A sports festival to rescue Chivero

MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE

Plans to stage an inaugural sport festival dubbed Chivero Challenge which seeks to be raise funds for Kuimba Shiri Bird Park and Chivero Basin Conservancy are underway with the event slated for end of this month.

The organisers of the gala, which has potential to attract international interest are targeting to raise US$150,000 this year towards renovation of the bird park, a recycling collection point, fish farming projects, a nursery for reforestation and an environment reaction unit among others.

A multi-disciplinary event designed to advance sports recreation, tourism, health as well as grassroots sport development, the Chivero Challenge will see athletes compete in marathon, horse-riding, mountain biking, rowing and motocross.

It is scheduled for October 30 – 31 2020 at Lake Chivero. The venture also aims to revive international fishing competitions, which have not been held at Chivero since 2009, in the near future.

“The Chivero Challenge has the potential to become Zimbabwe’s premier sporting event which we plan to hold twice annually with a winter challenge in June and a summer challenge in October. The hope is that new sports such as speed boat and jet-ski racing will be introduced, with all of this being in the centre of Zimbabwe,” Lake Users Association vice-chairman Gary Stafford said at a press conference on Friday last week.

“Next year we hope International sports men and woman will attend, our locals will be able to train and prepare for the next event. This will support the existing clubs and facilities that can provide accommodation, food and support. With these sports men and women on the ground fish poaching, tree chopping and other negative activities will be noticed and reported for action,” he added.

Stafford, who also owns Kuimba Shiri Bird Park, chronicled how the Chivero has lost its lustre and tourism value for the country over the years.

“No International fishing competitions have been held here since 2009, no game viewing, no income for national parks or clubs around Lake Chivero because recreational sport has stopped.

“And look, the trees are gone and the lake is nearly empty. There is nowhere to play or sit and have peace; this lake is designated as a recreational area and not a commercial fishing area as it is now, the problem is that the people that make decisions affecting the lake and stakeholders have no point of reference.

“That is they don’t know what Chivero was like and only see this, they have no idea what it could be like. We don’t need foreign investment; we need a business plan with stakeholders who are dedicated to rebranding Chivero,” Stafford said.

“The only business now (apart from Kuimba Shiri) is braai’s, beer, noise and netting fish. This (challenge) could be the lifeline Chivero so desperately needs.

“I realised 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,” he added.

Lake Users Association are organising the Chivero Challenge in conjunction with Kuimba Shiri Bird Park, National Parks, Zimbabwe Tourism, Sports and Recreation Commission, City of Harare and Environmental Management Agency, among other partners.

The 21-kilometre challenge route for the horses, runners and mountain bikes will be from Kuimba Shiri, onto the crest of the Hunyani Hills, 4km to the dam wall, across the Manyame River and spillway, into the National Park where rhino and other animals roam freely.

From the national park the route will then head back along the water’s edge to finish at Kuimba Shiri.

Next year could see the distance increased to 42km or longer for other sport codes.

The motorbikes will use a course on the east side of Chivero to avoid frightening the wildlife and horses.

Chivero Challenge is open to individuals (both professional athletes and amateurs), teams and corporate companies at a fee.

Stafford also revealed the grand plan to bring all properties around Chivero together.

“After the Challenge we face a bigger challenge and that is to bring all the properties in the Lake Chivero Basin together. 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. For this, we need strong Government assistance to create a public, private partnership company that’s totally Zimbabwean,” he said.

l This story was first published by the Weekly Digest, an AMH publication.

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