BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
THE country’s largest integrated financial services group, Old Mutual Zimbabwe has rallied behind the Walk4Life initiative to raise awareness on mental health and environmental conservation.
United Kingdom (UK)-based Zimbabwean conservationist Nick Holme plans to spend the next two months walking 800km around Lake Kariba to raise awareness on conservation and mental wellbeing.
The initiative, which involves walking from Kariba along the Zimbabwean eastern side of the lake and back along the western side in Zambia, aims to raise £10 000 for conservation efforts in the region.
This is the first time that someone has attempted to walk round Lake Kariba.
In a statement, Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s group head of marketing, public affairs and sustainability Lillian Mbayiwa said they recognised that natural resources were what made Zimbabwe unique.
“Maintaining the delicate balance between nature and development is essential for a productive and prosperous nation,” she said.
“Raising awareness on mental health and the healing power of nature speaks to our values of creating a positive future for our clients, their families and communities in which we work.”
Mbayiwa said Old Mutual values upheld environment conservation and making a positive impact within the communities they serve.
“Maintaining the perfect balance between nature and a healthy lifestyle, will significantly contribute to improving the lives of our customers and their communities, while ensuring a sustainable future for our business,” she said.
“Conservation and mental health are two globally important issues we are faced with today. Our natural world is under greater threat more than ever before and we need to preserve what is left of it before it is too late, for both our physical and mental health.”
While pointing out that research had shown that spending time in nature can significantly help those suffering from mental health illnesses, she, however, added: “There is a misconception that rural communities are not affected by mental health issues, however, this is further from the truth. In fact, those living in remote areas that border national parks such as those found in Kariba are affected immensely by mental health issues as the human wildlife conflict rages on. In many of these communities’ people have suffered wildlife attacks that have led to injuries and loss of life and this invariably leads to mental health challenges.”
Holme expressed gratitude for Old Mutual’s support saying: “I am delighted that Old Mutual has recognised the global importance of such an undertaking and have come aboard as a sponsor. We look forward to working together both now and in the future to promote this vital link between conservation and mental wellbeing.”
He acknowledged that the walk would be a huge challenge because it had never been done before, but he was driven by the pursuit to raise global awareness of the correlation between mental health and nature.
In addition to his passion for the Kariba community, Holme said he was also inspired by nature conservation because he believed people who spent time with nature are far happier.
Other partners in the initiative include the Solution Centre, Zambesia Conservation Alliance, Tsime Water and Hungwe Travel.
Organisers say the Kariba and Zambezi area is at the forefront of the human-wildlife conflict, and the initiative would investigate this in detail and explore the role communities play in the relationship between humans and wildlife and its protection.
They also want to explore the topic of wildlife trafficking and the risk it poses to both communities and nature.
The initiative will also look at some of the real practical solutions and steps that can be taken in communities to provide support to those seeking help.
It will also examine the role a dedicated mental health or community welfare nurse can play and how health practitioners in communities can be equipped to handle mental disorders.
Holme started his walk on July 31 from Kariba Dam wall, with supporters and well-wishers taking part for the first few kilometres.