'Trees for Mhondoro'

Filmmakers: Lynette and Denslow, Zimbabwe


Impact Award Winner Restoring Balance with Nature Earthbeat Challenge 2021

The Challenge looked for films which showcased actions on climate change, biodiversity loss and land restoration. For our Impact Award, judges looked for films with an important message which should be shared more widely to benefit both local communities and wider international audiences.  Winners received smartphone film kits and their films and projects are showcased through Earthbeat.

"Trees for Mhondoro" shows how a Zimbabwean rural community are confronting the problem of severe land degradation caused by soil erosion

Film director Denslow Kisi and producer Lynette Gonga from Zimbabwe entered their 3-minute film about planting trees to combat the damaging impacts of soil erosion in Zimbabwe.

They told Earthbeat about the project which is showcased in their film. In parts of Zimbabwe soil erosion is a serious problem. Where trees and vegetation have been cleared, exposed soil is very vulnerable to flash flooding which can then leave deep gullies and destroy people’s land. It’s a classic case of the impacts caused by a combination of climate change and ecosystem degradation.

Image: Denslow Kisi directs the late Zivai Kucherana who planted Gum Trees to stop soil erosion


Image: Wikipedia

The campaign behind the film

The Trees for Mhondoro project was launched in the 90s by the late Zivai Kucherana, who planted hundreds of gum trees in the area between Mhondoro and Chegutu, an area south of  Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. This was started as a way to stop the spread of the gullies caused by to flash floods and soil erosion. The project involves villagers coming together to plant trees and shrubs which can bind the soil and slow down erosion. In addition, community members agree on making sure that their cattle are not allowed to overgraze land and to work together to fight veld fires. Villagers are educated on ways to stop veld fires.

Zimbabwe has a lot of issues that need to be brought to people’s attention and as filmmakers it is our duty to do so. However, we work with limited resources and in most cases on a zero budget. This limits what we can do. So if we could get funding as well as training, exposure and connections, it would really improve the quality of films.

Making the film

The camera we used was a a Canon XC10 using an on-camera microphone and the film was shot handheld. We edited and colour graded with Adobe Premiere Pro CC software. Previously we have made TV shows, web video content, documentaries and TV commercials. Some of our documentaries have been screened at film festivals around the world.

The experience (of taking part in Earthbeat Challenge has inspired us to make more films that raise awareness about issues affecting us. It was also a humbling experience for us to be recognized on a global level and that alone has boosted our confidence as filmmakers.

Response to the film

The film continues to be watched online by people from around the world. The Zimbabwean Government Department of Climate Change invited us for a meeting to discuss possible ways we could work with them. The Victoria Falls Safari Club offered to support us through donating trees. There has been coverage in the national newspaper, H-Metro which talks about the Impact Award as well as the issues raised film. We hope to inspire other people to make films about their projects and campaigns.

What next?

We would like to find funding to work on a feature long documentary where we get more people involved, including local leaders and other key stakeholders. This would help in getting the message across to the right audience and that would help in making a real difference.

Read more about this topic

Understanding Erosion: Examining different forms of soil erosion Farmer's Weekly Zimbabwe

Using nature to make land fertile again: The Haller Foundation

The Impact Award is supported by Bertha Foundation.  The jury looked for stories and films which have an important message which they feel should be shared more widely to benefit both local and international communities.

Read about other Impact Award Winners