide to work with me?

N’nako is such an amazing person who works towards achieving whatever she sets

her mind too. She has written 6 books consistently and is able to express herself in

such an artistic way. Even my dad, who is not a fan of the outdoors, was very

impressed by the way she could articulate nature through her poetry and writing

skills. It is definitely an honor working with her and I look forward to working on

more projects with her in the future.


What wisdom would you like to pass on or what call for action would

you like to raise while people have the chance to read your words

here?

I would encourage people to learn more about trees and the environment. They

have more uses than just releasing oxygen. I also want more people to come visit

Zambia, see Victoria Falls, plant trees with us alongside different communities

in Kabwe, and spoil their taste buds with great food sourced from local farmers at

Café Choconilla. Finally, listen to Chulu Chansa's Africana Woman podcast or

KNC Radio as they explore nature with me as their travel guide.





My very first book is Little Corey and Cousin Nia ( available on Amazon). It is a children, family-friendly book that you can enjoy regardless of your age whether you have children or not.

The story is about living an eco-friendly lifestyle, eating local, recycling, using reusable bags instead of plastic, eating more from the earth, and I even shared some healthy recipes in the book. Learning about Mwape Mwangilwa and Timothy Kamuzu Phiri's environmental efforts and writing a book that celebrates the Earth is almost full circle for me as a writer.


Thank you Mwape for being willing to contribute your time and your

knowledge to this project! – N’nako Kandé



You may wonder why stories like this matter, especially if you have no connection to Zambia. As I mentioned earlier, my connection to Zambia is all serendipitous, but this impacts me and it also impacts you, because when it comes to the environment, we are all impacted, we are all in this together. I intentionally included more than one person in this conversation because I want us to appreciate that Mwape isn't doing it alone, nor are the others whose stories I look forwards to sharing. To make a lasting impact, we must all root, for each other.



One of my own favorite lines and biggest realization in writing The Art of Rooting is that we should all "take care of our own backyards but remember that our backyards are all connected".

Did you know that early in April 2023, American Vice-President Kamala Harris was in Zambia?










About Mwape Mwangilwa

Mwape started her early education of nursery school to primary at Hillcrest Primary in Gaborone, Bostwana.

Her family later moved back to Zambia and she did her Junior Secondary education at Banani Secondary School in Chisamba. She completed her Senior Secondary education in Kabwe at Kabwe Secondary School.

She obtained a degree in marketing at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe and started working as a corporate and retail banker at one of the largest and most prestigious banks in Ndola. In 2019 she moved back to Kabwe after resigning from the bank and in 2020 she established Ubuntungwa Youth Organization.

( On the collage. Top right Mwape and Herman Machaha from KNC TV. Bottom: Mayor of Kabwe, P.Chishala)




About N'nako Kande'

I know that I can not and should not assume that every visitor to this page already knows of me.

You can learn more about me as an author here and shop for my books.

You can shop for my NaKbook, African Art Collection on notebooks, here. I suggest you grab some notebooks to log some of the cool things you will learn from our conversations or record some of your fun adventures.

You can learn more about the things that make me smile on my Instagram account.

You can enjoy "The Art of Rooting: Art Therapy Experience" now while you wait for The Art of Rooting book set to be released on August 17, 2023. If you too share a love for nature and play your part in making our world better, I would love to hear from you and add you to those conversations.


Did you enjoy learning about our new Zambian friends? Well, there are more cool things to enjoy in the book. You can contact me to (pre) order an autographed copy of a book.

We will keep the conversations going!


I will ask again: What do you think of now when you think of "roots"?

What does the word "rooting" evoke in you?

What was the most interesting thing you learned from this conversation with Mwape Mwangilwa? Does "Ubuntungwa" (Freedom) now mean something to you in terms of environmental impact?


If you think this one was interesting wait until you meet Nathan, Sammie Hills, and Timothy Kamuzu Phiri! See you in a week for our next Zambian story and remember to contact me to pre-order your autographed copy of The Art of Rooting. While you wait for the next inspiring Zambian story, read another great story about the value of community and shop Nakivoire.

Merci!


Updates from August 1st, 2023. Last week I received a special message from the Mayor of Kabwe, of Patrick Chishala, and from Christabel Ngongola Reinke, the owner of Cafe Choconilla, both expressing appreciation and encouragements for this post, my work and the upcoming Art of Rooting book.








2 Comments


Samson Hills
Samson Hills
Jul 20, 2023

WOW! If the blog is this amazing I wonder how much more awesome the book will be... Cheers

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mwape mwangilwa
mwape mwangilwa
Jul 20, 2023

This was so beautifully written N'nako. I hope that more people can learn from what you shared. I'm so glad to have met you and add you to my family ❤️❤️❤️

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