“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”. ~ Nelson Henderson.

Sitting around under trees isn’t something that volunteers or project staff at Chimfunshi get to do that often. Planting, watering and harvesting – well, that’s an entirely different story, and one of the many projects at the Chimp Sanctuary which involves plenty of hard work is the upkeep of our fruit tree orchard. Mangos, oranges, guavas and other fruit from these trees make up a huge part of the chimps’ diet, so it’s crucial to keep these orchards and the rest of the farm in top shape.

As you may imagine, any kind of farming in such a remote area with extreme summer temperatures and long dry winters is a daunting challenge. Luckily our volunteers, under the expert supervision of Jack Raffan, our volunteer co-ordinator (and expert farmer) have tackled this vital project with gusto, and now their efforts are, quite literally, bearing fruit!

Take a look at this update from Jack – in his own words. No-one says it quite the way he does!

“There have been two high profile harvests this week and I shall, if you will forgive me, afford each one its own write up:

The first high profile harvest came, like some many before it, from the farm. With the advent of the rain we have been able to direct our attentions away from watering and towards general maintenance. In particular we have begun cleaning up the old orchard, which is, naturally, next door to the new orchard. Now the old orchard was planted some 20 years ago and many professional citrus growers would tell you to cut down the trees at this point. I am of the very sensible opinion that if it continues to produce fruit that is good enough for chimps, the trees stay.

To this end we have started and more or less finished tidying up the old orchard so that it might continue producing fruit for the years to come. We noticed to our dismay that many of the trees had produced oranges that had been allowed to fall and rot on the ground. Naturally we set about gathering up these wayward oranges and collected a decent 40 kilos that would otherwise have gone to waste.

What makes this harvest worthy of so many words is the way that it was fed to the chimps. There is an enclosure. Enclosure 2 to be precise that has 40 something chimps in it. Some of these chimps are underfed because they get lost in the group. The Chimfunshi Vet asked us to feed the oranges we harvested to enclosure 2 and try our very best to feed every chimp. Now being the intelligent people that we are we diligently put them on the roof of the feeding house (not easy) and spent a very jolly hour launching them at individual chimps. It is a very entertaining and efficient method that we have been told to repeat every time we feed chimps.”

The second big piece of news from Chimfunshi is the discovery of a “secret orchard”. Challenges for this one include the fact that it’s not accessible by road…. And even if there was a road, due to the heavy rains it would still be tricky to reach these forgotten trees. Once again, Jack and our volunteers got their hands and pretty much everything else covered in mud, and hauled an impressive load of mangos back to the sanctuary, much to the delight of all the chimpanzees.

 “A long time ago we were alerted to the presence of the secret orchard. The secret orchard is a mango plantation that must be 20+ years old and has since been abandoned to the bush. Some of the trees remain accessible but we never really felt the need to bushwhack our way to them.

Until now. Chimp food is a little bit short at Chimfunshi at the moment and it seemed as good a reason as any to sharpen the machete. It was set to be a mission as the plantation is not accessible by road and the vehicle would need to navigate the road less travelled to even get close to them. Getting to the mangos proved to be easier than expected. Getting them to the vehicle proved to be as difficult as expected. The rain conspired against us and we looked pretty raddled at the end of it. The numbers, however, vindicate the mission. In a handful of hours we managed to pull out about 70 kilos of mangos, which we were able to split amongst all of the chimp enclosures.”

Volunteer life in this remote and beautiful part of Zambia is about stepping out of your comfort zone and being prepared to roll up your sleeves. Each day is different. Now that the rains are here, the challenge is to keep harvesting the fruit before it falls to the ground – no easy task when the tracks are muddy and slippery!

To read more about the history of this wonderful chimpanzee sanctuary use the search bar in the top right (magnifying glass).