AN 800km walk around Lake Kariba, to raise awareness on the link between environmental conservation and mental health, is set for July and August with several organisations and individual tourists expressing their support for the unique initiative.
The campaign champion, Mr Nick Holme, a Zimbabwean born environmental conservationist who is now based in the United Kingdom, says he is ready to spend two months walking 800km around Lake Kariba, which is shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe, starting on 4 July.
The awareness initiative also seeks to raise £10,000 towards supporting conservation efforts in the Zambesia region.
“Anticipated to take two months to complete, the walk covers approximately 800km, through some of Africa’s rawest, most challenging and most beautiful terrain, in the Zambesia region of Southern Africa,” according to the Zambesia Conservation Alliance.
“The reason for this expedition is to raise awareness about the incredible link between the natural world and mental well-being and how we need to conserve what’s left of our wild areas, not just for our physical health, but for our mental health as well.
“The healing power of nature is incredible – a fact that is being recognised more and more by health professionals as a viable alternative to medical interventions in treating a wide range of mental health issues.”
The organisers expect to ride on the momentum created by the walk to highlight this fact to the rest of the world and to encourage more people to reconnect with the great outdoors for their own well-being.
“To me, Lake Kariba is a slice of paradise. I am so much at peace whenever I visit this vast lake in the Zambesia region of Southern Africa.
“With its beautiful vegetation, magnificent animals and glorious sunsets, it quite simply epitomizes the vest raw best that wild African bush has to offer,” says Mr Holme in a pre-campaign video recently posted by the Zambesia Conservation Alliance.
“Who I am is not very important but what I aspired to do perhaps is because in July and August this year, I will be undertaking something that has never been done before, walking around the entire lake, the largest man-made lake in the world- in one go.”
Mr Holme said the nature walk awareness campaign was a first in a series of endurance events known as ‘W4Life’, aimed at highlighting the importance of wildlife conservation ‘in our lives’, as well as raising awareness bout the link between our natural world and mental well-being.
“Our mental health is under pressure in this modern world of ours, and we need now, more than ever before, a powerful antidote to the everyday events that create so much mental erosion for so many people struggling for survival,” he said.
“That antidote is actually all around us, and what’s more, its free to access. That antidote is nature, the most powerful healing force at our disposal.”
While appealing to thousands of travel and leisure enthusiasts at home and abroad to join the campaign, Mr Holme said they will use the period to discuss issues to do with conservation and mental health.
“So, I’m hoping that you, from all over the world – will join in,” he said, adding that mechanisms were being put in place for more participants to join in the discussion using virtual platforms.
“It would be wonderful if you can take part in the discussion. We all know that things need to change, and we have the power to do it.
“So, let’s focus the conversations on the reality of this correlation at the community level of this Zambesia ecosystem to start with, which will generate action to change our lives for the better, both physically and mentally,” he said.
W4Life ambassador, Mr Rungano Innocent Nyaude, a finance expert based in the United Arab Emirates with experience in corporate and institutional banker spanning over 13 years’ experience, said he will be taking part on the walk and has urged more Zimbabweans to come on board.
“When Nick Holme posted about the W4Life 800km walk around Lake Kariba to raise awareness for conservation and mental health a couple of weeks ago, I got excited and since then we have had some amazing conversations and I am excited to be officially joining the #walk4life team as an ambassador,” he said.
“I am also looking forward to join Nick during some part of the walk in person as we raise awareness on such an important topic of #mentalhealth and the correlation between our natural world and mental well-being.
“We all felt like something was taken away from us when we could not step out of our houses during the Covid-19 lockdowns, something so natural and vital yet sometimes invisible in our daily lives had been taken away.”
Mr Nyaude said the walk will be divided into several legs where different aspects of mental health will be discussed starting with looking at what mental health is and why it is so important?
There will also be discussions around addiction, depression among others and the correlation between these aspects of mental health and conservation.