Lydia Chabata

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1993


This profile was prepared when Lydia Chabata was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.
The New Idea
Lydia's commitment to rehabilitating the environment in Zimbabwe led her to form AZTREC -the Association of Zimbabwean Traditional Ecologists. AZTREC mobilizes traditional ecologists/spirit mediums (known in the local Shona language as "masvikiro") of Zimbabwe to protect and rehabilitate the environment.
Lydia has joined the spiritual authority that she and other "svikiros" (traditional ecologists) have in rural communities with the political authority of traditional chiefs and the capacity for mobilization and implementation held by ex-combatants to "re-clothe" the environment through planting indigenous trees. Through her pioneering experiments, she has successfully germinated indigenous trees (many once thought this to be impossible). These trees not only have the potential to provide firewood, indigenous fruits, and medicine for rural people; but they also provide the opportunity to restore the badly disrupted ecological balance in much of rural Zimbabwe.
Her mobilization and education program so far has successfully ensured that more than 700,000 trees have been planted in drought-prone Masvingo province, including 500,000 last year. This has been accomplished by developing nurseries, using traditional ritual ceremonies, and involving the government.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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