No Laughing Matter

COMEDIAN Carl Joshua Ncube is given to making people laugh, and de-stress.

But there are two things that the comedian, one of Zimbabwe’s funniest, is not given to jesting about, as one European envoy learnt recently.

December marks national tree planting season — a nation’s commitment to roll back deforestation either resulting from timber logging by big companies or felling of trees in order to meet people’s daily energy requirements.

These activities are among other contributory factors to climate change. For the comedian, these are no laughing matters.

Instead of just cracking jokes about the environmental degradation, deforestation and climate change, Ncube has opted to become an active climate change agent.

Ncube is building a sustainable rural home near Victoria Falls. He aims to create something green, sustainable but comfortable, providing a model for Airbnb tourism or city dweller trips home.

Eventually this can even be a model for good, rural living for the future.

In conversations with diplomats in Harare, Ncube challenges the notion that caring about the environment is for Europeans, because as he points out, Zimbabweans have always been conservationists.

For example, a chief historically would not allow one to fell a tree without permission, and one would not kill an animal if it was one’s totem.

Agricultural and nomadic techniques were focused on giving the land sufficient time to recover. A number of factors, however, contributed to the loss of this indigenous knowledge.

People, Ncube explains, were uprooted and resettled outside their areas, where they were unable to observe and conduct these procedures, thereby contributing to loss of this knowledge and the values attendant to such practices.

For the comedian, the mission is to roll back the losses, rewind back the clock to the day-to-day stewardship of nature that every Zimbabwean was familiar with and cared about.

For example, a practical day-to-day practice that gets Ncube excited is a biogas digester — converting domestic waste to energy to run equipment, and migrating from stream bank cultivation to aquaponics and greenhouses, whose produce can supply hotels instead of trucking fruit and vegetables from Harare, or even South Africa.

Cooking amazing fruit and vegetable super foods from ingredients sourced locally, is Ncube’s other commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change. In this, Ncube acknowledges the influence of BBC’s programmes by Jamie Oliver as having been inspirational in shifting his perception on vegetarian meals as delicious and cool lifestyle choices.

To this end he is putting together a cookbook — a how-to-guide based on use of Zimbabwe’s finest fruit and vegetable super foods and grains.

His aim is to see more fruits and vegetables grown in community gardens as part of promoting a shift towards healthier lifestyle by increasing numbers of Zimbabweans. This is something within reach.

Artists have incredible potential to accelerate change and should therefore be champions of development change given their role as communicators.

One person Ncube can certainly count on among supporters of his initiatives is British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melanie Robinson.

Wrote London’s envoy: “Speaking to Carl was literally the most fun I’ve ever had talking about the environment.

“For Carl, Covid-19 has shown us we’re in the end game. We don’t have much time left to make things work together as a planet and people. That calls for drastic decisions and changes.”

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