As the car rolled into Tyunga high school after a 136km journey, we learnt the true meaning of the word rural. Situated within a flat valley amongst the mountains, connected to civilisation by one worn dirt road, Tyunga lies at the furthest point north in the Binga district. With only small Mopani trees providing minimal shade for the school (regrettably losing their leaves in the winter months), we brought along 24 fruit trees for planting. 

Six student volunteers showed us the area which they had prepared for the orchard as the rest of the school sat gathered in groups under the trees. Unfortunately, getting hold of suitable soil for planting is a challenge, so we were only able to plant two Mango seedlings during our visit. The boys loaded the soil into a wheelbarrow, whilst the girls fetched the water to help the roots bond. One of the students gladly showed us how to correctly plant the first seedling, accompanied by the help of a teacher. International volunteer Kelly and national volunteer Karine then followed their lead by planting the second seedling in the next plot along, working together to ensure a sturdy upright position. 

Whilst the seedlings were being set free our three UK volunteers Aaron, Michael and Rosanna confidently approached each group of students to say hello. A loud and excited ‘Wapona’ could be heard as they reached in to shake hands, many of which waved frantically back in their direction. The warm greetings and sincere enjoyment of our presence confirmed that our visit was worthwhile and the students were genuinely interested in what we were there to do.  It created a relaxed environment almost instantaneously and established a working atmosphere which brought both volunteers and students on the same level throughout the day. 

The Forestry Commission of Binga provided us with information on the roles of trees in Zimbabwe which was disseminated to the four groups of students one by one. This deliberate delivery to a small crowd ensured that interactions between students were encouraged and language barriers were avoided. Volunteers touched on topics such as how trees provide shade, reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and that forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. As I followed round with the camera, I witnessed keen faces and eager hands as questions were asked based on the information they had just been taught.

When asked to feed back what they had benefited from the tree planting event, one boy stood up and reported that “I have learnt that trees provide us with oxygen and are important for our community”. Having left the remaining 22 seedlings for planting once soil is sufficient; we look forward to receiving updates in the coming years of how the new shade producing trees are benefiting Tyunga High School during the winter months. 

By Kelly M Diggle

Photo1: Tyunga high school students under one of the small Mopani trees

Photo 2: International volunteer Kelly and national volunteer Karine planting the second seedling

Photo 3: Binga Forestry Commission informing volunteers on the role of trees in Zimbabwe

Photo 4: Kelly and Karine (centered) standing proudly by the newly planted Mango seedlings with the student volunteers and teachers.