How Christmas Shopping Can Help Zimbabwean Charity Tree Africa

tree_africa_logoMany Zimbabweans remember the rhino girls, but fewer know that the charity they established is still going strong in Zimbabwe, and has expanded into Malawi, Zambia and now into the UK.

After their famous 1989 Glasgow to Harare bicycle ride (during which they met many famous people including the Pope and Margaret Thatcher) Charlene Hewat and Julie Edwards set up Environment Africa, which has been supporting environmental and community projects across Zimbabwe for nearly 20 years. Self-confessed workaholic Charlene Hewat is still the Chief Executive Officer today and has overseen its steady growth.


(Pictured: Charlene Hewat with supporter Oliver Mtukudzi visiting a community project with a Tree Africa staff member)

Registered in the UK as Tree Africa (for legal reasons), the UK office aims to raise the profile and income of the charity reaching out to diaspora and others who are concerned about the people and the environment of southern Africa. Long term supporters include musician Oliver Mtukudzi, who featured in a short film to celebrate the UK launch.

UK Director Gigi Davies said, We urgently need funds to reach more struggling communities, and to protect our remaining natural resources. We want people to know we can be trusted to spend donations carefully. Our Zimbabwe office was audited by the British Governments Department for International Development in 2006 and this showed good standards of governance and accountability. We are a very effective charity a recent evaluation of one conservation agriculture project in dry Lupane showed that over 65% of participating farmers had become entirely self-sufficient in food, no longer requiring any handouts. Shop online to support Tree Africa

Tree Africa is urging UK shoppers to avoid the crowds and do their shopping online via shopping portal Buy.At! which represents hundreds of well known retailers, who donate a percentage of all purchases made via the site to Tree Africa. Goods are the same price or cheaper than the high street, with the donation to Tree Africa coming out of the retailers marketing budget. The charity is asking all readers to do their Christmas shopping and all shopping henceforth! via the site. For more information please visit or

Further Information

Tree Africa is launching a new fund to protect and preserve the threatened flora and fauna of the Victoria Falls. The Victoria Falls Green Fund is appealing for 550,000 to carry out a three year project with the Nambya tribe tribe who live in and around the unique and often pristine riverine forest of the Zambezis Katombora islands. Help is needed to reduce the poverty and environmental degradation that is threatening this World Heritage Site. Nearly 300,000 tourists visit the Victoria Falls every year, but uncontrolled development has damaged the wilderness and contributed little to the well-being of the indigenous population.

Tree Africa, the only NGO currently working to protect the Victoria Falls rainforest, is asking all businesses that benefit from the area, and all tourists who have enjoyed its beauty, to contribute to the fund which will teach local communities about sustainable forest use, and help their voices be heard with governments and businesses to prevent further damage of the area.

Despite the failure of the Zimbabwean government, small farmers, schools and other participants in the NGOs projects are learning self-reliance and the sustainable use of natural resources and are reporting often significant improvements in their well-being. Tree Africa currently works with over 71,400 vulnerable households in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, where its tree planting programme was launched with Nelson Mandela. Tree Africa plants around 250,000 trees every year.


(Pictured: Tuku visits a conservation farming project)

Background: A Passionate Beginning

23 years after undertaking an epic 22,000km cross-continent bicycle ride from Glasgow to Zimbabwe, Charlene Hewat is coming back to launch the UK office of southern African environmental NGO that has grown as a result of that fund and awareness raising bicycle ride. Building on the experience and success of the ride, in 1990 they founded an environmental and development NGO which now operates in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi with over 100 staff. Despite the challenges of life in what is largely a failed state, Tree Africas projects in Zimbabwe enable often dramatic improvements to peoples lives and their environment.

In 1986 the ride raised over half a million dollars and drew worldwide media attention with The Rhino Girls’, as they became affectionately known, receiving the highest award for conservation in their home country of Zimbabwe. They donated the money to the National Parks of Zimbabwe to purchase vehicles and equipment to help stop poaching that had brought the black rhino population to the brink of extinction and then went on to start their own NGO which offers African solutions to African problems. The girls ride was endorsed by many high profile people they met along the way, including the Pope, Margaret Thatcher, Phil Collins and Kenneth Kaunda. Their amazing journey is documented in the book Extinction is Forever.

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