Kuimba Shiri Bird Park is set to host the inaugural 2020 Chivero Challenge set for the end of this month.
The event is expected to bring together sporting and non-sporting communities to the shores of Lake Chivero on October 31 and November 1.
The recreational extravaganza is being held on the backdrop of Zimbabwe easing Covid-19 containment measures after noting declining numbers of new infections in the country.
Kuimba Shiri proprietor, Gary Stafford, believes the Chivero Challenge has the potential to become Zimbabwe’s premier sporting event.
The event is also expected to uplift the standards of the bird sanctuary which have taken a knock over the years due to sub-economic fee-charging, pollution, a decline in recreational sport, and bureaucratic tussles.
Stafford said “I bought the property of my dreams, (in 1991) it had been on the market for years but no one was prepared to invest. There were 150 private boats in storage, we had 36 vessels for hire and had numerous day-trippers. Harare had boat builders, showrooms, sales, repairs, fishing shops and a whole industry looking after recreational boating and fishing.”
“Now after years of poor fee-charging, bureaucracy, netting, noise, smoke and pollution, we have one boat for hire and none in storage. No International fishing competitions have been held here since 2009, no game viewing, no income for National Parks or clubs around Lake Chivero because the recreational sport has stopped, and look, the trees are gone and the lake is nearly empty,” he said.
Stafford added that the shores of Lake Chivero are designated recreational area and not a commercial fishing area as it is now.
“We don’t need foreign investment; we need a business plan with stakeholders who are dedicated to rebranding Chivero,” he said.
“I realized that we need to do the Challenge as soon as possible to ‘Live Again’ to take advantage of the beach area around the lake. Then to raise funds for the renovations of the bird park, a recycling collection point, fish farming projects, a nursery for reforestation and an environment reaction unit,” Stafford added.
Organisers of the event are planning for the Challenge to be held twice annually with a winter Challenge in June and a summer Challenge in October.
The Chivero Challenge will include rowing, horse riding, runners and mountain bikes.
Lake Chivero is one of the most important ecological regions in the country because of it being one of the seven Ramsar sites in Zimbabwe, Environment Management Authority communications officer Joyce Chapangu said.
The Ramsar Convention was signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran.
The Ramsar Convention is the multilateral agreement aimed at protecting wetlands globally.
“We are in full support of any activity that happens towards the preservation and conservation of the Lake,” she said, adding:
“This event is an opportunity for communities to participate in sustainable environment programme that will ensure the aesthetic value of the Lake is maintained so that when we hand it over to future generations there will be able to realise the benefits that we enjoyed from the ecosystem.”
African Youth Institute on Climate Change Zimbabwe appealed to stakeholders to promote local tourism and create an enabling environment for youth to take part in the preservation of Zimbabwe’s heritage.
Organisers of the event hope to use the camaraderie of the 2020 Chivero Challenge to bring together all the properties in the “Lake Chivero Basin.”
“This would form the ‘Chivero Basin Conservancy.’ It is intended to protect Harare’s water supply by protecting and improving our surrounding ecosystems.
People will be encouraged to create businesses that are sustainable and eco-friendly. This will bring tourists and locals together to enjoy our pristine environment and all the activities on offer,” Stafford said.
“Why not get a team together for one of the disciplines and participate in this Chivero Challenge and become part of the Chivero Basin Conservancy journey?
All journeys start with the first step, are you willing to be there for that first step”, he said.