the friend online
27 June 2008


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Hlekweni carries on
Lee Taylor reports on the situation at the Friends Rural Training Centre in Zimbabwe

Life goes on at Hlekweni, the Friends Rural Training Service Centre near Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, despite the very difficult situation in Zimbabwe at present
  • The large area of scrubby land on the 1,800 acre Valindre Farm and the paddocks outside the main community are being regularly invaded by groups of up to 100 men and women, who have been poaching wood, marking out plots and setting fires in the scrub
  • They have apparently paid up to two billion Zimbabwean dollars for promised plots of land
  • Staff at Hlekweni are responding by talking to them, mending the boundary fences where possible and locking gates – but there have been problems with the fences and gates as the townships spread out from Bulawayo; much of the township nearest to Hlekweni has no electricity within two kilometres, so there are regular wood poachers, often women who explain that they have no alternative for fuel
  • Poaching had taken most of the trees on the farm; now eighty per cent of the grass and scrub has been burned, which puts the cattle and goat herds at risk
  • The police have helped to ensure there are no squatters on Hlekweni land, but this often means that the incursions just shift to neighbouring farms
  • The last group of incursionists started a large fire which reached the main campus area and threatened to destroy the garden on which the students depend


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