Zambeze Delta Conservation

Zambeze Delta Conservation

Creative Living

by Clay Bebee

I first saw Africa in 2003. I have been a couple of dozen times since then, lived there for about a year, and have seen many diverse landscapes, countries, and ecosystems throughout the continent. Spending most of the time in South Africa, then exploring Botswana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia, and Mozambique; I had seen some of the finest safari lodges and game reserves in the world and was a wealth of knowledge on where to go and what to do on the Dark Continent. Africa gets in your soul and in your blood very quickly. I’m not sure I know of a person who has only been once with no plans of going back.

In June of 2021 I was able to go with my brother to Mozambique for the first time. When we got into the helicopter in Beira and flew towards the Zambeze Delta, my senses were firing on all cylinders.

That safari was very dear to me for many different reasons, but one of them was to spend time in the most remote place I had ever been in the world, which was totally wild, and witnessing what sustainable utilization and conservation could look like in the modern world. I had seen many amazing success stories, and land stewards practicing numerous forms of conservation all over the world. I had never seen an operation that was putting it all together so harmoniously like what I witnessed within Coutada 11.

A Coutada is a game reserve or block of land that the Portuguese identified and set aside when they ruled Mozambique. Coutada 11 is about half a million acres, but not fenced in, that Mark Haldane has operated for the last 25 years. The difference here is that Mark and his team have kept diligent records and data of their operation since the beginning. There is not a single metric that has not improved, dramatically in most cases, because of their management practices. The animal numbers have skyrocketed, the poaching has gone way down, the community is well fed, happy, and involved in the operation. The culture and feeling in camp was magical, and you could sense what a healthy ecosystem feels like into your core.

I wanted to get involved. This was something special that I had identified, and it was all I could think about. A while later Mark asked if I would join the board of the newly formed Zambeze Delta Conservation Fund and I gladly accepted. I will share the story with anyone who will listen, and I am passionate about involving diverse groups of people to come together and help keep wild animals and wild places be available to be fully experienced by future generations. To fully experience these properties, you must get fully dirty, fully exhausted, fully off the vehicle and out of your comfort zone. There needs to be an element of fear and danger, knowing you are not fully in control, just as our ancestors have felt since the beginning. The trial and tribulation of life on safari only makes the beauty of the natural world that much more vibrant.

Katie Kime and I have been friends for as long as I have been going to Africa. As life would have it, our journeys have been filled with beautiful times, difficult seasons, and late-night conversations which have definitely solved some of the world’s problems. I have always respected her bold style, ease of laughter, and zest for life. When I called her and shared my idea that the fashion industry is the perfect partner of conservation in Africa, she listened with an open mind. She gave me the benefit of the doubt when I traced back the fashion industry to the first humans clothing themselves in animal skins, covering their shelters with palm fronds, rich leathers, and beautiful wood furniture. She even agreed to come alongside us on this journey to show how we are all connected in some way to a healthy ecosystem on the other side of the world.

I am so excited for the parallel paths Katie and my lives have taken. I am thrilled to see her new collection highlighting the beauty that we find in the Natural World. I want everyone who lives boldly with passion to come alongside each other and support the source of their inspiration, whatever that might be. Mine is a beautiful landscape full of amazing people and animals in the far cries of Mozambique. I hope everyone finds where their source of inspiration and where their passion comes from and figures out how to foster it for themselves and the generations to follow.