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Chifwema Arboretum | Zambia's first and only internationally recognised botanical garden

Updated: Mar 6

Zambia is a country blessed with breath-taking, natural beauty, from the vast Liuwa Plains to the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls and its diverse national parks. However, the challenge for many residents and visitors alike has always been the distance required to experience these natural wonders.

Lusaka, like many growing cities, faces the constant encroachment of concrete and steel. The need for easily accessible green spaces within urban areas cannot be overstated. Fortunately, on the outskirts of the bustling city of Lusaka, a new gem has emerged, Chifwema Arboretum. This internationally recognized arboretum is one of several spaces which focus on the importance of preserving natural woodlands in the face of urban development and agricultural expansion.

A walk in a natural woodland
A walk in a natural woodland

At the heart of Chifwema Arboretum's mission lies the dedication of its founding couple, Clare Barkworth and Adam Pope. Their journey to encourage people to protect local trees began with the inception of "Trees for Zambia," an indigenous tree nursery that has grown thousands of trees over the years. They sell these indigenous plants and also use them for landscaping. They've learned a lot through trial and error, so they have a wealth of information to share with anyone who visits their nursery. They sell dozens of plant varieties, all grown from seed. The staff there knows a lot about the growth patterns of the trees and can advise on which trees are best for different areas.

A conversation with Sam and Lovemore from Trees for Zambia

Clare and Adam have also published a book "Trees of Zambia," which is a pocket guide published by Penguin Books.

They wanted to make tree information more accessible to the public. The last tree guide book about Zambian trees was made decades ago and is no longer available.

For this book, they gathered information and images, from various sources to showcase the most common trees found naturally in different parts of Zambia.

Now, their new project is to build a living library in the form of an arboretum or botanical garden where people can experience nature and learn about trees. They noticed that, apart from Munda Wanga, there aren't many places for children to visit and learn about trees in Zambia.

Chifwema Arboretum is officially registered with Botanical Gardens International as a botanical garden, and they're open for people to visit. They plan to host school trips and eventually have a whole educational center where people can learn more about nature.

Chifwema arboretum tour

Creating the arboretum is no small task and is definitely not something one could create overnight. This couple's commitment to their vision is inspiring as they have poured so much of their own personal time and resources into creating this space where future generations can enjoy nature.

In spite of all the progress they have made in establishing the centre, the project is under threat as urban development continues to creep into this area and threaten the serenity of the neighbourhood. A block making factory has developed, the dust from which threatens the young plants that are grown in the nursery as well as the area set aside for the arboretum.

We can't help but consider if the urban development that this block making factory is here to support is more important than the development of Zambia's first internationally recognised arboretum and nature education centre.

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