Livingstone / Sustainability

After three weeks of hard work on the courts and on sports placements, the Volunteer Zambia house was ready for a well-earned break and all 20 of us headed to Livingstone for a long weekend. The town is on the borders of Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, but is also right next to the Victoria Falls, making for stunning scenery and endless activity options.

Sadly, the journey from Lusaka to Livingstone is not easy at the best of times, and a leaking fuel pipe on the bus turned it into a 12 hour slog, but spirits were quickly raised with a great dinner at Cafe Zambezi. The majority of the group headed out on safari the next morning in Botswana and were rewarded with elephants, giraffes, hippos and more… Others took a bike tour of the lesser-known areas of the city and saw its less prosperous side, which was a wake-up call to the inequality and deprivation still so present in Africa.

Sunset over the Victoria Falls

The highlight of the weekend for many was white water rafting on the Zambezi River. Local guides took us down 21 rapids with names like Commercial Suicide and The Washing Machine… Needles to say it was an incredible adrenaline rush!

We returned to our sites on Tuesday morning to find good progress had been made over the weekend. At Kaunda Square the excavation has been completed and stonebase laid, which is currently being compacted. The edge details are being finished off with backfill and a gap left in the kerb for machinery to enter the court has been filled.

Laying stone base at Kaunda. Also shown is the backfilled lower edge.
Kaunda Square

At Fountain of Hope the asphalt was laid over three days and a top layer of bitumen slurry added on Monday. This was all done by hand and compacted with a small vibratory roller. The concrete drain was also cast and the posts set in place to give a court which looks tantalisingly close to completion.

The finishing touches include painting the court lines and basketball posts, and installing new basketball backboards and hoops. We hope to be able to open the court with a ceremony before we leave Lusaka in just under two weeks.

Awaiting the final touches…
Assembling the ball catchers behind the nets

With our spare time we have been starting to develop ways of improving the sustainability of this project. Thus far, the Bath team has been asked to build a new court each year, sometimes ripping out an old one in the process (Fountain of Hope is a good example). This is an attractive approach because the courts are relatively cheap (the money can be raised by one group without too much trouble) and can be built within the six week placement. In the long run, however, this becomes expensive.

Using cheaper materials means the court structure doesn’t always last, so replacement becomes the only option. In any case, with no maintenance taking place, courts can deteriorate so far that repair becomes uneconomical. Of course, a balance has to be struck between cost, maintenance resources and lifespan.

To tackle this, we are considering if and how maintenance programmes might work considering Sport in Action has no in-house technical knowledge and rarely has funding for such work. When they do, it often gets spent on cosmetic improvements.

There’s a long way to go on this sustainability mission, but we can make a good start!

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